Myanmar Round Up: May 2020
Cchavi Vasisht, Research Associate, VIF

The COVID-19 has impacted the socio-economic and political functioning of Myanmar. The month has been marked by the limited and insufficient response from the side of Government, leading to health and economic crises. Despite declaring a unilateral ceasefire, Tatmadaw intensified conflict against the Arakan Army (AA) as it strategically excluded the AA from the same. The AA has along with the Brotherhood Alliance extended the ceasefire till 31 May and therefore refrained from carrying out operations. The ongoing clashes have displaced a number of people, and the internet blackout in Rakhine and Chin States has raised concerns about how the COVID-19 will impact these regions. There have been few positive steps for promoting democratic forces and socio-economic development of the Nation. The month also highlighted a strategic achievement for India, as Myanmar handed over 22 insurgents who were wanted in India for various crimes and had been apprehended in Myanmar; in another measure of solidarity India donated medical supplies to address COVID-19 crises. China’s medical and strategic diplomacy is now under scrutiny for creating undue influence in Myanmar.

Tatmadaw Ceasefire and Ethnic Armed Organisations

On 9 May 2020, Tatmadaw Commander in Chief (C-in-C) announced a unilateral ceasefire to be enforced between 10 May and 31 August, to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. The ceasefire, however, excludes areas in which groupsd eclared ‘terrorist organisations’ by the government are active. In practice, this means that the most affected Rakhine and southern Chin states, which will be excluded from the ceasefire, as the Arakan Army is designated as such.1

The ceasefire announced by Tatmadaw has not received well by members of three ethnic armed groups, i.e. Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) known as the Brotherhood Alliance. They issued a joint statement that the Tatmadaw should not exclude Rakhine State fromt he unilateral ceasefire and claimed that Tatmadaw announcement is “just for show to the international community, including the International Court of Justice, and would be impossible for it to stop the fighting in the country.”2 The Brotherhood Alliance on 3 May has already extended their unilateral ceasefire for the fifth time, up to 31 May 2020. 3

However, the ineffectiveness of ceasefire is evident in the past years. For example, Tatmadaw and the Northern Alliance, comprising the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), have announced the unilateral ceasefires since 2018. Joe Kumbun from The Diplomat (2020) has compiled the data on the number of times both the parties have announced ceasefires in the table below.

Table 1: Ceasefires announced by the Tatmadaw and Northern Alliance (Source: https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/myanmars-meaningless-unilateral-ceasefires/)

Even though both the parties have announced the ceasefire at different times, the simultaneous ceasefires are for only 33 days. Moreover, even during the unilateral ceasefire periods, both could not manage to lessen or stop the fighting. The unilateral ceasefire per se seems meaningless as it has not stopped or even lessened the fighting so far. It is only a starting point for negotiations.

In another incident, Tatmadaw accused Karen National Union (KNU) of recruiting villagers in Hpapun district of Kayin State in violation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).4 According to the NCA, recruiting is not allowed, and therefore Tatmadaw will file a complaint with the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC). The clashes between Tatmadaw and KNU occurred on 6 May 2020 in Thaton in Mon State and Hpapun after the KNU alleged that Tatmadaw destroyed a COVID-19 prevention and control centre. The KNU said on 15 May that villagers in Hpapun were forced to flee their homes by Tatmadaw troops firing heavy weapons at the villages. Whereas Tatmadaw statement on 19 May claimed that people from Hpapun had fled to Hlaingbwe Township to escape recruitment.5

The Tatmadaw has recently deployed COVID-19 diplomacy by sending special conveys to different Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs). The Officer of Commander-in-Chief visited the quarantine centre of the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A) and delivered 59 packages of protective equipment, such as surgical masks, N95 masks, face shields, and other personal protective equipment, and food. Similarly, Tatmadaw’s Commander of the South Eastern Command delivered protective equipment to the KNU, KNU/KNLA Peace Council, and DKBA-Klohtoobaw Karen Organization (KKO), and the Commander of the Eastern Central Command provided equipment to the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army and Karenni National Progressive Party.

