Myanmar Junta Cuts off Electricity to Local Businesses

By The Irrawaddy 16 November 2021

The military regime is cutting off power to factories, workshops, hotels and businesses in Mandalay that have refused to pay their electricity bills, local business people told The Irrawaddy.

Township authorities warned Mandalay business people to pay their overdue bills on November 2, and started cutting off electricity from November 9.

“My workshop has suspended operations for months because there were no orders. They asked me to pay electricity bills, but I didn’t. The workshop watchman told me on November 10 that we had been cut off. I found that the power line to my workshop had been taken down,” said a car workshop owner from Pyigyitagun Township.

Business people were told at a November 2 meeting with township authorities to pay their electricity bills as soon as possible or face legal action.

“They said we could talk to the township electricity office manager if we couldn’t pay all the overdue bills. But when we went to the electricity office, we were asked to pay all the unpaid bills. I am just continuing my business for the sake of my employees and I can’t afford to pay all the bills. As I could not negotiate with the manager, I came back without paying,” said a bakery owner from Chanayethazan Township.

While the majority of Myanmar people are refusing to pay their electricity bills as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) in protest at the junta and its February 1 coup, many businesses are struggling amid an economic decline resulting from post-coup turmoil and COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Many businesses are not yet able to resume operations because they have had to suspend them due to COVID-19 restrictions, and because of the difficulties of withdrawing cash from banks after the coup. Those that have resumed are not operating at pre-coup scale. So it is not OK for us to pay electricity bills. We have money in the bank, but we can’t withdraw as much as we want. I have had to suspend my business as my factory’s electricity was disconnected,” said a purified water distributor in Chanmyathazi Township.

Some 30 businesses, including a hotel and a private hospital, had their electricity cut off between November 5 and November 15.

“I heard that they have cut off the power in Aungmyaythazan and Maha Aung Myay townships as well. Not only businesses but houses were disconnected in my township Chanmyathazi,” said a Chanmyathazi resident on Monday.

The junta has also been cutting off power in some Yangon neighborhoods after residents have not paid electricity bills for months.

Under the ousted National League for Democracy government, households were exempted from paying a certain percentage of electricity bills since mid-2020 as part of a COVID-19 economic relief plan.

Independent Economists for Myanmar (IEM) said in July that the junta’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy was collecting 100 billion kyats (about US$61 million) less per month due to a boycott campaign launched by CDM activists. The electricity bill collection rates in the country’s two major commercial cities, Yangon and Mandalay, were as low as 2 per cent and 3 per cent respectively as of March, according to the IEM.

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