By Hseng Nawng / Network Media Group
Feb 1, 2023

“I am an IDP from Hsihseng, and I have relocated to Taunggyi. I have opened a restaurant here, and business is going well. I think I am going to permanently live in Taunggyi,” a female IDP (source 1), who is 35 years old and the owner of a Kayan traditional food restaurant in Taunggyi night market, told NMG.

As military violence has intensified across Burma, many people have been displaced by armed clashes in many regions. In Shan State, the number of armed clashes has been less than other parts of Burma. So while Shan State not peaceful, the situation is more stable than in other regions.

Because Taunggyi is located in the middle of multiple Burma Army battalions and there are many military compounds in the city, it is difficult for insurgent groups to launch unban guerilla warfare there. Local people typically participate in political and humanitarian actions in support of the Spring Revolution such as providing aid to IDPs.

Unemployment is quite high in Taunggyi. Thousands of people who used to work in companies have become unemployed because many companies have stopped their operations. In addition, there are many government staff who have joined the civil disobedience movement (CDM) so are now unemployed.

At the same time, the number of IDPs living in Taunggyi has increased. The majority of IDPs in Taunggyi are from Karenni State. The IDPs have lost their livelihoods in their places of origin, and thus add to the ranks of the unemployed when they arrive in Taunggyi.

Many of these unemployed people, both longtime Taunggyi residents and newly arrived IDPs, have started working in Taunggyi’s two main night markets. Typically they become market vendors, work as waiters and cooks in existing restaurants, or open their own restaurants.

The world is so strange sometimes, and people can find fortune during terrible times. Some IDPs were facing many difficulties after being forced to flee their homes and live in IDP camps, but they have now found good livelihoods in a new place. Some government staff became unemployed after joining the CDM, but they are now running successful business selling food or market goods.

A Karenni female IDP (source 2), who was originally from Karenni state but has taken shelter in Taunggyi city, said that moving to Taunggyi turned out be good for the education of her children and for her own livelihood. She has now opened a shop in the Taunggyi night market, and is able to provide food for her family.

“I have a shop in Taunggyi night market. I earn a regular income by selling goods in night market. Now I can send my children to school in Taunggyi. Even though I do not have much extra money, we are able have a similar standard of living as other people. I can support my children here. The cost of renting a shop is very expensive in Taunggyi, so we depend on this night market to earn a living. We do not need to spend too much to rent our stall in the night market,” she (source 2) told NMG.

NMG has found that Karenni IDPs run more than 30 restaurants in the night markets and other places in Taunggyi city.

Former government staff who joined the CDM (locals call them CDMers), are also able to earn a decent income by selling food in the Taunggyi night markets.

“I sell fried chicken and Chinese food. I have some regular customers, so my business is not bad here. If we rent a room in somewhere in Taunggyi, it will cost at least 200,000 Kyat per month. If we make business with Food Panda, we will have to pay the company 30% of the sale price. These are not viable business options for us. But now we can only spend 70,000 Kyat per month to rent a stall in the night market. The low rent price is why I can make a profit here,” a man (source 3), who is 28 years old and worked as a health worker before joining CDM, told NMG.

Shop owners in the Taunggyi night market have to pay a 30,000 Kyat per month garbage collection tax to the Township Municipal Department. Typically the cost of renting a night market stall is about 70,000 Kyat per month.

Local people said that the oldest night market was established in Taunggyi city around 1960. This old night market is located near the Myoma central market. A new night market located near the Shan State football stadium was established in 2018.

The two night markets in Taunggyi offer a wide variety of food including Shan food, Burmese traditional food, Chinese and Korean food, noodles, etc. Tea shop cuisine is also available in the night markets. Local people often say that “the best tea is sold in the Taunggyi night market.”

Sellers in the Taunggyi night markets come from a range of different backgrounds, including Inntha, Shan, Pa-O and other groups. Some Bamar ethnic people from Thazi, Mahlaing and Pyaw Bwe Townships in Mandalay Region also come to open stalls in the Taunggyi night markets. After the military coup, IDPs from other areas, especially Karenni State, and CDMers have started to sell in the Taunggyi night markets as well.

Some customers prefer to visit the old night market because they can eat famous Daw Than Kyi fermented pork and other noodles. Sein Mya Nyo and Bangkok tea shops are also the best in the old night market, according to many local people. Other customers prefer to visit the new night market. They say that they want to eat clean and safe food in new night market.

Besides traditional foods, modernized foods such as bubble tea, BBQ, Hot Pot, Korean food, Thai food, Japanese food and Chinese food are all available at the Taunggyi night markets.

Karenni IDP have started selling Kayan traditional sausage, rice soup and rice wine in new night market in Taunggyi. There are now about six Kayan restaurants in new night market.

Local people said that there were no Kayan traditional restaurants in Taunggyi city before the military coup. IDPs from Karenni state started to run Kayan traditional restaurants in Taunggyi night market only after they were displaced following the military coup. The two night markets in Taunggyi city are full with customers. Before the military coup, the Taunggyi night markets use to close around 4 a.m. But after the military coup, the night markets close before 11 p.m. everyday.

Local people want to visit the Taunggyi night markets until after midnight but they are worried that security forces will inspect travelers on the street at that time. Local youth use to watch football matches on TV in the night market tea shops, but they cannot do that now because of the early closing times.

Many customers are worried about their safety when they visit night markets. Some customers are concerned about losing their motorcycles because the number of thefts have increased dramatically in Taunggyi after the military coup.

Local people want to see a positive end for this revolution against dictatorship as soon as possible and bring back the rule of law in their city. After that, they can peacefully visit the night markets in Taunggyi city.