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Bank tellers’ windows are gathering dust. Cargo at the port sits uncollected. And in grand government ministries in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar, stacks of documents are curling in the humidity. There are few people to process all the paperwork.

Since the military seized power in a coup last month, an entire nation has come to a standstill. From hospitals, railways and dockyards to schools, shops and trading houses, much of society has stopped showing up for work in an attempt to stymie the military regime and force it to return authority to a civilian government.

While demonstrators continue to brave bullets – at least 220 people have been killed since the February 1st coup, according to a local group that monitors political imprisonments and deaths – the quiet persistence of this mass civil disobedience movement has grown into a potent weapon against the military.

For all the planning that went into the putsch, the generals seem to have been utterly unprepared for the breadth and depth of resistance against them.

“They robbed the power of the people from our elected government,” said Cho Cho Naing, a clerk at the ministry of foreign affairs who has refused to work along with most of her colleagues. “Our country’s democracy journey has just started, and we can’t lose it again.”

The effect of millions of people refusing to do their jobs has been dramatic, even if the military is built to withstand pressure. Up to 90 per cent of national government activity has ceased, according to officials from four ministries. Factories are idled. In February, the national business registry recorded fewer than 190 new registrations, compared with nearly 1,300 the year before.

Medical students, doctors and engineers join a protest against the military coup in Mandalay. Photograph: The New York Times
Medical students, doctors and engineers join a protest against the military coup in Mandalay. Photograph: The New York Times

In a country where at least a third of the population was already living below the poverty line, civil disobedience is bringing tremendous self-imposed hardship to the people. But the striking class hopes that just a few more weeks or months of financial coercion will starve the military of the workforce and resources it needs to run the country.

Martial law

Last Sunday, dozens were killed in factory districts in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, when security forces cracked down on striking protesters with lethal force. The area is now under martial law, but many workers have vowed not to give up.

“We might be poor in terms of money, but we are rich with the value of loving our country,” said Thuzar Lwin, whose husband, Chan Thar, a construction worker, was shot in the neck during a recent attack.

Early this week, as her husband struggled for his life, Thuzar Lwin voiced her aspirations for him. “I want him to see with his own eyes the day the junta steps down,” she said. Chan Thar died on Wednesday.

The Myanmar military, which has ruled the country for most of the past 60 years, is adept at killing. It is less practised in running an economy that began integrating into the global financial system during a decade of reform.

In raids following the coup, soldiers rounded up hundreds of officials considered faithful to the civilian government led by the National League for Democracy party. An Australian economic adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s de facto civilian leader, was also locked up. More than 200 employees of the central bank, including five deputy directors, have been fired for their civil disobedience.

As a result, taxes aren’t being collected in Myanmar. The bulk of licences for imports, exports and much else are no longer being granted. With employees of private banks joining the strike, most money flows in and out of the country have stopped. Many companies have been unable to pay employees. Military banks have limited withdrawals for fear of runs on cash.

Protesters burn tyres on a bridge in an attempt to block security forces from passing through a major traffic hub in Yangon on Wednesday. Photograph: The New York Times
Protesters burn tyres on a bridge in an attempt to block security forces from passing through a major traffic hub in Yangon on Wednesday. Photograph: The New York Times

Last week, the military ordered private banks to transfer funds deposited by agricultural traders to state or military banks so the money could be withdrawn for the upcoming harvest. The order has gone unheeded.

“They are the king now, but we are not their servants,” said Phyu Phyu Cho, a loan officer for a private bank who has joined the strike. “If we all unite, they can’t do anything.”

Long queues

Myanmar is now short of many things at once: gasoline for cars, imported grains and legumes, foreign toothpaste. In the Yangon area, retail prices for palm oil have increased 20 per cent since the coup, according to the World Food Programme.

People have gotten used to long queues, for ATM withdrawals, for pension collection, for handouts of rice and curry. Striking factory workers are having to choose between clamping on hard hats and goggles to join a protest or waiting in the hot sun for whatever basic necessity might be on offer that day.

For now, informal financing networks are helping to ease some of the pain of lost wages. In Mandalay, the second-largest city in Myanmar, a single Facebook group run by ordinary citizens has raised funds to support nearly 5,000 people who are participating in the civil disobedience movement, which is known by the abbreviation CDM.

“Myanmar people are so generous in their donations to people in need,” said Aung Htay Myint, one of the organisers of the Mandalay effort. Myanmar’s economy, one of the least developed in Asia after decades of military mismanagement, was already reeling from coronavirus, which hit the garment and tourism industries particularly hard.

With the coup, foreign investors are feeling skittish. Toyota has delayed plans for a factory opening. The World Bank has paused disbursements in the country.

