By Katarawaddy Times
Ongoing fighting has exacerbated food shortages in Karenni State and driven up prices dramatically, making life increasingly difficult for residents. Since the conflict started in May, many people have been living on subsistence.
Costs have risen even where there is no fighting, such as in the townships of Hpasoung, Maese and Bawlakhe. A man from Bawlakhe told Kantarawaddy Times that although he has money, it is still difficult to buy basic food or rice. Another man from Hpasoung said he faces the same problem and cannot find rice, vegetables, fruits or petrol.
A fruit and vegetable trader said that it was too dangerous to travel to other towns from Loikaw, the capital of Karenni State, where he lives. ”My tomatoes have already rotted and I have lost a lot of money because we cannot travel to sell our vegetables and fruits.”
According to locals, a bag of rice costs at least 50,000 kyats ($28), four eggs 1,000 kyats (60 cents), 1.63 kg of eggplant 4,500 kyats ($2.50), 1.63 kg of tomatoes 5,000 kyats ($3) and 1.63 kg of cooking oil 8,000 kyats ($4.50) Mobile service that used to cost 1,000 kyats now costs 1,500 kyats (84 cents).
At the same time, in the areas where the fighting has led to massive displacement, hardly anyone can make a living working on the farms.
Migrant workers who work in Hpasoung and Bawlakhe townships cannot leave the state because of daily fighting on their way home.
One worker, who asked for his confidentiality to be respected, said that he has been waiting for a month to be able to go home and that during this time he has had no work and hardly anything to eat. ”At the moment everything is expensive and food prices are rising. We are really struggling.” The man said that most of the migrant workers he knows work in construction.
But there are also tungsten and lead miners stranded in the Mawchi mines in Hpasoung and Bawlakhe townships. One unemployed day labourer in Bawlakhe is desperate to get home. The man says he knows of at least 50 migrant workers who are also trapped.
“Everyone wants to go home, but the road is blocked and we cannot get to Loikaw,” a worker in Hpasoung told the Kantarawaddy Times.
The day labourer in Bawlakhe said the road should be opened to traffic at least twice a week.
On 3 December, the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force blocked the road in Demawso and Hpruso townships on their way to the Karenni State capital, where the Burma Army (BA) has launched a massive offensive to prevent them from deploying more soldiers and supplying weapons and food rations to their troops.
BA soldiers have kidnapped and murdered many civilians. On Christmas Eve, the regime murdered at least 35 people trying to flee fighting in Hpruso township and burned their bodies. Save the Children has confirmed that two of its staff, both young fathers, were among the dead.