Security forces seal off downtown Yangon after the military takeover in February 2021. / The Irrawaddy
People in Myanmar are finding daily life much more difficult under the military regime, with steep price rises for basic commodities such as food and fuel, as well as frequent and long power outages.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since last year’s coup by the military which ousted the elected civilian government. Almost 1,600 people have since died at the hands of the junta, while over 12,500 have been detained.
Alongside the violence and political chaos, Myanmar people have also been hit by soaring food and fuel prices, which have increased again in recent weeks.
The price of rice, the staple of the Myanmar diet, has increased by 30 per cent, while people are also complaining about how the price of edible palm oil has quadrupled since March last year.
Due to the spike in edible palm oil prices, residents in several cities have been forced to queue in long lines, despite the spread of COVID-19, to buy cheaper edible oil direct from the Myanmar Edible Oil Dealers Association.
One resident of Mandalay Region said that she is spending at least two times more on groceries than she did before the coup.
“All food prices are skyrocketing,” she said. “If it continues like this, we will all be in big trouble and in danger of falling into poverty.”
The coup has pushed Myanmar — previously one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economies — back into dire poverty and left the economy on the brink of collapse. Heavy job losses have also been reported, with the International Labour Organization estimating that the country has lost 1.6 million jobs over the past year, with many local companies shuttering their businesses and an exodus of international companies.
Fuel prices went over 2,000 kyats per liter on Friday, a more than 15 per cent rise since last month, prompting many taxi drivers to stop driving as they can no longer afford fuel. Before the coup, the price of gasoline or diesel fuel was around 700 kyats per liter.
At the same time, people in both urban and rural areas are having to endure irregular power outages that can last for half a day or even a whole day in some regions.
“In the last two weeks, there hasn’t been a day without a power outage,” said a Yangon resident. He added that power blackouts in the past were scheduled, but are now irregular making it hard to cook and use water pumps.
The blackouts have also caused severe disruption to business owners who rely on regular electricity. Many businesses such as restaurants have announced temporary closures as they can no longer afford to buy fuel to power generators.
“The situation is getting worse on all sides. We have no idea any more of what can we do in Postthis situation,” said a 30-year-old Yangon resident.
Late last year, the United Nations (UN) warned that around half of Myanmar’s 55 million people could sink into poverty in 2022, with urban poverty set to triple.
The UN Development Programme said that Myanmar was set to return to levels of deprivation not seen since 2005, before democratic reforms began.
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