Also, the COVID-19 Coordinating Committee formed by the Government on 27 April, conducted an informal meeting with representatives from the EAOs in the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) in Yangon. The EAOs discussed with the committee about medical care for infected persons and returning migrant workers through the border. They discussed several incidents where Tatmadaw actively blocked coronavirus prevention and education campaigns by the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the Karen National Union (KNU).Tatmadaw attacked RCSS/SSA medics in mid-April when they were providing personal protective equipment and checking the temperatures of villagers in Mongpan Township, located in southern Shan State.6

Arakan Army and Tatmadaw Clashes Continue

Clashes between Tatmadaw and the AA have intensified steadily since January 2019, and have continued to worsen this month. The Tatmadaw has used naval, air and ground forces in the conflict, while the AA relied on guerrilla tactics and has resorted to abducting civilians, including a ruling party lawmaker and government officials in the past. The conflict has resulted in a high number of civilian causalities. The United Nations (UN) and Human Rights Groups have accused Tatmadaw of committing human right abuses in the conflict area. The conflict in Rakhine has internally displaced more than 160,000 people.

Although the AA does not want to engage in combat during the Covid-19 pandemic, inevitable clashes have occurred as Tatmadaw has stepped up their offensive attacks as complied in the table below.

In a tactical win, on 31 May, Tatmadaw fully reclaimed three locations Point-602, Point-565, and Point-540, which the AA had taken over. These are located 2500 meters southwest of Paletwa, Chin State. Tatmadaw reclaimed five locations set up by the AA near Point-114 on 8 May and further attacked Point-540 on 24 May and Point-602 on 30 May.7

Few individuals were also arrested for their association with the AA. On 11 May, three community leaders in southern Rakhine State’s Taungup Township were arrested on suspicions of affiliation with the AA and charged under Section 52 (a) of Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism law. The arrested include the Arakan National Party Vice-Chairperson for Taungup Township, and the Chair and former Chair of the Taungup Development Affairs Committee. Accusations were also raised that some village chiefs in northern Rakhine, who were tasked to distribute the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assistance to the people, diverted the aid to the AA. Therefore, Tatmadaw arrested and charged some village administrators, but others fled their villages.8

The five ethnic Rakhine men who were filmed being beaten by Tatmadaw on a naval vessel in late April 2020 have been charged under the country’s Counter-Terrorism Law Sections 55(j) and 5(a) under suspicions of having ties with the AA on 22 May. The five against whom charges are filed are Myo Lin Oo, Nyi Nyi Aung, Htay Win, Kyaw Win Aye, and Min Soe, who face a maximum penalty of life in prison, if found guilty. They were among a group of 38 civilians detained after Myanmar forces shelled Kyauk Seik village in Rakhine’s Ponnagyun Township on 13 April 2020. The other remaining detainees were later released.

The plight of the five men came to light when a video showing soldiers on board the naval vessel punching and kicking them was posted on social media on 10 May and went viral. The family members of the men claim that those arrested had been forced to confess to being AA fighters. Even though Tatmadaw spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said at a press conference on 22 May that the C-in-C had ordered an investigation into the alleged abuse, the move to charge the men is questionable.9

The escalation of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the UN Security Council (UNSC)to hold a videoconference to discuss the crises on 11 May. The closed-door meeting was requested by the UK. The last Security Council meeting on Myanmar was in February 2020. China, which backs Myanmar and regularly opposes UN intervention in the country, prevented the adoption of a joint statement by the 15 Council members.10

In a respite, on 01 May, the internet services were restored in Maungdaw Township because of stabilized conditions. Mobile internet access has been restricted in nine townships of northern Rakhine State and southern Chin for nearly one year.11

