Eighteen ambassadors to Burma from Europe and the US called for an end to fighting in Chin and Rakhine states to prepare for the Covid-19 pandemic that has already spread to 181 countries around the globe after it was discovered in December of last year.
A joint statement said: “We are deeply concerned about the high level of fighting, casualties and civilian displacement occurring in Rakhine and Chin States, and the threat of further conflict in other areas.”
The focus for all nations of the world must be “on protecting the most vulnerable communities from the devastating impacts of COVID-19. Conflict impedes humanitarian response and prevents assistance to those women, children, disabled, marginalized and displaced who are already the most vulnerable groups during conflicts.”
Salai Cieu Bik Thawng, the secretary of Chin National League for Democracy, welcomed the foreign ambassadors’ joint statement and reiterated that fighting needs to end to protect villagers from the growing dangers of the novel coronavirus.
“Clashes are ongoing in southern Chin State and it’s difficult to launch a virus awareness campaign there,” Salai Cieu Bik Thawng said. “There are thousands of IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Paletwa township and nearly one hundred thousand Rakhine State. If the virus infects just one IDP it will be really difficult to control the spread of transmission.”
Everyone needs to work together to prevent a massive outbreak from happening in Burma, he said.
“I think they need to take whatever steps are necessary to reduce the conflict,” Saw Mya, the chair of Khumi Affairs Coordinating Committee, told Khonumthung News. “The number of IDPs is increasing day by day.”
Fighting between the Arakan Army and Burma Army has caused the displacement of at least 70,000 villagers in the last year.
The ambassadors’ released the statement after the UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an end to fighting around the globe to address the pandemic.
Ambassadors to Burma from Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, The European Union, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and the US participated in the joint statement.