Vendors belong in markets, says YCDC
June 20 - 26, 2011
Pedestrians walk past a newly erected sign on Anawrahta Road in downtown Yangon last week warning street vendors not to set up shops on the pavement. Yangon City Development Committee launched a campaign to remove vendors from the city’s streets on June 1. Pic: Hein Latt Aung
STREET vendors relocated following a crackdown launched on June 1 will only be permitted to operate in the market of their township of residence, Yangon City Development Committee announced at a press conference on June 17.
The decision is likely to hurt the incomes of tens of thousands of vendors, many of whom travel each day from the outskirts of Yangon – and even outlying towns – to sell their goods in the downtown area.
The senior YCDC official, who declined to be named, said the current crackdown had mainly been confined to Kyauktada, Pabedan and Latha townships. He said the committee estimated there were 40,000 street vendors in the seven downtown townships alone.
“The ban has been introduced for the convenience of pedestrians,” he said.
Since June 1 YCDC has been compiling a list of vendors’ details and once this has been completed they will only be allowed to operate in the designated market of their township of residence, he said.
“They won’t need to pay any tax but will need to sell at the market we tell them,” he told reporters. “For example, vendors from Dala township will be given a space in Dala Market and they will only be allowed to sell in that market.”
Currently vendors have been allowed to set up on the pavement after 3pm but this practice would not be permitted when the new system comes into place, he said. No timeframe was given for the completion of the registration system.
“If someone is caught selling on the pavement we won’t take action, we will just send them back to their local market,” he said. “I think these pavement vendors will disappear later on when this system is introduced.”
A report published in Weekly Eleven on June 16 stated YCDC figures showed there were 40,000 vendors in Yangon Region in 2009 and the number had likely doubled since then.
The report said the ban was likely to hurt the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people and the authorities should have taken this into consideration.
“Within the past five years, 150,000 domestic migrants have arrived in Yangon. Most of them live day to day, relying on their daily income. Their livelihoods are mostly based on selling on the roadside. So enough time should be taken in the changing trend for the consideration of the dependant family members of vendors,” the journal quoted a businessperson as saying.
“As hundred thousands of family members are depending on street vendors, the prevailing campaign of YCDC is sure to cause difficulties for the grassroots people. Street vendors are the [largest single group] of the millions of people who come into Yangon city every day,” the Weekly Eleven report said.
Street vendors relocated to official markets say they have not been able to earn as much as they did on the roadside.
In downtown Yangon, vendors who normally sell their goods along Anawrahta Road between Bo Aung Kyaw Road and Pansodan Street – in what is known as the 38th Street Market – were forced to move to nearby Chan Myay Market.
“I didn’t want to move my vegetable shop to Chan Myay Market because the existing shops there already have their own customers,” said Ma Sann Myint, 39, who was previously based at the street market on Anawrahta Road. “It’s more difficult for us to find customers here. The [street market] was a good place to do business.”
“There are many more sellers here [at Chan Myay Market] so how can we run a business? We will all lose our money,” seasonal fruit seller Daw Mi, 51, said.
“When we ran shops on the pavement near 38th Street, we got a lot of business from people just walking past. We could persuade them to buy our goods,” she added.
The shift has also affected the existing vendors at Chan Myay Market.
“Look! It’s 10:30am and I still have a lot of flower bouquets to sell. The problem is that the number of sellers and shoppers is not balanced,” said one flower seller, who said she has been based at Chan Myay Market “for many years”.
Mohinga seller Ko Thu, 38, said after the new policy was introduced he changed from a fixed shop to a “mobile” store, moving from one spot to another along Anawrahta Road.
“All the stores near the market are my customers so they’ve been helping me. Sometimes they tell me when the authorities are coming and I’m able to escape being caught,” he said.
The Hledan area of Kamaryut township was also unusually quiet last week as a result of the ban. One seller of traditional snacks said street vendors in the area had been aware that the law prohibited them selling items on the pavement before 3pm, but had flouted it openly with the tacit approval of YCDC workers.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for YCDC said another aim of the operation to clear the streets was to make the city more “clean and hygienic”. While most vendors are allowed to sell on the streets after 3pm, meat and fish sellers have been told they are only allowed to operate inside approved markets.
“In the 38th Street market for example, the odour and waste from meat and fish sellers is destroying the image of the city. It is shameful for us when foreigners see it,” the spokesperson said.
However, one Yangon-based tour guide with more than 10 years experience said the street markets were more of an attraction than a turn-off for foreign tourists.
“Tourists like to see the [street vendors], mingle with the locals and try the food. We normally put Yangon sightseeing like this [on itineraries]. If the vendors are taken away, we will lose one of the city’s tourist attractions,” he said.
“Local vendors shouldn’t have to go hungry because we are worried about what tourists will think of us,” said one tour operator based in Dagon township. “YCDC should think about alternatives … they should fix up the old markets or organise a proper night market for them instead.” – Additional reporting by Zaw Win Than