Yangon mall eerily empty after guards brutalize anti-violence campaigners

Security guards and a protester on Thursday, at left. The mall on Friday, at right. Photos: CJ/Khit Thit Media
Security guards and a protester on Thursday, at left. The mall on Friday, at right. Photos: CJ/Khit Thit Media

Restaurants, electronic stores and pop-up shops at one of Yangon’s largest and busiest shopping malls abruptly closed today after guards there attacked a small group of protesters.

Security guards assaulted four demonstrators, detaining two yesterday at the Myanmar Plaza mall on Kabar Aye Pagoda Road, where they had been rallying against the military’s violence against women. That ignited fury among the wide swathes of society opposed to military rule.

“Boycott Myanmar Plaza,” Yin Min wrote on Facebook, among dozens of similar reactions. “Those staff dare to do so only because their boss instructed them to.” 

The anger led stores to announce their closure.

“Our Myanmar Plaza outlet is temporarily closed. Please visit us at Junction Square,” one shop announced. 

It was unclear how many were motivated by fear of the backlash or solidarity with the protesters – some said it was for the health of their staff. Photographs taken today showed the usually bustling mall all but vacant.

For its part, the mall published an apology and said it was investigating.

“We believe in the expression of opinions & views in a peaceful manner,” it wrote in English. “We are sorry that our site personnel acted in an inappropriate manner against such activity this afternoon.”

It said the young protesters were “escorted peacefully away.”

The mall’s actions against the group has been criticised by human rights organizations and pro-democracy campaigners.

It happened while about seven male and female demonstrators flashed three-finger salutes and held a banner promoting a nonviolent “End Impunity, End Violence Against Women” campaign in Yankin Township’s promotion area of the mall. 

“Two young males were apprehended, but they fought back and managed to flee,” a source familiar with the incident told Khit Thit media. “One of them has been admitted to the hospital. At the mall, security guards kicked him in the thigh.”

All four were reportedly free and safe this morning.

That led to calls to review-bomb the mall, or pressure its hundreds of businesses to relocate. 

On Google Maps, a search this morning finds it named “Boycott Myanmar Plaza.”

The mall is home to hundreds of restaurants, bars, fitness centers, fashion stores, and private banks.

Rates of violence against women are high in Myanmar, where the military employed rape against Rohingya women and brutalized women in the protest movement since the February coup.

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