Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mandalay's gem, jade traders fight market move

Shopkeepers and traders at Mandalay’s gem and jade market have launched a petition opposing a proposed move to a new site in Amarapura township, and accused a regional minister of being out of touch with working class people.

A woman looks at jade rings in Mandalay’s jade and gem market in Mahar Aung Myay township. (Aung Ye Thwin/The Myanmar Times)A woman looks at jade rings in Mandalay’s jade and gem market in Mahar Aung Myay township. (Aung Ye Thwin/The Myanmar Times)

The petition comes after Mandalay Region Minister for Forestry and Mines U Soe Myint was quoted in a Myanmar journal as saying the market would move to Myinmu village in Amarapura, from its current location in Mahar Aung Myay township.

U Than Htay, a member of the gem market’s social welfare group, said the petition was launched on February 7. Between 30,000 and 50,000 people work in the market and within three days more than 2500 signatures had been collected.

“The minister said that Mahar Aung Myay jade market’s standard is too low, that it looks like a vegetable market. If the minister has visited the Nay Pyi Taw gem emporium before he would know that rough and cut jade is also displayed on the ground,” U Than Htay said.

“The people who are selling out the front of the Mahar Aung Myay market survive by selling gems of inferior quality. The minister should come and see how the working class people live their life instead of just looking at the high social classes all the time. While we had heard rumours about the market moving, what the minister said implies that we should expect to have to leave. So this petition is a kind of precaution we are taking to prevent [the move] from happening,” he said.

U Zaw Zaw, vice chairman of the market’s support group, said the proposed site of the next market was far from Mandalay so workers would have to spend too much money on transport.

“Most workers are paid K3000 a day. If we have to move, it will take about one-and-a-half hours each day to reach the new market,” he said.

He said the existing market was a valuable source of employment and revenue and hoped the petition would dissuade members of the regional government from implementing the plan.

“We have not yet received any letters directing us to move. The petition is merely a precaution,” he said.

Land for the proposed new market in Amarapura township has been donated by U Soe Naing of gem trading company Aye Aye Khine, said U Zaw Zaw.

At a recent meeting of the Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association, officials said the new market would have 1100 shops measuring 150 square feet. Businesses would be given a shop free of charge for two years, and the shops would be sold after three years.

The existing market is owned by MCDC and rooms of about 200 square feet can be rented for K100,000 to K200,000 a month.

Translated by Thit Lwin