COVID-19 Responses in Myanmar

The total numbers of COVID-19 cases reported in Myanmar are 228 and six deaths as on 1 June. The majority of States and regions imposed curfews in late April requiring people to remain in their homes between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. The Government in the latest move rolled back the nationwide curfew to 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. on 15 May.12

Though, limited testing capacity and reports of people under investigation dying before being tested have fueled fears that Myanmar’s outbreak could be vastly under-reported. Myanmar’s once-neglected health system under the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) has a limited surge capacity to test or treat critical cases rapidly. In early 2020, there were an estimated 600 critical care beds (including 180 ICU beds), roughly 1.1 beds per 100,000 people. In 2018, the World Health Organisation reported that there are around 6.7 doctors and 10 registered nurses and midwives per 10,000 populations. Emergency upgrades, such as the establishment of the 2,000-bed COVID-19 Medical Center Yangon and contributions from other ministries, volunteer organizations, and the private healthcare sector have boosted overall capacity. However, the health system remains a genuine risk of being overwhelmed if cases grow exponentially.

In a dismal move to address the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 500 people, including children, returning migrant workers, and religious minorities, have been sentenced between one month to one year in prison since late March 2020 for violating curfews, quarantines, or other movement control orders. They have been sentenced under the National Disaster Management Law, Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law, and various penal code provisions. Imprisoning people for violating curfews, quarantine, and physical distancing directives is disproportionate as well as counterproductive for reducing threats to public health.13

Agriculture and Overall Economic Crises

According to the Deputy Minister for Planning, Finance and Industry, U Maung Maung Win, the estimated GDP for the current fiscal year of 2019-20 will be slightly reduced, given the decline in the world economy and oil prices as a result of COVID-19. A supplementary budget totalling Kyats 2660.9 billion was requested at Parliament on 18 May.14

The agricultural economy is near collapse as the farmers are unable to start the planting of monsoon rice, which accounts for 80 per cent of Myanmar’s paddy crop production. Travel restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have led to lower sales for farmers and resulted in significant losses for those who rely on loans. Even the price of produce has crumbled, and at times even slashed by 75 percent.

The Government loans have paused, and micro-financing institutions have suspended operations resulting in many farmers unable to raise money to invest in this growing season. Even though the government has set out plans to support farmers in its COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan, the agricultural consultant Dr Ohnmar Khaing, who serves as an adviser to the non-governmental network, Myanmar Food Security Working Group, has warned that the finances should be given in next two weeks. 15 The agriculture sector accounts for a quarter of Myanmar’s GDP and employs around 50per cent of the labour force. It also contributes to around 20per cent of export value at USD 3 billion annually.

The fisheries sector will also face its largest loss in history if demand does not pick up soon according to the Secretary of the Myanmar Fisheries Products Processors & Exporters Association (MPEA). The international orders have been cancelled and no new orders have been received since the lockdown. 16

The manufacturing sector continued to contract at a faster rate in April, and at a sharply faster rate because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest survey from IHS Marketing revealed a record low manufacturing PMI score of 29.0.17 The export of rubber as of April-end in the current financial year since 1 October 2019 showed a decrease of about USD 30 million compared with the corresponding period of the previous fiscal, the Ministry of Commerce’s data showed.18

Migrant Workers Crises

Myanmar migrants are part of the thousands of migrants stranded worldwide by the COVID-19 pandemic response, the UN's International Organization for Migration said. Particular concern was raised about the million plus Rohingya refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh.19

More than 300,000 Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand are facing unemployment due to COVID-19 pandemic, said Htoo Chit, Executive Director of the Foundation for Education and Development (Thailand) during a webinar held at Yangon Journalism School about the challenges faced by migrant workers in Thailand in the time of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.20

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MoSWRR) provided medical supplies and aid to the IDP camps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The table shows items supplied by the MoSWRR to respective IDP camps as on 28 May 2020.