Sanctions by western governments on military officers and companies have piled up. Last week, the US treasury department banned American dealings with, among other businesses, a gym and a restaurant owned by the children of senior general Min Aung Hlaing, the military chief who led the coup. The US government has frozen about $1 billion in assets held by Myanmar in an American financial institution.

Oil and gas

A group of legislators that says it represents the ousted parliament has written to foreign oil and gas companies requesting that they cease payments to the regime lest it “sustain the current military junta’s violent rule and enrich its leaders”.

But extraction of Shwe natural gas, which is sent to China, hasn’t decreased since the coup. Such oil and gas earnings add up to $90 million a month to the regime’s coffers, according to estimates from the disbanded parliament.

Beyond oil and gas, the military and its vast business holdings profit from the illegal collection of natural resources, such as jade and timber, which brings in income rivalling the country’s official revenues.

“So many of their funds come from black markets,” said Dr Sasa, a special envoy to the United Nations for the ousted civilian authority.

The civil disobedience movement won’t halt such illicit activity. In some cases, as with the production of methamphetamine and other drugs, production may boom in the shadowy spaces of political conflict.

In the meantime, Myanmar’s citizens are paying the greatest price. A township administrator in Shan state, who asked not to have his name published because of the danger of speaking out, described how he was hauled in for interrogation after participating in the civil servant strike. After escaping through the jungle, he is now in hiding.

In Yangon, Soe Naing, a garment factory worker, said he recently watched as a fellow striking worker was shot in the head and killed. Soe Naing earned about $115 per month for his job, barely a living wage.

“We have nothing to lose,” he said. “As a basic labourer, we only have one choice. It’s to fight back against the junta.” – New York Times



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New-build flats with communal work-from-home space are just the job 

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Whether it’s perching computers on ironing boards or struggling to find a peaceful corner in the chaos of a noisy family house, most of us have had to adapt our homes over the past 18 months.

But as the trend for flexible working looks set to continue, a new concept in housing is gaining traction.

Work from home (WFH) developments with a ‘hub’ shared by other residents are popping up across the country.

Modern living: Work from home developments with a 'hub' shared by other residents, which aim to retain the social aspect of office life, are popping up across the country

Modern living: Work from home developments with a ‘hub’ shared by other residents, which aim to retain the social aspect of office life, are popping up across the country

‘The hub is a way of retaining the social aspect of office life,’ says Karly Williams, director of Barratt North Thames. ‘Being close to home enables residents to manage domestic issues, while mixing with others staves off any sense of loneliness and alienation.’

At Barratt’s Linmere development in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, which is due to launch in December, the office hub will be surrounded by cafes, shops and green outdoor space.

WFH residents won’t feel they are missing out on the coffee breaks and sandwich lunches they used to enjoy as part of conventional office life. Barratt’s co-working offices and homes are priced from £101,000 to £439,500.

WFH developments can also be effective in regenerating rural areas where unemployment is a problem.

In the village of Lawrenny in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, planning permission has just been granted to a local farmer, David Lort-Phillips, to build a WFH development of 39 homes with shared offices. 

Lawrenny has been in steady decline since the 1980s and until recently looked like becoming little more than a cluster of holiday homes.

‘A village should be more than that; it should be a place to earn a living and to have a busy family life,’ says Lort-Phillips. ‘Many of the new WFH houses will be bought by people returning to Lawrenny, having been brought up here.

‘They will put back into the community, using local businesses and training up local young people.’

Prices of the new homes will range from £300,000 to £500,000 for two to four bedrooms, with management fees of £400 per annum.

One danger of building this kind of development in the countryside is that the new homes will jar architecturally with older, nearby properties. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Galion Homes builds its developments in Somerset with home-workers in mind, so all the homes have offices with superfast broadband as well as nearby hubs and cafes.

‘We won’t be ugly “tack-ons” to villages,’ says Victoria Creber, sales director at Galion. ‘We build developments of no more than 50 homes, at low density, using local stone with a big nod to the local vernacular.’

Disturbing research, based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, was published recently showing 25 per cent of WFH Londoners said they had suffered reduced well-being.

Fizzy Living, which targets its rental apartments at young professionals with an average age of 32 and earning £44,000 a year, tries to make life as stress-free as possible in its East 16 block in Canning Town. 

The scheme comprises 292 apartments, each with its own balcony. Amenities include a meeting room, residents’ lounge, games area and yoga studio.

It claims to be the most pet-friendly building in London, having a specially designed dog washroom (known as the Pawder Room) and it offers a pet-friendly furniture pack for the more delinquent cats and dogs.

‘This block works for me because I can use different spaces for different activities and this combats stress,’ says designer Asher Peruscini, 37, from San Francisco.

