Tension rises as stallholders stay put

Dec 2, 2009 (DVB), Around 700 market vendors in southern Burma's Irrawaddy division are defying orders from local authorities to move their market through fear of losing business in the cyclone-stricken delta.

Authorities in Bogalay, one of Irrawaddy division's largest towns, have given four separate warnings to the vendors to relocate to a site on the outskirts of the town. The latest warning was given by the township council secretary, Myo Nyunt, on Monday, according to a resident.

The vendors fear that business will be affected, given the sparse population living close to the new location. The market is tax-free, stemming from an initiative started by former junta secretary-2, Lieutenant General Tin Oo, who died in 2001.

The resident also said that Bogalay residents are worried that waste from the market stalls will seep into a river nearby and pollute it.

A vendor said that only about 15 stallholders have complied with the authorities' order and moved to the new location.

"I went to look at the new market place [yesterday] and it was too small," said the vendor, adding that it was around 100 by 100 yards.

"This is a battle where we are fighting with our lives," he said. Our business was already difficult and we won't be able to sell anything in the new place. I will not tolerate being in oppressed life.

"We will fight for as much right as we can and we don't care how much they threaten us. If they get violent we will counter them with the same."

The Market Relocation Committee held a meeting to discuss the situation yesterday but the Myo Nyunt, who is a member of the committee, said only that further meetings are to follow.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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