Myanmar charity groups struggle to operate amid rising fuel prices

Charity groups operating in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon are being forced to cut back on their services amid soaring fuel prices, with some groups now entirely closed, sources say.

Ambulances and other emergency vehicles are frequently grounded due to rising costs, said Than Than Soe, chairwoman of Yangon’s Right to Survive Social Assistance Association.

“The cost for fuel is around 60,000 kyat [$28.56] per day,” Than Than Soe told RFA. “We can fill our cars with only 20,000 kyat worth each time, and that should be enough for a trip.

“But sometimes we have to go to places that are quite far away, and we worry that our vehicle might not make it back home.”

Than Than Soe said her group does not ask for set amounts of donations for their help, which can run into costs of from 60,000 to 100,000 kyat per day. “Donors can give as much as they want, and so it’s very difficult for us to operate under this system,” she said.

Khin Maung Zin, secretary of the Myo U Lin Funeral Support Association, told RFA that his group can no longer travel long distances due to rising costs of fuel.

“There are situations where we are asked for free help but are not able to provide it. We just have to say we’re sorry and refuse the requests as our association is low on funds. And we are getting even fewer donations now,” he said.

“In the past, we received around 450,000 kyat [$214.23] per month, but now we don’t even get 200,000 [$95.21]. We even have to be thrifty in covering our office expenses.”

A round trip to Pathein, a city located around 190 km to the west of Yangon, used to cost only 60,000 kyat but now costs around 130,000, he added.

'Problems, inconvenience'

Also speaking to RFA, Chairman Neyin Gyan of the Happy Taxi Family Charitable Group said that none of Yangon’s more than 270 charity organizations have been able to function effectively since the Feb. 1, 2021 military coup in Myanmar, and half of these have now shut down.

“And we have heard of similar situations with some charity groups in other places, some of which have been temporarily closed,” he said. “This is very unfortunate, because if a charity group in a township stops working, this will cause a lot of problems and inconvenience for that township’s residents.”

Charitable groups don’t want to stop their work, Neyin Gyan said.

“But with the rising costs of fuel and repairs, this has become too much for them. Even for a big group like ours, we now have some debts to settle, but we have managed to keep going.

“If we become too burdened by debt, we will have to stop,” he said.

Myint Kyaing, a resident of Yangon’s Dawbon township, said that poor and needy citizens suffer most when these groups are forced to close.

“People ask these charity groups for help because they have no money, and when the groups can’t help, it is the lower-level workers and the destitute who will suffer,” he said.

“There are many charity groups in this township, but where we could send out 10 cars in the past, we can now send out only three. We’re running our operations now with donations and support from the people who can afford it.”

Social assistance associations formerly provided 24-hour service to Myanmar residents before the coup, but junta authorities then imposed restrictions on travel outside township boundaries and said that ambulances operating without official registration would be seized.

However, charity groups have promised to endure the present crisis and serve the public as much as they can.

Radio Free Asia --Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036Radio Free Europe--Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.