‘I use my desk when I’m in design mode, the balcony for more creative stuff and the meeting rooms downstairs for socialising.’ Rentals are from £1,430 pcm.

For those who appreciate the zany side of life, Quintain Living has built The Robinson, a collection of three apartment blocks at Wembley Park in North-West London, in what its describes as ‘retro kitsch’ style.

Each building has a roof terrace where there are surreal delights such as a giant orange-shaped juice bar, a 50-yard row of sun loungers — reputedly the longest in Britain — and a slide that runs down to a courtyard in the floor below.

The WFH component isn’t forgotten — high-speed wifi is found in converted campervans on the terrace.

To de-stress, there is even a rentable spa caravan with a hot tub. From £1,755 furnished; £1,670 unfurnished.

Are WFH developments here to stay?

‘I don’t think working from home will ever replace the buzz of a team of people working towards one goal in the same office,’ says Harry Downes, managing director of Fizzy Living.

‘But I do foresee people being given the freedom to work at home when they need to, reporting into the office only to be kept updated on the bigger picture. It’s a new lifestyle and this type of development caters for it.’ 

On the market… with office space 

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South Africa 17 Lions 22

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15 Stuart Hogg

Something of a flip-flop in terms of his strengths as a player as one or two misplaced passes in attack but resolute and solid in defence. A couple of glimpses of his footwork and pace but he’ll be hoping for more ball next Saturday. Rating: 6

14 Anthony Watson

He was excellent in the first half, the Lions most potent force in attack in being able to escape multiple tacklers, albeit most of the time in lifting pressure in his own 22/half. The ball didn’t run his way after the interval. Rating: 7

13 Elliot Daly

It was his first game at outside centre in Test rugby in five years and it showed. He gave away a couple of penalties, missed his trademark long-range penalty, was bested physically in the collisions and will be under pressure to retain his place. Rating: 5

Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Elton Jantjies. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Elton Jantjies. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

12 Robbie Henshaw

Shaded his physical duel with Damian de Allende, carried aggressively, was accurate in the tackle and scrambled well, highlighted by forcing a crucial knock-on from Lukhanyo Am. He made one fine break albeit losing possession and a couple of finger-tip knocks-on but generally good. Rating: 7

11 Duhan van der Merwe

A couple of snapshots of his power in the tackle but like Watson was never given the type of ball where he could impose his strength. He didn’t have many questions to answer in defence because Cheslin Kolbe got very little ball. Rating: 6

10 Dan Biggar

The Welsh outhalf kicked 14 points from the tee and in a general sense, one pulled place-kick aside, his kicking game was reasonably well directed. He didn’t really bring his backline into play at any stage, suffocated by the Boks’ defensive press but overall the ledger was appreciably positive. Rating: 7


The British & Irish Lions

Full coverage of all the action in South Africa READ MORE

9 Ali Price

He looked a little overwhelmed by the pace and physicality in the first 20 minutes but he gradually settled to the task. It was his excellent box-kicking after the restart that yielded opportunities for the Lions to regain possession and wrest control. Rating: 7

1 Rory Sutherland

A late call-up to the starting team due to Wyn Jones’s unavailability he was pinged twice at the scrum and the fact that his replacement Mako Vunipola made an appreciable difference when introduced could see him struggle to be in the matchday 23 next Saturday. Rating: 5

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie

Two errant lineouts, one overthrown the other crooked, were the only real blemishes on his try-scoring performance that was accompanied by a high work-rate on both sides of the ball. Rating: 6

Tadhg Furlong appeals to referee Nic Berry during the first Test. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Tadhg Furlong appeals to referee Nic Berry during the first Test. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

3 Tadhg Furlong

Loves a good celebration from the lineout maul tries, he won an important scrum penalty and was an important buffer in that set-piece when the Boks chased dominance there. He carried and tackled with typical application in a robust performance over the 67 minutes. Rating: 7

4 Maro Itoje

Deserved man-of-the-match, three turnovers in the first half alone including one within a few metres of the Lions’ line that saved a try. Immense in every facet of the game, he led by example especially in defence; intelligent and unrelenting. Rating: 9

5 Alun Wyn Jones (capt)

He was very quiet in the first half but considering the injury from which he has recovered that was to be expected. He was a key figure in the Lions’ second-half revival that included work-rate and decision-making. Rating: 7

6 Courtney Lawes

A huge performance in all aspects of the game, out of touch, carrying, making an eye-catching break that took him through three attempted tackles as a pre-cursor to one of his side’s better attacking moments. Tackled with authority. Rating: 8

7 Tom Curry

There could be no faulting his desire and work ethic but in conceding three penalties he demonstrated an impetuous streak that proved a bit of a handicap to his team in that opening half. His place will be under threat. Rating: 5

