| 15 April 2024, Monday |

Myanmar junta seeks international cooperation over COVID-19 crisis

Myanmar’s Military Ruler is seeking stronger international assistance to combat the coronavirus, according to state media on Wednesday, as the Southeast Asian country grapples with an escalating wave of cases.

In a speech, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing asked for greater collaboration in the prevention, control, and treatment of COVID-19, especially with ASEAN nations and “friendly countries,” according to Myanmar’s Global New Light.

According to the newspaper, the junta leader stated that vaccinations needed to be boosted through both donated doses and the development of domestic manufacture, which would be assisted by Russia, and that Myanmar would seek cash from an ASEAN COVID-19 fund.

According to a Reuters tracker, Myanmar recently got two million more Chinese vaccines, but only 3.2 percent of its population has been vaccinated.

In several sections of the country, individuals have made frantic attempts to find oxygen. According to witnesses quoted by Myanmar Now, at least eight patients died in a Yangon hospital over the weekend after a piped oxygen supply failed.

Reuters could not independently confirm the report and the North Okkalapa General Hospital and a health ministry spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Infections in Myanmar have surged since June, with 4,964 cases and 338 deaths reported on Tuesday, according to health ministry data cited in media. Medics and funeral services put the toll much higher.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the military ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, with regular protests and fighting between the army and newly formed militias.

Efforts to tackle the outbreak have been further hampered by some of the worst flooding in years in eastern Myanmar.

The military has appeared wary of outside help in past disasters, particularly if it believes strings are attached, forcing Myanmar’s people to help each other, though a previous junta did allow in aid via ASEAN after the devastating cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Despite Min Aung Hlaing agreeing to an ASEAN peace plan reached in April, the military has shown little sign of following through on it and has instead reiterated its own, entirely different plan to restore order and democracy.

The military justified its coup by accusing Suu Kyi’s party of manipulating votes in a November general election to secure a landslide victory. The electoral commission at the time and outside observers rejected the complaints.

But in a further sign of the junta’s tightening grip on power, the military-appointed election commission this week officially annulled the November results, saying the vote was not in line with the constitution and electoral laws, and was not “free and fair”, army-run MRTV network reported.

  • Reuters