ISSN 2330-717X

The Burmese Coronavirus – OpEd


One could not comprehend of why the world’s population has become like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? Under house arrest, but at least the majority of the people have come to understand, what is to be quarantine, voluntarily or otherwise. For the civilized people, Coronavirus coming to their doors is very similar to how the people of Burma has to survive under the various military regimes all these seven decades. This Burmese Coronavirus, or rather the Burmese army known by its ugly acronym Tatmadaw, which the people of Burma label as Thatmadaw (meaning never satisfied of killing) since it comes to power in 1962  is, somewhat similar to what the current coronavirus is doing to the world. So, no wonder the current pandemic passed the country, when even other Southeast Asian countries are facing a hard time. The latest figures according to Johns Hopkins University data is that Malaysia has (673), Singapore (266), Philippines (187), Thailand (177), Indonesia (172), Vietnam (66), Brunei Darussalam (56), and Cambodia (33). Burma’s giant neighbours like India has (142) while Bangladesh has (10) not to mention China of (81,074). But there is not a single Coronavirus patient in Burma as the joke is, “that the younger Coronavirus brother is afraid of the elder brother Thatmadaw who had ruled the country for sixty-eight years under various pretexts”.

Experts fear that Coronavirus is spreading unchecked and under-reported in Southeast Asia’s poorest countries like Burma, Cambodia and Laos. But the cat was led out of the bag when Hun Sen, Cambodia’s dictator prime minister said on 17th March that number of infections had doubled overnight. That is in line with the sort of rises that have been seen in other countries where testing has been more widespread. The lack of testing kits is a genuine concern. The best medical advice is that, the more the people showing symptoms can be tested, then authorities can start tracing who these people have been in contact with. They can then isolate as many people as possible from a disease that has an infection rate of between 4.5 and six people per patient, according to scientific research.

In Burma the military administration hardly known for its incompetence all these seven decades did not lift a finger to help except that it cancelled the public gatherings e.g. pagoda and water festivals. Luckily this was copied by Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Governments in Southeast Asia have often bungled their responses to the coronavirus. The best example was Singapore closing its borders on March 15, largely in response to wealthy people of Southeast Asia and Burmese narco-war lords fleeing their country and checking straight into Singaporean hospitals, effectively bringing the disease to the city-state. Such incompetence will hit the poor harder than the wealthy elites who can afford health care and to be isolated, not relying on daily street contact for their living.

At least, the current Coronavirus is confined to the weak, elderly and not so robust people but the Burmese Coronavirus did not make any distinctions, it killed the students, the Buddhist monks, the women, the young children and even the babies and to all those who they construe has having the potentially of hindrance to them, it even shoot into the Rangoon General Hospital. The Tatmadaw has indirectly killed more than 2 million of its own people by refusing the international aid for the prevalence of its own 2008 Nargis Constitution. Perhaps this is the raison d’être of why the younger coronavirus, so prevalent in the world today, dared not go into Burma, where the Burmese Coronavirus or the Tatmadaw,  is the monarch of all they survey. Now, at least the world has known of what it is to be under house arrest, (quarantine) similar to what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has suffered for more than a decade.

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