Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gap in Equality Causes Suffering in Arakan

Sittwe: Arakan State in western Burma has been receiving the least amount of electricity but faces the highest charges compared to other areas of the country.

disel-general-room-Sittwe Main building of Diesel generators in Sittwe
Electricity is being supplied only in towns in Arakan State for three hours during the day and night, with consumers paying 500 kyat per unit, a price 20 times higher than is being charged in Burma proper.

A resident from Mraybon in Arakan said they have to pay for an extra two units in addition to the units of electricity they actually use each month.

"It is collected at 500 kyat per unit of electricity in Mraybon and we have to pay for an extra two units in addition to the units we have consumed in a month. The authority reasons with us that the extra units are for refilling insufficient oil that is rationed by the government for the generators," said the resident.

They added that electricity is rationed from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm in their town by the authority and they have to pay from 10,000 to 25,000 kyat a month for using three hours of electricity per day.

It is not just Mraybon that is facing the problem - other towns including the capital Sittwe are also experience hikes in their electricity bills.

In Burma proper, residents are charged just 28 kyat per unit of electricity.

The enormous gap in the cost and supply of electricity between Arakan State and Burma proper is in part due to the power generation - electricity being supplied in Arakan State is coming from old and worn-out diesel generators while mainland Burma receives electricity from hydropower dams and gas.

Dr. Aye Maung, President of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said the government should find more budget support to lower the burden of electrical costs on the public in Arakan State.

"It would be like robbing from the public if the authority continues to collect 400 to 500 kyat per unit of electricity, depending on the diesel price. The authority should check into the old diesel generators and provide more budget to reduce public difficulties for using electricity in Arakan State," he said.

He added that his party has plans to bring the electricity issue to both houses of parliament as well as to state parliament.

Arakan State is abundant in natural resources, including gas and oil, but it is still the least developed state in Burma.

Although there is a few hours of electricity every day in some main towns, rural areas in the state have never seen electricity being supplied by the authority, despite the huge gas reserves in the area.
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