A night of dancing at The Vibe nightclub in Yangon ended with several guests in the hospital after a confrontation with security guards in the early hours of March 19. Witnesses have accused the club’s staff of unprovoked brutality, but the club’s management says the guests started it.
According to several witnesses, the trouble began unexpectedly when a group of nine partygoers was approached by a security guard on the second-story dancefloor.
“One security guy came to one of my [male] friends and tried to kick him out,” said Clémence, a witness who posted her account of the night’s events on social media on behalf the group.
Clémence said she was surprised and asked why her friend was being removed from the club.
“It appears that a girl next to us received some beer on her arm, which accidentally spilled from my friend’s beer. She asked security to kick him out. We apologized and tried to calm the girl’s anger, explaining that it was unfortunate but not on purpose,” she said.
The guard relented but hovered close to the group and stared at them.
Then, about half an hour later, the guard approached the group again.
“The security guy went to another one of my friends who was dancing with us – same thing – wanting to kick him out. I noticed the same girl and her friend were with the security guys. I asked a Myanmar friend to translate and help us understand what was happening as there were no reasons for us to be kicked out. We were dancing peacefully and did not interact with these girls,” Clémence said.
Nonetheless, Clémence said, the guards began to escort the guests out of the club.
“Four security men forced [my two friends] to leave – two guards for each of them. They pushed them onto the stairs. From that moment, I was stuck upstairs as the stairs were packed, and the door was blocked by people and security men. The Myanmar friend who helped to translate and tried to understand the situation was pushed away, and two guys tried to punch him,” she said.
Clémence’s firsthand account ends there, but what she and her friends heard happened next has been corroborated by other witnesses and by one of the victims.
“Some of our friends were downstairs at that point, so they were able to see what happened, and other people shared their testimonies. [The security guards] started to beat one of [my friends] in the stairs. Then they left him almost knocked out on a chair downstairs, while at least six men took the other friend outside and beat him up again and again on the street side,” she said.
“At that time, the one friend inside was also beaten by seven to 10 men simultaneously, according to witnesses, punching him and kicking him in the head, as he was already lying on the floor. One of them smashed a bottle of beer on his head, and he started to bleed. One friend tried to stop one of the security men and was violently slapped and pushed away. Finally, another friend managed to take away the victim and carried him outside.”
Another witness who was downstairs at the time said: “The bouncers dragged out someone from the main door. Two bouncers were holding him, then a third and fourth one came along and started beating him up, slapping him hard across the face and punching him in the stomach repeatedly. The guy had no way of defending himself because he was restrained by two other bouncers [who] dragged him out onto the road and kicked him out.”
“A few seconds later, I heard bottles smash inside the front door and looked in and saw a guy on the floor getting the shit kicked out of him,” said the witness, who asked not to be named. “Another few seconds later, he was dragged out by friends covered in blood from his head.”
The witness added: “Apparently, one of the owners was standing outside and was watching it all and didn’t do anything. Afterward, he just walked back in.”
Clémence added: “We tried to get an explanation from the staff, but they denied anything had happened. We tried to take some pictures as evidence, but they were already cleaning up and said the guy fell down the stairs.”
The Vibe’s management tells a different story.
Peter, one of the partners in the group that owns the nightclub, told Coconuts that the violence first broke out between two guests on the stairs, prompting security personnel to intervene.
“Security tried to defuse the situation. One guest was taken out [of the club], and the other fell down the stairs. He was very intoxicated,” Peter said. “Security had to drag him and sat him down at a table, where a security guard gave him a short massage and tried to calm him down.”
After the massage, the guest was joined at the table by a friend who “tried to help him out.”
However, the intoxicated guest in Peter’s account soon became “annoyed or aggressive” and slapped his friend “three times.” When two security guards tried to intervene, the guest “grabbed a security guard by the neck and tried to punch him.”
Peter said this was the same guard who had earlier given the guest a massage.
When asked about the glass bottle that witnesses heard break during the commotion, Peter said the guest had grabbed the bottle from a nearby podium during the scuffle, and it shattered when security attempted to remove it from his hand.
“Security was not aggressive. They were trying to be nice. I don’t know why [the guest] tried to attack security,” Peter said.
Though he was not present during the altercation, Peter said that later that night someone in the club tried to punch him in the face.
“People are drinking more than they should,” he said.
When asked whether security personnel had handled the situation well, he said: “It’s not about handling the situation well; it’s about an event that happened. We have taken appropriate action against two [staff members] who could have handled it slightly better.”
He later confirmed that two staff members have been terminated. The security guard who was allegedly attacked by the guest remains on staff but is on leave after suffering a neck injury.
Peter said he was aware of one guest being hospitalized that night and has tried unsuccessfully to reach out to that person.
“We try to make sure The Vibe is safe for everyone,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to have fun.”
The injured guest
The altercation ended when the two guests were removed from The Vibe’s premises and rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment.
When asked to respond to the account provided by The Vibe’s management, one of the guests who was injured by security personnel told Coconuts:
“I completely disagree with the account of The Vibe’s owner and find it highly offensive and worrisome that they would feel confident to refute the realities of clear, extreme brutality that many witnesses, including myself, have expressed.”
The victim, who asked not to be named, confirmed Clémence’s account of the incident.
“I remember first hanging out upstairs with a group of friends, then being violently pulled away from my friends by ‘security’ personnel,” he wrote. “I was then beaten in an incredibly violent and reckless way. I received lacerations on the back and front of my head and countless severe bruises and scrapes all over my ribs and body from the beating. I was also later diagnosed with a concussion due to the severity of the head trauma,” he said.
“I had a bottle smashed on my head leading to intense bleeding that required stitches and a trip to the emergency room.”
Several comments on social media posts by witnesses and by The Vibe’s management call for security footage to be released in order to clarify what happened that night.
Peter said this won’t happen. He insists that his account of the altercation is supported by the club’s security footage, but he said the footage cannot be shown to journalists or to the public because doing so would reveal the locations of the cameras.
However, The Vibe has not always adhered to this policy of keeping its security footage secret. Three weeks ago, a manager of the club showed a guest security footage after his bag was stolen in the club.
“The manager was very good to me, at least that’s what it seemed. He and one of his staff spent about three hours with me going through the tapes from multiple angles,” said a previous guest, who asked not to be named.
Several commenters have recommended that the victims of the violence file criminal charges in order to make the footage available, but no such action has been taken yet.
The injured guest told Coconuts: “I have not been in contact with The Vibe’s management. I have not concluded the next steps to take. I am deeply troubled by the Vibe’s clear disregard for the law and any sense of human dignity.”