8 Jack Conan

He provided illustrations of the many qualities that he brings to a team, making one of two line breaks, defending and tackling with intelligence and carried the ball more than any other Lions player. Rating: 7

Replacements

In a collective sense they, to a man, added energy and momentum at a crucial stage. Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler gave their team a rock solid scrum, forcing a penalty there to boot. Hamish Watson was lucky to avoid a card for a dangerous tackle. Conor Murray and Owen Farrell brought control and maturity for the most part. Rating: 8

Coach

Warren Gatland deserves great credit for the team selection initially as most of the big calls that he made work out superbly. His half-time recalibration of tactics and focus worked a treat as did the timing of the replacements. He’s never been afraid to change things up and that may be reflected in a couple of changes for the second Test one of which could see Bundee Aki drafted in at 12 with Henshaw moving to 13. Rating: 8

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Norfolk’s Hemsby tops the list of villages with the biggest house prices

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Seaside sun… rises! Norfolk’s Hemsby leads villages with the biggest property value boom as buyers search for coastal countryside views

  • Norfolk’s Hemsby tops the list of villages with the biggest house price increases
  • The average value of a home in Hemsby is up 22% during the past year
  • Three of the top five villages with the biggest price increases are in Norfolk

Britain’s village hotspots for homebuyers have been revealed and dominating the list are seaside locations.

The pandemic has seen a ‘race for space’ with people living in cities moving to rural and coastal areas due to more flexible working practices.

They are shunning busy city landscapes for open green spaces in the countryside and easy access to expansive sea views.

Britain's village hotspots for homebuyers have been revealed by property website Rightmove

Britain’s village hotspots for homebuyers have been revealed by property website Rightmove

This four-bedroom house in Hemsby is on the market for £300,000 via Bycroft estate agents

This four-bedroom house in Hemsby is on the market for £300,000 via Bycroft estate agents

Hemsby, just north of Great Yarmouth, tops the rankings produced by Rightmove, having seen the biggest rise in average house prices during the past year.

The typical value of a home in the Norfolk village has increased 22 per cent in the 12 months from June last year, from £221,533 to £270,144.

Three of the top five villages with the biggest house prices increases were in Norfolk, with Heacham and Caister-On-Sea also making the list.

Heacham saw asking prices increase by 20 per cent in June 2021 compared to the same period last year, while asking prices in Caister-On-Sea rose by 12 per cent.

Caister-On-Sea also saw one of the biggest rises in demand for villages, with buyer demand up 46 per cent in June 2021 compared to June 2020. Average asking prices in Caister-On-Sea are £240,909.

David Lowes, of estate agents Mr & Mrs Clark in Norfolk, said: ‘With a general “escape to the country” desire prevalent for many, the rural county of Norfolk is in high demand.

‘With its 90 odd miles of varied coastline, the added possibility of a “next-to-the-sea” lifestyle, and the simple pleasure of a stunning sunrise or sunset means the coastal villages are of particular attraction.’

Heacham saw asking prices increase by 20 per cent in the year to June 2021, says Rightmove

Heacham saw asking prices increase by 20 per cent in the year to June 2021, says Rightmove 

This four-bedroom house in Heacham is for sale for £475,000 via Sowerbys estate agents

This four-bedroom house in Heacham is for sale for £475,000 via Sowerbys estate agents

He added: ‘Hemsby and Caister in the east and Heacham in the west of the county offer some of the more affordable options thus driving strong percentage price growth. 

‘Each of these villages are close to larger towns too which helps with the transition to the countryside in terms of availability of amenities and activities.’

Rightmove defined demand as the number of enquiries it had via emails and calls to agents via its website. 

Average prices percentage increases in these villages appear to be around three times as much elsewhere. But this may be affected by villages having lower stock and fewer transactions. 

The average price of a home in Britain increased 6 per cent during the past year to June, from £317,058 to £336,073, according to Rightmove.

This four-bedroom house in Caister-on-sea is for sale for £400,000 via Bycroft estate agents

This four-bedroom house in Caister-on-sea is for sale for £400,000 via Bycroft estate agents

Rightmove revealed that six out of the top 10 villages with the biggest annual price growth in June are near the sea. House price growth in all of these villages rose at a higher rate than the national average.

Rightmove’s Tim Bannister said: ‘During the past year, we’ve spoken a lot about the changes we’re seeing in where people are choosing to live, and this data shows continued demand from buyers looking for villages and rural locations outside of traditional major cities.

‘While we have seen signs that cities are starting to make a steady comeback, particularly in the rental market, price growth across all areas of Britain continues to be strong.

‘With the summer weather finally here, we’re seeing an added drive from buyers looking for that perfect village location by the sea, which is supporting price growth in these areas.’

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