Melee Breaks Out at Mon State Pagoda After Staff Try to Clear Street Vendors

Fourteen people have been hit with lawsuits in Mon state after a brawl between sidewalk vendors at Kyaiktiyo Pagoda and security personnel left more than a dozen people injured.

While most injuries were minor, at least three women and one man sustained severe injuries in the melee, including broken limbs.

The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Board of Trustees said vendors refused to comply with a November 3 warning not to sell near certain areas to avoid blocking the entrances.

Things turned violent when staff from the pagoda, which is also known as Golden Rock, arrived on November 4 to clear the vendors’ stalls.

“They were trying to start a conflict. I told our staff not to respond and to just observe for about an hour. We were going to handle it according to the law,” said pagoda board member Tun Myint.

But when security staff attempted to confiscate the vendors’ goods as evidence, Tun Myint said, vendors began throwing their trays and beating the staff.

The vendors say they were only acting in self defence. “We had already decided to move when they asked, but when we gathered to ask them where we could do business they marched in shouting and taking our things by force,” said Ma Thazin, who sells hand fans and beads. “We just defended ourselves.”

About 60 pagoda staff faced off with the 80 to 100 vendors there, leaving 12 staff members and four vendors injured, including Ma Thazin, who is being treated at a local hospital for head injuries. Ma Thazin said the vendors plan to counter sue.

Pagoda board member Than Win, acting as plaintiff, filed charges under article 295 of the penal code for causing religious offence, 338 for causing major hurt, 337 for causing minor hurt and sections 294 and 506 for shouting obscenities.

Most of those charged are women, Kinpunchaung chief of police Zaw Zin Oo told Myanmar Now.

“We filed the complaints and an investigator is already on the case,” he said.

Vendors were prohibited in December 2018 from occupying a road connecting the Mountain Top Hotel and the pagoda’s Two-Lion entrance, according to Tun Myint.

Vendors say the areas pagoda staff have told them they can vend in are inconvenient and poorly trafficked by visitors, and that they’ve been given no permanent place to sell.

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