Table 3: Supplies to IDPs Camps (Source: https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/covid-19-aid-reach-idp-camps/)

However, there are numerous issues in addressing the COVID-19 in the IDPs. Social distancing is inconceivable in IDP camps, such as those in Rakhine State. The Rakhine State Government also issued an order asking the humanitarian relief groups not to set up camps for IDPs in the northern Rakhine State without its approval.21 More than 160,000 people have been displaced in northern Rakhine due to clashes and with the clashes continuing and the arrival of the rainy season, the IDPs will face further challenges.

The IDPs camps rely heavily on government and donor support. For example, in Ann Township, more than 800 IDPs at a monastery in Alae Gyun village are facing food shortages as donors shy away from inspections required to access the war-affected population.22

International Aid to Fund COVID-19 Responses

Myanmar Department of Social Welfare (DSW) with financial support from the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT), will provide an extra one-time cash payment of 30,000 kyats to women and elderly people in four states and the Naga Self-Administered Zone (SAZ) to access food and health care. 23 The WFP’s Global Logistic Service Provision Plan has been extended to Myanmar, and it received the first set of medical supplies and laboratory equipment. More flights carrying medical supplies arrived on 10, 17 and 24 May 2020.24

Myanmar has already received USD 50 million from the World Bank and will further receive USD 200 million more to implement the National Food and Agriculture System Project (NFASP) to rehabilitate rural farmers after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.1 On 26 May, Myanmar Parliament approved emergency loan/funds to be borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).26 Countries like Korea and Russia also provideD support to Myanmar.27

Democratic Processes

The Government formed the country’s first-ever joint civil-military “Emergency Response Committee” led by military-nominated Vice President U Myint Swe to enforce community quarantines and social distancing initiatives. The Tatmadaw has mobilized donations and pledged its facilities and comparatively well-resourced Medical Corps to support government-led COVID-19 initiatives.

On the civilian Government’s side, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has assumed a central and visible role in the Government’s response, heading two newly established committees, using social media and hosting televised virtual meetings engaging with health staff, officials, volunteers, businesses, and union representatives.28 Aung San Suu Kyi has been making herself more accessible to the public than ever before, by using her Facebook account (opened on 1 April 2020) as a daily communication tool since the COVID-19 pandemic. She has Facebook interactions a few times each week, mainly so far with people involved in health care, transportation and education. She has substantial public respect and affection.29

Parliament resumed on 18 May 2020 for the sole purpose of debating the supplementary budget allocations. For the first time since the NLD Government came to power in 2016, the Union Parliament has declined to approve an additional budget requested by the Defence Ministry for the remaining months of fiscal 2019; cutting 10.6 billion kyats (US$7.57 million) from the 197.688 billion kyats. Daw May Win Myint from Yangon’s Mayangone constituency, who oversaw scrutiny of the budget, proposed cutting 22.7 billion kyats from the supplementary request, citing a decrease in the cost of petrol due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and noting that some expenses were higher than those included in the original budget estimate. The military budget has accounted for between 13 and 15 per cent of the national budget each year since FY2012-13. While the military’s overall budget increased this fiscal year, it decreased as a percentage of the total budget, accounting for 11 per cent.30

The Parliament approved amendments to the country’s election law. First was the removal of polling booths from inside Tatmadaw (military) bases. U Kyaw Soe Lin, secretary of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) Bill Committee, said the purpose of removing polling stations from Tatmadaw camps was to ensure free and fair votes by military personnel and their families. Another amendment reduced the residency requirement for migrants to be eligible to vote to 90 days from the current six months, making it easier for them to vote.31 However, Parliament voted to postpone a national referendum on constitutional change. The referendum is needed to approve two minor changes to the Constitution’s Article 32(a) and 32(b), which received the required support in March 2020.32

The general election slated for the year will be held as planned said the Election Commissioner, U Myint Naing in an interview with state-run radio posted on the commission’s Facebook page. The Union Election Commission has also announced that former Arakan National Party chairperson Doctor Aye Maung is no longer eligible to neither serve as a parliamentarian nor contest seats in any parliament in future elections. Doctor Aye Maung remains in Insein prison, Yangon, where he is serving a 20-year sentence for treason.33

