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WFP warns of rising food, fuel costs in Myanmar amid coup protests

Demonstrators have taken to the streets since the Myanmar military seized control of the government in a coup on Feb. 1. Photo by EPA-EFE
Demonstrators have taken to the streets since the Myanmar military seized control of the government in a coup on Feb. 1. Photo by EPA-EFE

March 16 (UPI) -- The World Food Program warned on Tuesday that supply chains in Myanmar were already being impacted by rising food and fuel costs following the military's coup early last month.

According to the U.N. organization, the retail cost of palm oil has jumped 20% in the region around the capital of Yangon city while the cost of rice there and in around Mandalay shot up 4% since the last week of February.

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The organization said it has also observed the cost of cooking oil increase 27% from January to February in northern Rakhine and 15% in Maungdaw while fuel nationwide increased 15% since Feb. 1 when the military ousted government control from the country's democratically elected leaders, sparking outrage from citizens who have since taken to the streets in protest despite escalating violent resistance from security forces.

Stephen Anderson, the director of WFP Myanmar, said the price increases are worrisome, especially for those already suffering in the country from food insecurity.

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"Coming on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, if these price trends continue they will severely undermine the ability of the poorest and most vulnerable to put enough food on the family table," Anderson said in a statement.

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The warning from the WFP came as the death toll from the coup continued to climb.

Myanmar's Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said in a daily update that 20 people were killed on Monday after 74 died amid clashes with security forces on Sunday, the deadliest day yet. The organization had previously said 38 had died Sunday but expected the number to increase.

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The death toll was 183 since the Feb. 1 coup with another 2,175 people either arrested, charged or sentenced in connection to the resistance, it said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday said he was "appalled" by the escalation in violence by the military, urging the international community to bring an end to its repression, his spokesperson said in a statement.

"The killing of demonstrators, arbitrary arrests and the reported torture of prisoners violate fundamental human rights and stand in clear defiance of calls by the Security Council for restraint, dialogue and a return to Myanmar's democratic path," he said.

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