MYO MIN SOE / The Irrawaddy
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Myanmar’s Election Merchandise Vendors Do a Brisk Trade as Vote Looms

Myo Min Soe The Irrawaddy

YANGON—The months before an election are a busy time, not only for political parties in Myanmar, but also for its fabric printing services.

To get a sense of it—keeping in mind the fact that Myanmar will have a general election on Nov. 8—take a stroll down the side streets of Yangon’s Shwegondine neighborhood, where local fabric printing shops are churning out flags, umbrellas, baseball caps and T-shirts emblazoned with political parties’ logos as they gear up for the election.

Even though the official campaign period will not start in Myanmar until September, election fever is already visible on the streets of Yangon, where taxi and trishaw drivers publicly show off their party of choice by adorning their vehicles with the party’s miniature flags.

Since parties are associated with colors—red for the ruling National League for Democracy, green for the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party, among the many other parties and shades—there should have been a riot of hues in this fabric-printing service neighborhood. However, during The Irrawaddy’s visit this week, the dominant color was red. Red T-shirts and umbrellas freshly printed with the yellow fighting peacock with a white star insignia were hung or spread out on storefronts to be air dried.

Currently, flags bearing the NLD logo, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s portrait as well as her father General Aung San’s picture are hot items, while child-size T-shirts with the State Counselor’s picture are in high demand, according to Daw Baby, the owner of Tat Lan Fabric Printing Service.

“We had been idle for two months [due to COVID-19] and are now very busy. Red T-shirts are sold out. But current sales still haven’t met the demand we saw in 2015,” she said, recalling the days prior to the election five years ago.

While sales aren’t at 2015 levels, the printing services can still make substantial daily income of around 700,000 to 800,000 kyats and more than 1 million kyats on weekends, said Daw Baby.

Ordinarily, printing services in Shwegondine are commissioned by political parties for their campaign materials ahead of the election. But so far, that’s not been the case for the NLD, even though there have been some commissions from party supporters.

“The party hasn’t placed any orders yet. We just printed them to sell because there is high demand,” Daw Baby said.

For NLD supporters, there are additional options beyond T-shirts and miniature flags. Some have decorated their car windows with decals featuring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s portrait and her party’s logo. In one decal, a car owner even included a message that clearly states: “Not a member [of the NLD] but a strong supporter [of the party] and voter.”