Myanmar Hostels Cut Rent as COVID-19 Closures Hit Workers

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 11 May 2020

Yangon – More than 60 hostel owners from Yangon’s industrial hub in Hlaing Tharyar Township have offered free accommodation or reduced charges for nearly 1,200 factory workers affected by COVID-19 factory closures.

The township has an estimated 1 million inhabitants including more than 300,000 workers, according to U Myat Min Thu, the Yangon regional lawmaker for Hlaing Tharyar.

Most workers live in hostels and pay between 40,000-100,000 kyats (US$29–71) for tiny rooms per month that are shared between up to four people.

Since March, wages have tumbled and working times have been cut or stopped in response to coronavirus.

Buddhist monk U Kay Thara, a philanthropist who is working with hostel owners providing accommodation, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that more than 60 hostels with about 300 rooms have provided free accommodation or reduced rates for their tenants.

He estimated that 1,200 people, mostly workers, were not paying for accommodation.

He said they started giving certificates to hostel owners to encourage other hostels to help tenants through the COVID-19 closures.

Ko Min Zaw, the owner of the Sanyeik Nyein hostel in the township, has not charged his residents for April when most factories were closed for more than 20 days.

In April, all factories closed for 10 days for the Thingyan holiday and then factories were ordered to await inspections for COVID-19 preventative measures.

“I am not charging for accommodation for April as the workers faced hardships due to factory closures. This is my support for them because they contribute to my family’s income,” said Ko Min Zaw.

He said he owns two hostels with 40 rooms and each room normally provides 80,000 kyats ($57) per month.

“I am ready to help them until next month,” said Ko Min Zaw.

A garment factory worker Ko Ye Naing told The Irrawaddy on Monday that his hostel in Thamagone, Hlaing Thayar, had reduced room charges from 70,000 kyats to 50,000 kyats ($50-36) for May.

“I thank the hostel owner for reducing the fees,” said Ko Ye Naing.

He said that he was paid 150,000 kyats ($107) in wages for April, down from his usual 200,000 kyats ($143).

As of May 10, Myanmar has reported 180 COVID-19 cases with 72 recoveries and six deaths.

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