Food prices are rising in Putao making life even more difficult for residents of the town in northern Kachin State.
Before the conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese military started over a year ago there was enough food from the rice and vegetable farms in the surrounding areas. The clashes have forced many farmers to abandon their farms making the community reliant on rice transported from Myitkyina.
But fighting between KIA and the Burmese military is also affecting the supply routes from Myitkyina to Putao.
Government troops regularly seize rice being transported from Myitkyina to Putao for their soldiers to eat.
With rice stocks at an all-time low, many residents have no choice but to eat rice gruel which is causing malnutrition and even fatalities, according to Putao resident Hpung Sar.
“Last week a six-year old child died. The mother cooked rice gruel for her children before leaving for work each day. Her husband was away working in the gold mines. The woman’s eldest children were eating most of the rice gruel so the six-year old didn’t get enough to eat. Eventually child got sick and died. Many of residents who are mostly Lisu are moving to Danai in western Kachin State due to the food shortage,” said Hpung Sar.
Whatever rice available in the area is very expensive, he added.
“At the market very few food vendors are selling rice. If there is rice for sale it costs about 6,000 to 8,000 Burmese kyat US($6.86- US$9.15) for one and a half kilo. Normally it costs only 4,000 Burmese kyat (US$4.57). The shortage is even forcing some residents to go door to door to beg for rice,” said Hpung Sar.
At the same time residents are suffering from food shortages motorcycle taxes have skyrocketed.
Motorcycle taxes due in June or July are double what it was last year. If you don’t pay the tax the authorities will fine you, a local told the KNG.
“Motorcycle tax for last year was about 1,500 Burmese kyat (US$1.71) last year but this year its 3,000 Burmese kyat (US$3.42). If we don’t pay the tax they will take we to the police station and we have to return within four or five days. We have no choice but to pay the money. Sometimes the police will make us pay 3,500 Burmese kyat (US$4) or 5,000 Burmese kyat (US$5.72) if we don’t wear a helmet. But the fine which is written on a sign in the police station is only supposed to be 1500 Burmese kyat (US$1.71),” said one local.