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Myanmar military government denies rumours of fuel shortages

BANGKOK (AP) – Myanmar’s military government has denied the country is suffering from a shortage of fuel after rumours about low supplies of gasoline and diesel led to panic buying and long queues at service stations in several cities.

Some gasoline stations in Yangon shut down on Tuesday after exhausting their supplies and several motorists said they were restricted in the amount they could purchase at the legally fixed price of K1,975 (USD1.07) for one litre of gasoline and K2,160 (USD1.17) for one litre of diesel.

The Ministry of Electricity and Energy denied there was a shortage, saying unfounded rumours and inadequate infrastructure for retail sales were to blame.

The ministry sent a statement to journalists saying that Myanmar has sufficient supplies both in storage tanks and in two unloaded vessels berthed at the main port for Yangon, the country’s biggest city.

The ministry said it was working to ease panic buying and retail sales would continue as usual.

An executive of a private fuel company based in Yangon suggested the panic buying was partly due to an April 5 notice by the central bank ordering businesses and individuals to convert dollars and other foreign currency into kyats within one day or face legal consequences. The conversions would be made the official exchange rate of K1,850 per dollar, less that the prevailing black market rate of K2,030 per dollar. It also said that foreign currency could only be sent overseas with government approval.

The order suggested that the authorities may be running short of hard currency needed to pay debts and purchase key supplies such as oil, gas and weapons.

Long lines of vehicles wait at a filling station in Yangon, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP