For small printing firm, Myanmar election boosts business for now

YANGON (Reuters) – While the coronavirus pandemic hits many businesses in Myanmar, one small printing firm is seeing business boom as popular leader Aung San Suu Kyi seeks re-election in November.

Staff at Htet Khine Soe’s Yangon shop are working day and night to print the red shirts, flags and banners of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party as orders pour in, seizing the opportunity as campaigning gets underway.

Htet Khine Soe has had a tough few months, with business grinding to a halt due to social restrictions aimed at keeping the coronavirus at bay.

The election, which Suu Kyi’s NLD is expected to win, has provided a badly needed lifeline.

“I can breathe easily now as we had nothing to do in the previous three months,” said Htet Khine Soe, 33, folding some of the 1,000 shirts he produces each day.

“Our business can get better if orders keep coming in during the election campaign period.”

Myanmar has been spared a major coronavirus crisis, but since mid-August infections have tripled to 1,807, with 12 deaths.

A partial lockdown has been re-imposed in the city of Yangon, schools are closed nationwide and entry to the capital Naypyitaw is restricted – all curbs that could dampen enthusiasm for the vote.

“We are seizing the opportunity as much and as quickly as we can before our concerns become real,” Htet Khine Soe said.

Suu Kyi on Tuesday launched what she called her party’s “victory campaign”.

The NLD, which won a landslide at 2015 polls that ended half a century of military and military-backed rule, is expected to win again though by a lesser margin.

Diehard supporter Thein Htaike wasted no time in getting his merchandise.

“I buy these small NLD flags to give to my friends,” he said, wearing an NLD hat and mask with the party logo on one side and Suu Kyi’s face on the other.

“I’ve already bought about 800 items so far.”

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