Myanmar’s Daily Struggles Amid Rising Rice and Oil Prices: Balancing Armed Revolution and Economic Pressure

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – September 11 Scenes

MoeMaKa, September 12, 2023

Myanmar’s Daily Struggles Amid Rising Rice and Oil Prices: Balancing Armed Revolution and Economic Pressure

In the relentless pursuit of toppling the military junta, powerful foreign nations have adopted a multifaceted approach. Instead of providing direct military assistance or funding, they are extending emotional support, diplomatic efforts, and imposing economic sanctions on the coup regime. Foremost among these nations is the United States. Similarly, the United Kingdom has applied pressure on the Myanmar military government, while several European countries, including Germany, France, and select Scandinavian nations, have imposed targeted sanctions on generals and associates involved in procuring weapons for the military. In Southeast Asia and Asia, economically influential countries have refrained from direct sanctions but have cautiously avoided establishing bank-to-bank relations with the junta ministry, guided by certain U.S. financial sanctions and the extent to which their interests are affected. Neighboring countries like China and India, aware of regional dynamics, tread carefully, refraining from military intervention and maintaining limited interaction with the military council within defined limits.

Within Myanmar, a two-pronged strategy is underway. Domestic armed revolutionary forces, along with the National Unity Government (NUG) and select ethnic armed groups, are employing armed revolution to unseat the military dictator. Concurrently, they are aligning themselves with the United States’ diplomatic and economic policies, such as diplomatic pressure and sanctions.

Funding for the armed forces dedicated to overthrowing the coup regime is derived from a variety of sources. These include tax collection from the public in local ethnic armed regions and People’s Defense Force (PDF)-controlled areas, revenue generated from the extraction of resources like minerals, forests, and oil from these regions, contributions from local communities, financial support from the Myanmar diaspora and various ethnic groups abroad in support of their respective ethnic armed groups, and funds collected through NUG fundraising campaigns.

In contrast, the military council wields the advantage of managing and utilizing the country’s general tax revenue, income from resources, trade tariffs, reserve currency, and more. This financial control positions them with the upper hand.

However, questions persist regarding the efficacy of simultaneously applying economic sanctions alongside an armed revolution. Recent economic sanctions, coupled with the military council’s plan to introduce 20,000-kyat notes, have precipitated a severe depreciation of Myanmar’s currency, impacting urban and rural populations alike. The military council’s decision to restrict cooking oil imports has led to exorbitant price increases and unnatural market rates, severely affecting daily livelihoods. Due to mismanagement and armed conflict, food production has significantly dwindled. Furthermore, taxes and transportation obstacles have driven up prices, not only for staple foods like rice and oil but also for various other goods, reaching unprecedented levels.

In some regions, daily wage earners are unable to afford refined rice and are resorting to consuming broken rice, typically used as animal feed and industrial raw materials. Concerns loom over whether these hardships and food shortages will persist as armed conflicts continue across the country, causing loss of life. Moreover, there’s uncertainty about the duration of this period of crisis—whether it will remain short-term (6 months to 1 year) or evolve into a long-term crisis. A prolonged crisis may affect political support. Recent currency depreciation has impacted all currency holders, including those contributing to the armed revolution, potentially reducing their capacity to support the cause.

While the public may not alter their political stance, it is crucial to acknowledge the diminishing ability of individuals to participate in political activities as they grapple with economic hardships.

The intention is not to obfuscate the deterioration of the military council’s economy, but to emphasize the importance of considering the economic sustainability of those who support the council. The revolutionary leadership should address the significance of preparing to assist people affected by war and the ongoing crisis before their physical and mental resilience deteriorates, thereby ensuring their social security. Neglecting this could make reform efforts challenging, as opportunists may exploit the suffering lower classes.

In conclusion, it is imperative for the revolutionary forces to demonstrate their strengths in order to leverage the influence and pressure exerted by neighboring countries through sanctions. Expanding their role in increasing international pressure remains critical amidst the ongoing political crisis.