Locals Doubt Effectiveness Of Gov’t And EAOs Cooperating On COVID-19 Prevention

By Network Media Group
Saturday, May 2, 2020

Some members of the Shan community expressed doubt about whether the ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) and the government can cooperate to curb the spread of COVID-19, suggesting it would be better for the government to allow EAOs to manage disease prevention in their own areas.

Sai Naw Hseng, who is a youth activist in Lashio, told NMG that some EAOs already have their own COVID-19 prevention campaigns in place and if the Tatmadaw forces them to work together it will just create more “obstacles.”

On April 27, Myanmar (Burma) President’s Office formed a coordinating committee to cooperate with EAOs to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Sai Kyaw Nyunt, who is the general secretary-1 of the Shan National League for Democracy, told NMG that although he welcomes the new committee if it’s going to be effective it will need a credible plan.

While the government claims it wants to cooperate with the EAOs to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Tatmadaw blocked prevention campaigns by the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the Karen National Union (KNU), even though both groups are signatories of the NCA (Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement).

RCSS/SSA Lt-Col Ohm Khur said the Tatmadaw attacked their medics in mid-April when they were providing personal protective equipment and checking temperatures in Mongpan township, located in southern Shan State.

After the KNU Brigade-1 set up a medical checkpoint in Htonbo in Thaton township, the Karen State Security and Border Affairs minister Myo Min Naung sent a letter to the KNU central liaison office on April 17 requesting that it “not disturb administration affairs.”

Sai Naw Hseng pointed out it will be difficult for the government’s new committee to work in areas controlled by non-NCA EAOs.

Sai Kyaw Nyunt told NMG that he had his doubts about it. “It’s difficult to say if the committee will be good or not because we don’t know enough about it.”

Lt-Col Ohm Khur said no-one from the government has talked to the RCSS/SSA about the committee’s goals. Although it’s a little late in the game, he said it can still work “if they cooperate with the ethnic armed organisations.”

According to an official statement by the committee, it will monitor returnees at the country’s official border crossings, exchange information with EAOs about potential infections and information about medical treatment for the coronavirus, and coordinate treatment for patients. The committee promised to abide by the guidelines set out by the National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) when handling emergencies in areas controlled by EAOs.

The committee is chaired by Dr Tin Myo Win, who also is the NRPC vice-chairman; the committee’s vice-chairman is retired Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, who is the secretary of the peace commission; the secretary is Hla Maw Oo, who is the deputy minister of Ethnic Affairs Ministry; and committee member, Moe Zaw Oo, who is the advisor to the peace commission.