Elections mean brisk business for Yangon printing shops

Business has been especially good for a cluster of shops in the Shwe Gone Daing area in Yangon city who provide screen printing services for posters and company T-shirts. For the past few weeks, they have been printing political party merchandise in preparation for the coming Myanmar elections on Nov 8.

The two most obvious merchandise are those of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and the National League for Democracy (NLD). Caps, T-shirts and flags are prominently displayed on the storefront.

Sidewalks in Shwe Gone Daing region have been peppered with red t-shirts in the month leading up to the elections.

“I volunteraily printed the NLD t-shirts. No one asked me to do it. I like NLD and I support the NLD, that’s why I did this. Likewise, people love NLD, that’s why they buy the t-shirts,” business owner Swe Yi said.

Just a few years ago though, printing anything related to opposition political parties could not have been done without the watchful eye from the authorities.

Inside of a printing shop, stacks of folded t-shirts are folded and stacked up after the ink has dried up.

“Before printing Aung San Suu Kyi T-shirts, I printed vinyl posters of her. Some policemen came by to have a look but they said nothing, so I started printing the T-shirts secretly at the back of the shop,” Swe Yi said.

“Now it’s very open. Anyone can print and sell NLD T-shirts,” he said. There are almost 40 shops in the vicinity competing for their share of the pie.

A worker in a printing shop prints a star on a red t-shirt. The star is part of the emblem of the NLD.

Another business owner Ko Nyi Nyi compared the sales of his merchandise: “I do not only print NLD t-shirts. I also print USDP t-shirts. But if I displayed them, no one would buy it,” he said.

Shops that sold USDP merchandise however, were not as willing to share their political preferences.


Ko Nyi Nyi started printing the NLD t-shirts at the start of October and has since sold over 30,000 NLD t-shirts. Each piece sells for 2500 kyat, about USD$2.

He has received orders from all over Myanmar and even exported to countries like Singapore and Japan, where a large number of people from the Myanmar diaspora reside. In Singapore, there are an estimated 200,000 people from Myanmar.

Tools used for screen printing: Top left: Ink is applied through a permeable mesh. Top right: freshly printed t-shirts hang on a laundry line to dry out. Bottom left: Different colours of ink. Bottom right: The blade used to apply the ink.

Within Myanmar, people from all over the region come to Yangon to place bulk orders of these T-shirts. “Printing NLD T-shirts is not like printing football jerseys. The demand for football jerseys is much less than these NLD T-shirts, because the demand is only from Yangon,” Swe Yi said.

But it’s not all about the profit for most of these business owners. Many of them support the political party that they print for, and see their business as a good way to promote the party of their choice.

An imprint of Aung San Suu Kyi on the screen printing tool.

“I want to make the whole place red,” Ko Nyi Nyi said, referring to his support for the NLD. He hopes to keep selling his T-shirts after the elections, but only if the NLD wins.

Source: Channel News Asia

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