Myanmar junta increases security as insurgents target trucks

A private fuel tanker in flames after an attack by the Kachin Independence Army, along a highway in Shan State, on May 20, 2021. PHOTO: AFP/KACHINWAVES

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar's military will beef up security in a restive region bordering China, following a string of rebel ambushes on fuel supply lines that has worsened a crippling fuel shortage for the junta, state media said on Friday (May 21).

A huge and bloody uprising against the February coup that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has left more than 800 dead and crippled the impoverished country's economy.

In recent days, insurgents in Kachin and Shan states have targeted trucks they say are supplying fuel for military air strikes against their fighters and the transport of troops.

Two privately-owned trucks were destroyed near Sumprabum in Kachin, state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said on Friday, the latest in a string of ambushes that has contributed to "fuel shortages and high commodity prices".

"It is reported security forces are stepping up security in the area," it added, without providing details.

Kachin Independence Army (KIA) spokesman Colonel Naw Bu said the group had destroyed several tankers in Kachin state in recent days, and at least seven trucks carrying fuel imported from China through neighbouring Shan state on Monday and Tuesday.

He said the KIA, which has fought the military for years, made efforts to avoid targeting civilian tankers, but added the military often employed them to carry fuel for its troops.

The "control of peace and stability" along the Myanmar-China border was discussed in a May 20 interview junta leader Min Aung Hlaing gave to Chinese media, the Global Light said on Friday, without giving details.

Myanmar imports the vast majority of its oil, mostly from Singapore.

Imports for October-April dropped by more than a quarter on year, state media said last week, with prices up 30 per cent.

The impoverished country's economy - reeling as workers nationwide down tools rather than cooperate under military rule - is expected to contract by a staggering 10 percent in 2021, according to the World Bank.

And the UN Development Programme has warned the combined effect of the pandemic and the coup turmoil could see nearly half of the population living in poverty by next year.

Many anti-junta activists have sought refuge in Kachin state, which is partly controlled by the KIA.

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