MANDALAY — Vendors affected by a fire that destroyed Mandalay’s Mingalar Market staged a protest on Thursday, urging the municipal department and regional government to renovate, rather than rebuild, the structure.
Dozens of vendors gathered near the burned market building, saying that the mayor and the Mandalay City Municipal Department (MCDC) are neglecting their desire to renovate the market, and instead plan to demolish it and build a high-rise building.
“If they build a high-rise, it will be done by a construction company. We will then have to buy back our own shops at a high price, which we can’t afford,” said Kyaw Kyaw Soe, one of the protesting vendors.
The protesters urged a speedy resolution, as they currently have nowhere to sell their goods. They also demanded an investigation into the cause of the fire and swift action against the culprit.
During a meeting between vendors and regional government authorities in May, authorities said the building was in disrepair and that rebuilding was the better option. The vendors held a vote, which fell in favor of a major renovation to the existing structure. But they say the MCDC and the mayor have ignored their vote.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, and the MCDC said the case is out of their hands and is the responsibility of the Mandalay Division Central Fire Brigade.
About 65 percent of stalls at Mingalar Market were destroyed in the blaze on March 22.
During a press conference on Wednesday, the mayor said he would listen to the vendors’ input but still plans to go forward with new construction.
“We are thinking of rebuilding the ground floor in an open style, like the old structure, for the convenience of the vendors,” said Ye Lwin, the mayor.
He said the building is not strong enough to be safe or sustainable, which is why MCDC has decided to demolish it and rebuild with a private construction company.
“Since the plan is to upgrade the fire and safety system, only the ground floor will remain the same as before; the others will follow a different plan. We can’t build it exactly like the old building, for safety reasons. And we have to offer the tender to a construction company because we don’t have a big enough budget,” the mayor said.
He added that, in accordance with the vendors’ request, they would not lose any space in the rebuilding of their shops.
MCDC said that a temporary market is almost finished and vendors will be able to relocate to it in July.