State-Level Coordination Needed for Govt, EAO Cooperation in Fighting COVID-19

Saturday, May 9, 2020

A coordination mechanism is needed in order for the government health departments to be able to effectively work with ethnic armed organizations’ (EAOs) medic teams, the Ethnic Health Committee (EHC) said this week.

“I think we need a coordination mechanism and mutual respect if the government’s health departments want to work with EAOs’ health departments,” Saw Nay Htoo, joint secretary of the EHC, told NMG, referring to a working group at the state and regional levels.

On April 27, the government formed a national COVID-19 coordination committee to negotiate with EAOs. The move was endorsed by President Win Myint.

The committee chair is Dr. Tin Myo Win, who is the second vice chair of Burma’s National Reconciliation and Peace Council (NRPC). The vice chair is retired Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, who is the secretary of the government’s Peace Commission. Deputy ethnic affairs minister Hla Maw Oo is secretary, and Peace Commission advisor Moe Zaw Oo is a member.

Nai Banyar Mon, who is vice chair of the EHC, said that there is no clear structure in how the government’s new coordination committee will work.

“In the committee, three people are from the NRPC and another member is deputy minister of ethnic affairs,” he pointed out. “People from state governments, the home affairs ministry and the border affairs ministry are not included in the committee. If they expand the committee and form a working committee, I think, it could more effectively implement healthcare in ethnic regions,” Nai Banyar Mon told NMG.

Saw Nay Htoo emphasized the need for the military to also halt its operations in ethnic regions and stop threatening and blocking EAO health department activities around COVID-19 prevention.

“It is impossible to do implementation if the sound of gunshots continue to occur in ethnic regions,” he said, referring to ongoing clashes. “It is really important to stop the war in the country. Then we can implement the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The next step will be restoring peace in the country.”

Nai Banyar Mon said that in order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict and threats of violence must be stopped.

Clashes between the Burma Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State and Karen National Union in Shan and Karen states, while the EAOs were working on COVID-19 prevention. The military has also blocked these groups’ health activities, the EHC pointed out.

Clashes are also ongoing in Rakhine, Chin and northern Shan State and military road construction continues in Karen State, fueling insecurity, civil society organizations have highlighted.

The EHC urged that all stakeholders to ease hostilities and work together to fight the pandemic.

Burma’s Ministry of Health and Sports reported that 9,980 people have tested for COVID-19 in the country of 54 million people. There were 176 confirmed cases of the virus, six deaths and 62 recoveries at the time of reporting.