ISSN 2330-717X

Is Burmese Army Defying The UN? – OpEd


UN Secretary-General António Guterres has just urged warring parties across the world to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19: the common enemy that is now threatening all of humankind. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.  It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” The ceasefire would allow humanitarians to reach populations that are most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19, now taking millions of life in more than 180 countries. In fact the UN Special Envoys were already working with warring parties to make sure the cease-fire appeal leads to action because it is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods as the longer-term effects on the global economy and individual countries are dire.

The Karen National Union and Karenni National Progressive Party had recently urged the government to declare ceasefire countrywide in order to be able to tackle the threat of coronavirus, more effectively. KNU general secretary Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo in calling for the nationwide ceasefire has said “If the Tatmadaw government declare an unrestricted nationwide ceasefire, fighting would stop and people would not need to run and we could use this to fight against this epidemic” as others ethnic groups are ready to stop fighting. Besides it would support national reconciliation and in other ways, the peace process.

 The call was followed by some 52 civil society organizations, and 15 ethnic political parties. But most importantly the Three Brotherhood Alliance made up of Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) issued an emergency press release underlining its extension of ceasefire, which will cover the whole month of April, to combat and prevent coronavirus, with the aim to build stability and security on the shared borders and to avoid public panic. Moreover, ambassadors from 18 foreign missions in Burma have called for ending armed conflicts between the marauding Burmese army (Tatmadaw) and freedom fighter surging both sides to focus on “protecting the most vulnerable communities from the devastating impacts of COVID-19.” In their joint statement the ambassadors said, “We are deeply concerned about the high level of fighting, casualties and civilian displacement occurring in Rakhine and Chin States, and the threat of further conflict in other areas.” 

But the Tatmadaw flatly rejected the calls for ceasefire amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country. Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, said the Tatmadaw rejects calls for a ceasefire by some civil society and ethnic groups. “We respect their proposal but it is not realistic, they just have to follow our law of surrender” he said, he even suggested that anyone who echo the call for Coronavirus Truce will be designated as a terrorist group. Hence what more proof is wanted that the only one that did not want peace is the Myanmar Tatmadaw? How come that the Tatmadaw which have come to power killing Sao Myi Myi Thaik, the young son of the duly elected President Sao Shwe Thaike since 1962 will never go away up to this day? Their lust for power knows no bound and by hook or by crook will never give up its power. So it is no wonder that the people of Burma called them as Thatmadaw (literally translated from Burmese meaning will never be satisfied of killing people) incidentally the international community has come to know about this only in the Rohingya case.

Twenty years ago, TB killed 100,000 people every year in the country, and malaria infected 700,000 people annually and the current coronavirus may kill 50,000 people in Burma this year, but the Tatmadaw will never care. Although some regional neighbours, such as Thailand and Singapore, have clear and realisable aims – to manage caseloads in hospitals and subsequently use new technologies to reduce the impact of COVID-19, Burma would be replicating the militarised response of these countries without any benefit to public health. Burma currently has fewer than 200 ventilators, most of which are in Rangoon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw, and they can only support a tiny fraction of those who are likely to be in need.  Facilities will be overwhelmed even with the most effective social distancing in the world.

Pope Francis has joined the UN chief’s call for a global ceasefire when he said “May our joint fight against the pandemic bring everyone to recognize the great need to reinforce brotherly and sisterly bonds as members of one human family,” said the pope. “Conflicts are not resolved through war and antagonism, and differences must be overcome through dialogue and a constructive search for peace. To acknowledge the presence of a power that is above all.”

The UN Secretary-General’s appeal was broadcast live over the Internet from a virtual press conference held at UN Headquarters in New York when he called on warring parties to pull back from hostilities, put aside mistrust and animosity, and “silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes”.  This is crucial, he said, “to help create corridors for life-saving aid. To open precious windows for diplomacy.  To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Will the civilized world continue to look on this unlawful Tatmadaw to ruin the most hospitable country and its people just to quench their lust for power?

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