Myanmar quarantines state in armed conflict over COVID-19

Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 27 (efe-epa).- Myanmar quarantined the state of Arakan, afflicted by armed conflict for two years and among the poorest in the country, following a COVID-19 outbreak, after several months in which the country seemed to have the pandemic under control.

“In the state of Rakhine, COVID-19 cases are increasing in a short space of time. Inhabitants of all districts have been advised to stay at home to control the spread of the disease,” said a statement of the Ministry of Health and Sports issued Wednesday night.

Myanmar, which with a total of 586 new coronavirus infections and six deaths among its 53 million inhabitants seemed to have the pandemic under control, is experiencing an increase in cases these days.

Most of the new infections, 173 in the last two days, have been detected in Arakan, a state of 3 million people, and since January 2019 the scene of a fierce war between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the ethno-nationalist guerrilla of the Arakan Army (AA). It fights for the autonomy of the state, with a majority Rakhine, a predominantly Buddhist ethnic group.

Arakan is the second most impoverished region in impoverished Myanmar and, largely isolated from the rest of the country by a mountain range, it has a meager health infrastructure.

As a consequence of the armed conflict, the government has imposed the longest internet blackout in the world since June 2019 in the north of the state, where most of the fighting between the army and the guerrillas is concentrated, although on Aug. 7, 2G internet networks were reestablished.

In addition to the Rakhine majority, Arakan is home to the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group whose citizenship was revoked by the government in the early 1990s as “illegal immigrants” from neighboring Bangladesh, despite having lived in the country for generations.

Three years ago, the Rohingya were victims of a brutal military campaign for which the Myanmar government and army face a genocide charge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, after expelling more than 700,000 of them to Bangladesh, where they remain in the world’s largest refugee camp.

Some 600,000 Rohingya remain in Arakan, according to the UN, 130,000 of them confined in camps for displaced persons since a wave of sectarian violence in 2012, all of them subject to strict movement restrictions and with enormous difficulties in accessing health services. According to Amnesty International. EFE-EPA


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