Chin Civil Society Criticizes Lack of ‘Actual Stakeholders’ in Govt Video Conferences on COVID-19

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In a video conference streamed online on Friday, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi met with three people from Chin State to share updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, but members of civil society said the discussion was not representative of the situation on the ground in Tedim Township, where five patients are located.

Present in the talks with the State Counsellor was Dr. Aung Ngwe San, director of the Chin State health department; Tang Awng Shein, director of the Chin State municipal department; and Ah Cieur, who works with the Hakha COVID-19 Response Committee.

Locals pointed out that no representatives from Tedim Township were present, despite it being the home of one of Burma’s first confirmed coronavirus patients, and at least four more since.

“Five people have tested positive for COVID-10 in Tedim. No representative was included in the discussion. We are upset,” Mone Noe, who is working with the Tedim Township COVID-19 volunteer prevention team, told Khonumthung News. “Nobody discussed what difficulties locals are facing. We are not satisfied with their discussion points. I don’t think they are discussing the rights things in relation to COVID-19 matters in Chin State. I think they are saying what the government wants them to say in the discussion,” he explained.

Tha Tuang, who works with the COVID-19 Resource Center in Chin State, said that it is imperative that stakeholders be part of any national conversations about how to confront the outbreak.

“COVID-19 is not a project. It’s a pandemic. I think preventative measures and the response to this pandemic will be effective if actual stakeholders are included in the discussion,” Tha Tuang told Khonumthung News.

Chin State government spokesperson and municipal minister Soe Htet said that the Chin State government had pre-selected eight people for the video conference on Friday, but that the Union government had chosen three from among them.

“Actually, they were only going to select three people, but we prepared eight people. We called up medical doctors and nurses because it’s a national-level discussion,” Soe Htet said. “They were not going to discuss a specific town or a place, but they were going to discuss the health situation in the whole of Chin State.”

The municipal minister said that the Union government conducted a pre-interview with Dr. Aung Ngwe San before selecting him to take part in the video conference.

“They selected the representatives for discussion. We didn’t look into their backgrounds, such as whether they lived in Tedim or Hakha,” Soe Htet added.

In the video conference, the State Counsellor and the Chin State participants mainly discussed the situation facing patients in Tedim who have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as preventative measures in place and the ongoing awareness campaign also in Tedim.

Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to set up intensive care units and isolation wards in Tedim, Hakha, Falam and Mindat public hospitals, as well as to provide electricity to hospitals in Chin State.

“We have to pay attention to Tedim because there are five confirmed cases in Tedim. We don’t know whether new cases will come up,” the State Counsellor said in the video conference. “Whatever happens, we will prioritize setting up the intensive care unit in Tedim as well as in the main hospitals in Chin State. We will hold discussions with the health ministry about it. We will set it up as fast as we can.”

The five patients in Tedim who tested positive for COVID-19 are in the public hospital there. Four had contact with the first coronavirus patient confirmed in Burma. He has since tested negative for the virus. After one more round of testing, he is expected to be discharged from the hospital.

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