Report to the International Court of Justice

In response to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) provisional order dated 23 January 2020 that Myanmar must report to the court at regular intervals, Myanmar has submitted its first report to the ICJ on 22 May 2020. The contents of Myanmar's report, however, remains confidential. The case was brought by The Gambia and featured a hearing in December 2019 where Aung San Suu Kyi presented Myanmar's case. In a unanimous ruling in January 2020, the ICJ rejected arguments given by Aung San Suu Kyi that the extent of crimes against the Rohingya might have been exaggerated and that it was an internal affair. Myanmar was ordered to report back after four months, and then every six months after that.34

In another order dated 18 May 2020, ICJ, decided to extend respective time-limits for the filing of the Memorial of the Republic of Gambia and the Counter-Memorial of the Republic of Union of Myanmar in the above case (The Gambia v. Myanmar) from 23 July 2020 to 23 October 2020 and from 25 January 2021 to 23 July 2021 respectively.35

For the country’s defence at the ICJ, Myanmar Parliament has approved a budget of 680 million kyats (US$484,000). The budget for the defence at the ICJ falls under the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). It covers the hiring of legal experts and advisors, travels to the ICJ and meetings inside and outside the country.36

India Myanmar Engagements

In an important strategic achievement, the Myanmar military repatriated 22 insurgents apprehended by them, to Indian authorities in a gesture of goodwill. A special plane provided by the Myanmar military flew from Hkamti in Northern Sagaing Region to Imphal (Manipur) and then to Guwahati (Assam). Onboard were 12 Manipuri insurgents part of United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK Pro), Kanglei Yawaol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and People’s Liberation Army of Manipur (PLA). The remaining ten are linked to Assam groups, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO).

Indian insurgents have maintained sanctuaries inside Myanmar since the late 1960s. From there, they have often launched raids into states like Nagaland, Manipur and Assam and then retreat safely across the border, which is beyond the reach of Indian forces. In February 2019, the Myanmar army raided Taga in upper Sagaing Region where the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) shared its headquarters with rebels from India’s northeast. The insurgents, who were repatriated to India, had been arrested on different occasions.37

To aid the containment and treatment of COVID-19, India donated medical supplies to Myanmar. The special flight transporting the medical supplies, valuing USD 900,000 from India landed in Yangon International Airport on 05 May and was welcomed by officials from the MoHS and Indian Embassy. Press release of Indian Embassy in Yangon stated the contribution is indicative of the traditionally warm and friendly ties between India and Myanmar and would further augment Myanmar’s efforts.38

The Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with Myanmar Embassy in India arranged flights to bring back citizens under the directives of National-Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019. A relief flight of Myanmar National Airlines carried 80 Myanmar citizens stranded in Gaya and nearby areas of India due to suspension of international flights. Previously, a total of 298 Myanmar citizens have been repatriated from India by relief flights. 39 However, 22 Myanmar nationals, believed to have Tablighi Jamaat links were detained at the Gaya airport by the immigration authorities.40

China Myanmar Relations

China-Myanmar border trade registered a decrease of USD 162.6 million between 1 October 2019 and 15 May 2020, according to the Myanmar Ministry of Commerce. The decline in trade is attributed to the trade suspension and the tight security measures amid coronavirus worries. Also, export of agricultural products is often halted, on account of China clamping down on illegal goods.41

As part of Chinese government’s “COVID diplomacy”, Myanmar China Association donated over 15,000 surgical masks, 50 PPE suits and two sets of disinfectant equipment worth Kyats 18 million to the Nay Pyi Taw Development Committee on 21 May.42 However, experts view China using such soft power to push through projects that may not be in the recipient’s best interests. The Chinese Ambassador Chen Hai’s meeting with Deputy Minister for Planning, Finance and Industry, U Set Aung, on 06 May regarding the implementation of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) project, which falls under the BRI, is seen as an attempt to push projects.43

