The Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) thinks of itself as a guardian of the Union of Myanmar. Though such thoughts are only confined within their world of cantonment, the despair and agony of the mass people of Myanmar doesn’t reach inside those walls. This is not only happening now; it has been happening throughout the history of Myanmar; but the world was not that much acquainted with their sheer brutality to its own people until the recent military takeover; thanks to globalization. Military dictatorship is nothing new to this world; many military leaders took over the power, ruling the country by taking the people’s welfare into account. But it is strange in Myanmar case where the self-styled leader is ruling the country without taking a single bit of people’s emotion into consideration. Using brutal force is the only tool to rule the country.
Myanmar has been devastated by the third wave of Covid-19 virus. The country hasn’t faced that much of turmoil during the previous two waves. Moreover, the whole state system collapsed after the February 1st Military coup where the whole nation gets united
with a common goal: “democracy”. Doctors made the first move to the anti-junta movement by refusing to join at work. At first, the movement was peaceful, limited within disobedience movement. But the military trampled the movement underfoot using brutal force. By April, some of the protesters went back to their jobs at gunpoint; some of them went to the peripheral regions in the hope of executing an armed rebellion against tyranny. The peaceful Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) started fading away by the month of May. Now the Army is facing sporadic guerilla attacks from multiple frontiers. The protesters are taking arms against the junta forces, training with the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) who has been continuously fighting with the junta for decades, formed People’s Defense Force (PDF) and initiating combined attack against the regime forces. Though the Tatmadaw is technologically far more superior to the combined forces of all other EAOs of the country, they are facing formidable casualties in various parts due to their unfamiliarity to the terrain. This made the Tatmadaw more brutal than ever and the third wave of Covid-19 exposed that naked brutality in front of the world.
It has already been stated that the doctors refused to give services to the military as a form of protest. Because of this situation, the hospitals of the country were not functional for almost six months. So, the health system of the country is quite vulnerable. But the doctors get united to give services to the ill-fated people when the third wave of Covid- 19 hit the country. The deadly virus has already spread 90% of all the townships of the country. Already more than twelve thousand people died of Covid-19 with an average of more than 300 deaths per day, 7% of fatality rate among the tested positive patients, which is enormous compare to the other South-Asian countries considering the size of its population. This number is in just pen and paper, on ground the number is so high than the reality. It has also been reported that the government is issuing fake death certificate to shorten the covid-19 death tally. Even most of the people didn’t even get access to test the virus; the daily test count varies within 9,000 to 17,000. In this disastrous situation, the military unravels its new face of cruelty by stockpiling the oxygen cylinders only for themselves. When the doctors are demanding for more resources to treat the patients, they’ve been attacked by the junta. Activists and doctors in Myanmar claim to have documented over 200 attacks against health personnel and facilities. Even they are not providing healthcare facilities in the areas with anti-junta movement, such as Chin state, Sagaing region. The junta is deliberately cutting off the relief so that large number of civilian casualties will force the rebels to surrender. Min Aung Hlaing’s regime failed miserably in its vaccination program; only 3.2% of its population has been vaccinated. On July 28, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations, Barbara Woodward, spoke at an informal Security Council meeting. “The virus is spreading extremely quickly among the populace,” she claimed. “Half of Myanmar’s population might be infected in
the next two weeks, according to some estimates.” If this is the case, 80,000 Burmese will die in the next weeks, based on a cautious COVID-19 morbidity rate of 0.003 percent in a population of 54 million.
The Tatmadaw could’ve dealt the situation in a better way if they really do care for its people. But unfortunately, they only made the bad situation worse. Even some EAOs are more successful than the state apparatus in dealing with the Covid-19 situation; for example, Kachin Independent Organization (KIO) in Kachin state, United Wa State Party (UWSP) in Shan state, and Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine state have dealt the situation better in their respective frontier states. The only reason these EAOs are more successful despite having much less resources than the Tatmadaw is they value their own people.
*Rafsaan Kareem is an independent researcher. His area of interest is Regional Politics and Humanitarian affairs. He can be contacted at [email protected]