'Grand Bazaar' at Yangon's Secretariat Postponed Following Public Outcry

By The Irrawaddy 8 February 2019

YANGON — A controversial plan to host a “grand bazaar” at one of Myanmar’s most historic buildings to promote ties with the United States has been “postponed indefinitely” following public criticism that the event would disgrace the site.

The two-day “NightFest at Yangon’s Secretariat,” scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, was slated to showcase Californian and Italian wines and other alcoholic beverages, a variety of cheeses and other American food, including Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The United States Department of Agriculture has been named a sponsor of the event along with the Signature Night Market Event Planning Company, the United States Department of Agriculture Myanmar and SY Group.

The intended venue is one of Myanmar’s most historic landmarks. In the courtyard, where the event was to take place, the country’s first Independence Day ceremony was held in January 1948, immediately after the British Union Jack was taken down to mark the end of colonial rule.

Most importantly, it is where independence hero Gen. Aung San, the father of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and his cabinet members were assassinated in a room in the west wing in 1947.

Critics said the organizers were disrespecting the unique history of the building, which should not be used for frivolous entertainment given the gravity of the events that took place there. People took to Facebook, Myanmar’s most popular social media platform, to complain that the event would disrespect the site where Gen. Aung San was murdered.

Last week, one of the organizers told The Irrawaddy that the event would not be changed despite the criticism because they “got approval from the government step by step.” Since then, the event has attracted both local and international media attention.

On Friday evening, The Secretariat Yangon, the conservation group renovating the complex, released a statement announcing that the fest had been postponed indefinitely “in response to public feedback.”

The group said it understood the importance and significance of the building’s history and that its goal was  to showcase the best of Myanmar’s heritage, foster intercultural dialogue and bring new cultural experiences to a new generation of citizens.

“We will endeavor to listen to feedback from members of the public and will also be engaging community and government leaders for our future events so that we can bring events, exhibits and experiences that are meaningful and accessible to the people of Yangon,” the statement said.

It added that the event organizers will be providing refunds to ticket holders and were working closely with vendors and partners.