Burma

Myanmar’s Capital, Home to Junta Leaders, Spared Nationwide Power Outages

By The Irrawaddy 17 March 2022

As all of Myanmar suffers serious power shortages that are having a huge impact on people’s daily lives, the country’s capital Naypyitaw, which is home to coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and many former military leaders, rarely faces blackouts.

Late last year, the country’s major cities including Yangon and Mandalay began experiencing occasional power cuts of a few hours a day. The situation deteriorated in the third week of February, however, and since then there have been fewer than six hours of electricity per day.

National electricity demand at peak times is 3,400 MW. The junta said recently that Myanmar is currently able to generate only 873 MW for the whole country due to infrastructure maintenance and upgrades at an offshore gas station.

The fact that power shortages are rare in Naypyitaw means the capital is using the lion’s share of the electricity that is being generated, while other cities are plunged into darkness.

“There are virtually no electricity outages in Naypyitaw. When they do occur, they only last a few hours,” said a resident of the capital.

Naypyitaw comprises eight townships. Min Aung Hlaing lives in Zayarthiri Township, as do a number of other retired senior military officials. His Commander-in-Chief’s Office is in the same area. Power outages are completely unheard of in the neighborhood, according to Naypyitaw residents. Even the streets there are fully lit, while residential areas in some other townships in the capital face occasional short-time blackouts.

In contrast to Naypyitaw, the country’s former capital Yangon is facing serious electricity shortages, making it difficult for residents to cook or pump water for household use.

A resident of the city’s Hlaing Township said, “Power cuts have become a daily routine. We have to wait till the electricity turns back on to cook. We feel as though we have returned to the time before 2010,” referring to the years of chronic power shortages under the previous military regime, which controlled Myanmar until early 2011.

In many areas of Yangon, people are suffering water shortages due to the prolonged blackouts. Charity organizations are distributing water in mobile water tanks, but their efforts efforts are being hampered by skyrocketing fuel prices. One liter of gasoline for vehicles costs 2,000 kyats, up from around 600 kyats before the coup in February 2021.

A leader of a charity organization in Yangon’s South Oakkalapa Township said, “We donate water to those in need but we are also facing difficulties because of the high fuel price.”

Some businesses including those in the garment sector are also feeling the impacts of the electricity shortage.

One owner of a garment factory with about 500 employees in Hlaingtharyar Township said, “We have no regular electricity and face high fuel prices. We cannot run our business smoothly.”

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