Based on six regional experts interviewed, an article published by Anders Corr has exposed China’s bid to expand its diplomatic influence in Myanmar by supplying funds and sophisticated weaponry to the AA. In January 2020, China’s leader categorically denied allegations of supplying arms to ethnic armed organizations in Myanmar. However, in February 2020, the Chinese arms reportedly arrived on the beaches of Bangladesh and were smuggled into Myanmar for the AA, as reported by Subir Bhaumik.44 In addition to this, a total of 19 Chinese citizens illegally living in Myanmar were arrested for possession of weapons and illegal narcotics in four separate raids in Muse, northern Shan State on 15 and 16 May. The suspects, illegal drugs and weapons were handed over to the Muse Myoma Police Station, according to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services.45

Rohingya Crises Continues

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC)issued a joint statement on the ‘boat crisis’ in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, in which thousands of refugees and migrants in distress at sea. The statement comes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, in which States have erected border management measures. The organisations called upon the States in the region to uphold the commitments of the Bali Declaration (2016) and ASEAN pledges.46 Despite such statement, Bangladesh and Malaysia denied entry to Rohingyas crossing the sea, and there are incidents of mistreatment reported about people living there in a progressively xenophobic environment.47

Within Myanmar, there are around 160,000 internally displaced Rohingyas in detention camps in central Rakhine State. Rohingyas in the camps told Human Rights Watch that military and police forces regularly subject them to harassing physical punishment at checkpoints. The government established the camps for Rohingyas in central Rakhine state in 2012, which remain in de facto detention camps surrounded by fences, police, and military. The camps neither have COVID-19 testing nor the capacity to address complex medical cases.48

On 19 May authorities in Rakhine State have revoked a 14 May order requiring Rakhine Buddhist families to vacate land in a former Muslim area of Sittwe Township that was razed eight years ago. 49 However, in the process of passing eviction orders and then revoking it, a Seyton Su administrator, Thein Hlaing was killed on 24 May by unidentified assailants. Thein Hlaing had posted the original eviction order on ward notice board and had received several threats.50

Drug Menace and Timber Smuggling

Myanmar anti-narcotics police near Loikan Village in Shan State seized a massive haul of liquid fentanyl, and arrested more than 130 persons. The UNODC said the scale of the bust was unprecedented and Myanmar’s anti-drug authorities had “dismantled a significant network” during a two-month operation involving police and military.51

In another significant raid, Myanmar authorities seized stimulants worth over 14.2 billion kyats (over 10 million U.S. dollars) from a house in Maung Taw Township, in Rakhine state, and two suspects were held. On the same day, stimulants worth over 4.8 billion kyats (over 3.2 million U.S. dollars) were seized in Tachileik Township of the Shan state. According to the latest release issued by the President's Office, a total of 1,136 drug-related cases were registered across Myanmar while 1,745 suspects were charged as of 23 May 2020, since the formation of the Drug Activity Special Complaint Department on 26 June 2018. 52

Over 3,400 tons of illegal timber was seized from January to April, according to the Bago Region Forest Department. The amount of seized illegal timber this year exceeds that of the same period of last year. The Department has reported that smugglers are taking advantage of the curfew and are engaging in extracting illegal logs. Timber smuggling is most common in Bago and Taungoo districts in Sagaing Region.53

Key Initiative for Socio-Economic Development of Myanmar

The World Bank Group’s support for Myanmar’s economic and political transition, under the new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Myanmar, was discussed by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors on 12 May. It focuses on three areas: building human capital and fostering peaceful communities, stimulating responsible private sector-led growth and inclusive economic opportunities, and enhancing the resilience of Myanmar to cope with natural disasters while ensuring that natural resources and the environment are managed sustainably.54

