Pay your electricity bill, Myanmar soldiers say, or pay with your life

“Over the past 10 months, the country has lost all its gains of the past 10 years,” said U Hein Maung, an economist based in Myanmar. “The cost of doing business has increased dramatically. There is a thriving informal economy of drug trafficking, illegal logging, money laundering and other illegal activities.

A drop in electricity payments, along with tax revenues and international development aid, cost the regime about a third of the revenue the previous government received, he said.

Many public services, such as health care and schools, are barely functioning, and the regime has halted many longer-term programs dependent on state funding, such as infrastructure projects.

“They are in zombie mode,” Mr. Hein Maung said. “They operate in the minimal viable way.”

Nevertheless, the military is better placed than the public to weather the recession.

“The army has its own companies and banks,” he said. “They can survive despite the fact that everything else has collapsed. And they have the guns, of course.

Myanmar’s opposition shadow government, the National Unity Government, has urged the public to stop paying for electricity. In September, he said 97% of residents in Mandalay and 98% in Yangon had done so, which would have cost the regime $1 billion by then.

Ko Si Thu Aung, 24, who sells vintage clothes online, hadn’t paid his bill since February in support of the civil disobedience movement. But on Christmas Day, soldiers came to his house and cut the power line. After two days without power, he decided he had no choice.

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