Myanmar Army Restrictions Leave Tanai Residents Lacking Basic Commodities

By Nyein Nyein 7 December 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — As the Tatmadaw has restricted the transportation of basic commodities in conflict-torn Tanai Township, Kachin State, locals have run out of fuel and are suffering a rice shortage.

The Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) has restricted the transportation of goods in the region for more than a year, but the situation worsened after June 3, when the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Tatmadaw renewed fighting and displaced hundreds of locals from N’Ga Ga and Nambyu villages.

Tanai residents told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that diesel fuel ran out a few days ago, as fuel trucks from Myitkyina have been stuck at military checkpoints.

Only gasoline can be bought, and one Tanai resident said the price is up to 6,000 kyat per gallon in some places where previously it had been about 4,200 kyat.

Locals also said the price of rice sacks had risen to double or triple the going rate in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. They now costs 40,000 to 60,000 kyats per sack depending on quality, and they average around 20,000 in Myitkyina.

The Kachin State security and border affairs minister Col Thura Myo Tin told the Kachin State Parliament on Monday – in a response to a question by lawmaker U Zaw Win – that the Tatmadaw’s Northern Command scrutinizes the transport of rice and petrol in order to obstruct gold and amber miners who pay extortion money to the KIA in areas without rule of law.

U Zaw Win, a National League for Democracy lawmaker representing Tanai Constituency No. 2, questioned Parliament on Monday as to what the government was doing in regards to his urgent motion – in which he proposed that the government allow free transport of these goods, as was passed in March.

Despite the state security and border affair minister stating that the transport of such goods is now permitted following scrutiny, lawmakers insisted and showed evidence to Parliament that people were facing difficulties in obtaining these basic goods.

“There has been a food shortage in the state because people have been unable to farm due to the frequent fighting. Now, with the Tatmadaw controlling the delivery of goods, locals’ lives have gotten harder,” said Kachin State lawmaker Maran Ja Seng Hkawn.

Renewed fighting, following the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire, broke out between the KIA and Tatmadaw in June 2011. More than 100,000 people have been displaced, including villagers from Tanai Township.

Local pastor Mung Dan said that villagers used to be able to buy rations of rice and fuel arranged at the township, village and ward levels but that this had stopped this week due to a shortage for unknown reasons.

“We don’t know why, but the quota system is no longer available and we are short of these supplies.”

Lawmaker Maran Ja Seng Hkawn said the government would have to tackle this situation wisely, so that people aren’t taking advantage of those in hardship.

The Tatmadaw’s actions seem to undermine the image of the NLD, said Tanai resident U Zaw Tan, as this crisis happened soon after the NLD governance began.

“Now the residents of Tanai have lost trust in the government and everyone is saying that the government cannot do anything,” he said, adding that even without fighting in the town, locals are neither free to travel nor trade.