Pay your electricity bills, say soldiers in Myanmar, or pay with your life

“In the last 10 months, the country has lost all of its 10-year gains,” said U Hein Maung, a Myanmar-based economist. “The cost of doing business has increased significantly. There is a booming black economy of drug trafficking, illegal logging, money laundering and other illegal businesses.”

A drop in electricity payments, as well as tax revenues and international development aid, has cost the regime about a third of what the previous government used to receive, he said.

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

“They are in zombie mode,” said Mr. Hein Maung. “They work in the least practical way.”

Still, the military is in a better position than the public to weather the downturn.

“The military has its own shops and banks,” he said. “You can survive when everything else has collapsed. And of course they have the guns.”

Myanmar’s shadow opposition government, the Government of National Unity, has urged the public to stop paying for electricity. In September it was said that 97 percent of people in Mandalay and 98 percent in Yangon had done so, costing the regime $1 billion at the time.

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

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