Myanmar Junta Blockade Causing Rice and Fuel Shortages in Jade Hub Hpakant
By The Irrawaddy 23 February 2023
Myanmar’s military regime has blocked deliveries of rice and fuel to the jade-mining town of Hpakant in Kachin State since early this month, and residents are now going hungry as a result of shortages.
The junta has cited the presence of Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and People’s Defense Force (PDF) fighters in Hpakant as the reason for the blockade, which is being enforced by regime troops and pro-junta militia members manning checkpoints on the roads leading to the town in central Kachin state.
One female resident of Hpakant told The Irrawaddy: “They [the regime] have blocked deliveries of rice and fuel. The situation in the region is that the military enters and does as it pleases in the town. We can’t buy rice. Shops and gas stations have closed.”
The ban has resulted in the price of normal rice increasing from 40,000 kyats per sack to over 100,000 kyats (around US$40) in the past two weeks alone. The price of gasoline has risen from 3,000 kyats per litre to 5,000 kyats.
At some junta checkpoints, individuals are allowed to bring in rice for their own household consumption, but they have to pay a tax of 3,000 to 5,000 kyats per sack. And only people with ties to the regime are allowed to transport fuel, residents said.
The order to restrict deliveries of rice came from the junta-appointed Kachin State border affairs and security affairs minister. Cargo trucks heading to Hpakant are checked at the Nam Ya checkpoint, and trucks carrying rice are being forced to turn back.
One Hpakant resident said: “I heard that they [the junta] restricted the deliveries because of the KIA and PDFs. Local residents are in trouble. We can’t afford to pay high prices for rice. And every household including children is going hungry.”
Some jade miners who operate small-scale mines have been forced to suspend their operations as a result of the ban on deliveries of fuel.
“We are also experiencing fuel shortages and some jade mines have suspended operations. But miners who have ties to the military are still operating. In Kone San, Chinese companies are still mining despite the fuel shortage,” said a mine owner.
Some residents said the rice and fuel blockade follows frequent resistance attacks on junta checkpoints in Hpakant.
The regime has also often abducted prospectors and displaced people for a ransom starting from one million kyats, according to locals. The junta also imposed a similar ban on rice and fuel deliveries in late 2022, resulting in oil price hikes.