Putao Locals Protest Ongoing Clashes and High Food Prices

By Nan Lwin Hnint Pwint 14 February 2018

YANGON — Locals in Kachin State’s Putao marched in protest against ongoing clashes between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and high food prices on Tuesday.

More than 200 people including locals and internally displaced persons joined the two-hour protest march led by Jingpo, Rawang, Lisu and Shan literature and culture associations.

“People are bearing the brunt of clashes. We want the KIA and Tatmadaw to negotiate for the sake of the future and livelihood of people. It is people who are suffering, not them,” said U Aung Kham of the Jingpo Literature and Culture Association.

Parts of the Myitkyina-Sumprabum road, the main route for the transportation of commodities to Putao, were destroyed during the clashes between the two sides in January.

Since then the price of rice has doubled to 70,000 kyats (US$52) for a bag of rice in Putao. Onion prices have also increased to 7,000 kyats per viss (3.6 lb), and some places are out of stock. Meanwhile, petroleum prices have also increased to 20,000 kyats ($15) per gallon, said U Aung Kham.

Zami, a housewife in Putao, also confirmed that food prices are high in her hometown, and said she hopes that they drop.

There have been military tensions between the Tatmadaw and KIA in Putao since 2017, and the Tatmadaw’s Commander-in-Chief’s Office stated on Jan. 30 that the KIA had destroyed parts of the Myitkyina-Sumprabum-Putao road with bulldozers and only left a three-foot wide section for motorbikes to pass through.

The KIA has also deployed troops on the road to prevent it from being repaired, claimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Office.

Around 1,000 people fled from Ndup Yang camp in Kachin State’s Sumprabum after artillery shells from the clashes between the two sides fell near their camp in the third week of January. Many are still in temporary shelters.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.