Vendors, Officials Debate Future of Mandalay’s Mingalar Market

By Zarni Mann 9 May 2016

MANDALAY — Mandalay officials on Monday met with vendors affected by a fire that tore through the city’s Mingalar Market in March, discussing plans for restoring the four-story building.

The engineers and technicians who inspected the safety and strength of the burned-out market building concluded that, going forward, it will need major restoration and reinforcement, which would likely take one to two years to complete.

“While we can’t tell how much restoration will cost, it will be time consuming. We also don’t know if the original building foundation can hold new reinforcement,” said Khin Maung Tint, one of the inspecting engineers for the Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC).

According to the committee’s suggestions, there are two options: either demolish the old building and build a new one, or do major restoration work that would include reinforcing what remains of the building’s structure with additional beams and other measures.

However, the committee cautioned that the original building’s foundation is not strong enough to ensure safety in the event of a disaster, such as an earthquake or another fire.

The MCDC team also said that constructing a new building would require giving tender to a construction company and adding an additional three to four stories to the structure.

“The original owners want [to keep only] four stories, but we [the MCDC] do not alone have the budget for restoration. If we hire a company for rebuilding, it will surely add more levels to the building, which the vendors and apartment owners don’t want,” Khin Maung Tint said. “We’ll let [the owners] decide, but they should keep safety in mind.”

The majority of vendors and apartment owners want to keep the building’s restoration work out of the hands of a construction company.

“If a company handles reconstruction, it will try to sell our shops and apartments back to us at high prices that we can’t afford,” said Soe Naing Tun, a Mingalar shop owner. “We hope that the new government won’t neglect us as we go through this difficulty.”

Nandar Myint Thein, a lawyer who lost her office in the fire, echoed that sentiment.

“Whether the market is rebuilt or reinforced, we just want our shops and apartments back—without losing any land or having to spend more money. … We’ve suffered enough.”

At a City Hall meeting, Mandalay’s Chief Minister Zaw Myint Maung and Mayor Ye Lwin said they would respect the vendors’ and apartment owners’ decision. Ye Lwin also assured them that they would get their property back once the building is ready to reopen.

In the meantime, there are plans to open a temporary market at Maha New Sin playground, located a few kilometers from Mingalar Market, in the near future.

Some 65 percent of stalls at Mingalar Market were destroyed in the blaze on March 22.