Electrifying the Nation

The World Bank approved a $350 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) to increase the output and efficiency of power generation and improve the resilience of Myanmar’s electricity system to climate change and disasters. The country needs to double its current installed power generation capacity over the next five to seven years to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. The Government of Myanmar adopted the National Electrification Plan in 2014, drawing on World Bank analytical support provided through the National Electrification Project (NEP).55

Access to Quality Health Services

The additional financing for the Myanmar Essential Health Services Access Project (EHSAP), consisting of USD 100 million IDA credit and USD 10 million Global Financing Facility (GFF) grant has been approved. Since 2015, EHSAP has strengthened the quality of healthcare. In the fight against COVID-19, funds under EHSAP are being mobilised to assist capacity building and operational costs. This project will also receive USD 8 million grant from the World Bank Group’s Global Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF), to support the surge response in the health sector.56

Movement towards a Cashless Society

Onepay’s interbank application was launched to offer digital experience, which will allow users to transfer funds among seven local institutions– Asia Green Development Bank (AGD Bank), Ayeyarwady Bank (AYA Bank), CB Bank, KBZ Bank, Myanma Apex Bank, United Amara Bank, and Yoma Bank. Apps like Onepay that offer secure digital payments are helping to move Myanmar toward a cashless society. 57

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened new challenges as well as opportunities for Myanmar to address. There is an immediate need to make the ceasefire effective and inclusive from the side of Tatmadaw. In addition to this, efforts should be made to negotiate terms with the Arakan Army for peace and stability in the Western region. The Government must act responsibly in addressing the needs of the Rakhine people, Rohingyas and IDPs as well as migrant workers in these times. Neighbouring countries have a significant role in ensuring peace and stability in the country. The recent reports on China supplying weapons and illegal trade of drugs have raised concerns. India must keep continuing its efforts to combat insurgents’ activities in border areas jointly. The recent repatriation by Myanmar is a step in the right direction. More such collaborations must be made to ensure peace in both the countries.

References
  1. https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2020/05/10/myanmar-military-declares-ceasefire-for-covid-19-fight#cxrecs_s
  2. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-rebel-coalition-calls-military-extend-ceasefire-rakhine.html
  3. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/arakan-army-two-allies-extend-truce-another-month.html
  4. The NCA signatories are: Karen National Union, Chin National Front, All Burma Students' Democratic Front, Karen National Liberation Army/Peace Council, Pa-O National Liberation Organization, Arakan Liberation Party, Restoration Council of Shan State, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, New Mon State Party and Lahu Democratic Union.
  5. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/myanmar-military-accuses-ethnic-karen-armed-group-violating-truce.html
  6. https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/nca-signatories-meet-covid-19-coordinating-committee
  7. https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/security-forces-reclaim-paletwa-strategic-locations-from-aa/
    https://twitter.com/Arakanarmy1Army/status/1264927657034121216?s=09
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  11. On 21 June 2019 Myanmar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications directed telecommunication operators to disable mobile internet lines in eight townships of central and northern Rakhine State and Paletwa Township of southern Chin State. On 31 August 2019 lines were permitted to open in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Myebon and Paletwa town- ships, but were disabled again on 3 February 2020.
  12. http://www.mizzima.com/article/yangon-government-relaxes-curfew-hours-during-covid-19-crisis
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    https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/myanmar-covid-19/different-laws-applied-myanmar-covid-19-restrictions-lead-inconsistent-punishments-violators.html

  14. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/myanmar-gdp-estimate-be-slightly-reduced.html
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  19. http://www.mizzima.com/article/myanmar-migrants-part-thousands-migrants-stranded-worldwide-pandemic
  20. https://business.inquirer.net/298514/300000-myanmar-migrant-workers-in-thailand-jobless-due-to-covid-19-pandemic
  21. https://www.irrawaddy.com/in-person/interview/building-new-idp-camps-requires-security-considerations-rakhine-state-govt.html
  22. https://www.eurasiareview.com/07052020-myanmar-over-800-idps-in-ann-township-face-food-shortage/
  23. https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/myanmar-covid-19/myanmar-govt-lift-fund-announce-extra-cash-payments-help-vulnerable-covid-19.html
  24. https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/special-flight-arrives-in-yangon-with-who-medical-supplies-for-fight-against-covid-19/
  25. https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/myanmar-covid-19/myanmar-borrow-200-million-world-bank-assist-farmers.html
  26. https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/myanmar-covid-19/myanmar-parliament-approves-700-million-imf-loan-covid-19-spending.html
  27. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/myanmar-receives-approval-seek-funds-imf-jica.html

