Myanmar’s military government denies fuel shortage rumors

BANGKOK – Myanmar’s military government on Tuesday denied the country was suffering from a fuel shortage after rumors of low petrol and diesel supplies sparked panic buying and long queues at gas stations. serving multiple cities.

Some gas stations in Yangon closed after running out of supplies and several motorists said they were limited in how much they could buy at the legally set price of 1,975 kyat ($1.07) for a liter of gasoline and 2,160 kyats ($1.17) for a liter of gasoline. diesel.

The Ministry of Electricity and Energy denied there was a shortage, saying unfounded rumors and inadequate infrastructure for retail sales were to blame.

The ministry said in a statement sent to reporters that Myanmar had sufficient supplies both in storage tanks and in two unloaded vessels moored at the main port in Yangon, the country’s largest city.

The ministry said it was working to mitigate panic buying and retail sales would continue as usual.

A Yangon-based private oil company executive suggested the panic buying was partly due to an April 5 central bank advisory ordering businesses and individuals to convert dollars and other foreign currencies into kyats in a day or face legal consequences. Conversions would be made at the official exchange rate of 1,850 kyats per dollar, less than the prevailing black market rate of 2,030 kyats per dollar. He also said foreign currency could only be sent abroad with government approval.

The order suggested authorities might run out of hard currency needed to pay debts and buy essential supplies such as oil, gas and weapons.

Myanmar has suffered from a cash crunch since the military seized power last year, toppling the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and triggering financial sanctions from Western governments. The economy, already suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, has been further strained by public resistance to the military takeover, which has led to what some UN experts have called of civil war.

The fuel company executive said petrol distribution companies were finding it difficult to buy from foreign companies under the new regulations, even though the tankers holding the fuel they want to buy have been moored in Yangon since one week. He spoke on condition of anonymity because his remarks critical of government policy could land him in trouble.

The central bank has yet to decide quotas for selling dollars to importers, forcing distributors to delay purchases, he said.

“The main problem is that it does not have a stable and specific policy for the payment system for our importers to purchase imported fuel. The central bank has not yet developed a clear policy on how we sell dollars,” he added. mentioned.

Fuel was not transferred from ships to replenish storage tanks because payments were not made, he said.

Spokesman for Myanmar’s ruling military council, Major General Zaw Min Tun, told state broadcaster MRTV that some companies were spreading rumors about a fuel shortage because they did not want to negotiate at the rate. of the dollar fixed by the central bank.

Zaw Min Tun accused Myanmar’s media operating in exile, which generally opposes the military government, of causing trouble. The dollars will be sold from Wednesday to those who are qualified to buy them, he said.