ARMED CONFLICT LEADING TO FOOD PRICE INCREASES IN BAWLAKHE AND HPASAUNG TOWNSHIPS

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By Kantarawaddy Times

Cargo trucks are unable to travel from Loikaw to Bawlakhe and Hpasaung Townships because armed clashes continue on the Loikaw – Bawlakhe vehicle road. As a consequence, basic food prices have increased in Bawlakhe and Hpasaung Townships.

“The vehicle road has been blocked due to the clashes. Because of this blockage, basic food products have not been arriving as usual, which is causing increases in the prices of basic food items here,” a local man (source 1), who lives in Bawlakhe town, told Kantarawaddy Times.

On 25 December 2022, the Karenni Army (KA), which is the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), announced the temporary closure of the Loikaw – Sanpya Chaukmai – Dor Tamagyi – Bawlakhe vehicle road for security reasons. The Karenni Army re-opened the vehicle road on 18 January but cargo trucks have not travelled on the road because of recent armed clashes in the area.

“Food products haven’t arrived here as expected. Therefore, we have to ration the food we have, and sell only small amounts at a time. For example, if a person comes to buy three bags of rice, I only sell one bag of rice to the person,” a female grocery shop owner in Bawlakhe (source 2) told Kantarawaddy Times.

“Everything is expensive here now. Some people cannot even afford to buy vegetables here. These food price increases are making life really difficult for us, it is stressful considering that most people here do not have a regular job,” another Bawlakhe resident (source 3) told Kantarawaddy Times.

Local people who live in the Bawlakhe, Hpasaung and Mawchi areas depend on the transport of basic food products from Loikaw town. Because of the closure of the Loikaw – Balakhe vehicle road, some local people have started importing basic food products from neighboring Thailand as well as from Taungoo town in Bago Region. The higher costs of these imported food products are a key reason why food prices have dramatically increased in Bawlakhe and Hpasaung Townships.

According to local people, rice now costs 60,000 – 100,000 Kyat per bag, eggs now cost 250 Kyat each, and petroleum now costs 3,500 Kyat per liter.

The Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) released a statement on 27 January stating that the Burma Army has launched an offensive operation against Karenni resistance groups in the areas around the Loikaw – Sanpya Chaukmai – Dor Tamagyi – Bawlakhe vehicle road, the Hparuso – Nan Hpe – Bawlakhe road and the Htee Pawso road. The KNDF says that it will release a statement when these roads are safe to travel on again but there is no indication when that will be, meaning that local people will likely continue to experience food price increases for the foreseeable future.

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