  28. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/korea-extends-30-million-support-myanmars-covid-19-relief-plan.html
    https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/russia-embassy-donates-cash-fund-to-national-covid-19-central-committee/
  29. https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/myanmar-and-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR3fKs8-0i9QR4igSH9wDLONjh8dkm2cmou7fktMpmH1J3P-0Np5Pu9BQqw
  30. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Asia-Insight/Suu-Kyi-s-Facebook-surge-reveals-fragility-of-Myanmar-democracy
  31. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-parliament-slashes-militarys-budget-first-time.html
  32. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/myanmar-parliament-approves-amendments-election-law.html
  33. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-parliament-indefinitely-postpones-referendum-on-charter-amendments.html
  34. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/squatters-05182020173321.html
  35. https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/myanmar-files-first-case-report-top-un-court
    https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/icj-calls-myanmar-do-more-protect-rohingya-population
  36. https://www.icj-cij.org/files/case-related/178/178-20200526-PRE-01-00-EN.pdf
  37. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-parliament-approves-half-million-usd-icj-genocide-defense-debate.html
  38. https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/commentary/myanmars-return-indian-rebels-act-friendship-strategic-trade-off.html
  39. https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/india-donates-medical-supplies-to-myanmar/
  40. https://twitter.com/ThaungTun20/status/1257896756404080640
    https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/80-myanmar-citizens-arrive-back-from-india-by-relief-flight/
  41. https://m.timesofindia.com/city/patna/22-myanmar-nationals-detained-at-gaya-airport/amp_articleshow/76055072.cms
  42. https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/sino-myanmar-border-trade-drops-down-by-162-6-mln-as-of-15-may/
  43. https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/myanmar-china-association-donates-medical-supplies-to-fight-coronavirus-infection/
  44. https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/is-china-deploying-covid-19-diplomacy-to-speed-bri-projects-in-myanmar/
  45. https://spotlight.licas.news/china-s-diplo-terrorism-in-myanmar/index.html
  46. https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/police-arrest-illegal-chinese-with-narcotics-weapons-in-muse/
  47. https://www.unhcr.org/asia/news/press/2020/5/5eb15b804/joint-statement-unhcr-iom-unodc-protection-sea-bay-bengal-andaman-sea.html
  48. https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/05/23/rohingya-targeted-in-malaysia-as-covid-19-stokes-xenophobia/1868817
  49. https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/pandemic-adds-new-threat-for-rohingyas-in-myanmar/
  50. http://www.mizzima.com/article/squatting-order-rakhine-revoked
  51. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/revokes-05262020163840.html
  52. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-police-make-asias-biggest-ever-drugs-bust-shan-state.html
  53. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-05/31/c_139103150.htm
  54. https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/bago-region-sees-timber-smuggling-amid-night-time-curfew
    https://www.globalnewlightofmyanmar.com/over-5000-tonnes-of-illegal-timber-seized-in-sagaing-region/
  55. https://indiaeducationdiary.in/new-world-bank-group-partnership-framework-for-myanmar-puts-strong-focus-on-social-inclusion-and-peace/
  56. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/05/29/myanmar-power-system-efficiency-project-brings-country-closer-to-universal-electricity-access
  57. https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/05/31/myanmar-power-system-efficiency-project-brings-country-closer-to-universal-electricity-access/
  58. https://www.mmtimes.com/news/onepay-app-helps-myanmar-move-cashless-society.html

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