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Why in Myanmar hundreds of thousands of people have never heard of Covid-19



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Last June, the Myanmar government, led by State Adviser Aung San Suu Kyi, severed internet access nine cities in the area because of concerns that it was used to ignite fire clashes between Myanmar’s military and rebels.

One township service was restored in May, but eight other cities, with a total population of around 800,000 people, remain in the blackout.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say the extended closure is endangering lives, not only because it prevents people from reporting possible human rights violations – but because they have cut off ties with public health campaigns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State in the midst of a pandemic, it is very important for civilians to get the information needed to stay safe,” Linda Lakhdhir, Asian legal adviser at Human Rights Watch words in a statement.
On Monday, Myanmar has recorded six deaths and 292 positive cases from more than 64,532 tests, according to Myanmar Ministry of Health.

Cases have been found in the cities of Maungdaw and Buthidaung in the northern state of Rakhine, where more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims live in crowded camps. Many fled the “cleansing operation,” launched by the military against Rohingya guerrillas in 2018. The United Nations has called for the Myanmar military to face an international tribunal on charges of genocide for atrocities committed by Rohingya Muslims. Rakhine Buddhists who were displaced by newer battles also lived in camps in the area.

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When the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world earlier this year, the Suu Kyi government launched an “No Person Left Behind” information campaign about disease prevention, such as social distance requirements.

But lawmaker Htoot May, who represents the Arakan National League for Democracy at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Myanmar Union, said on Sunday that many people living in northern Rakhine state and neighboring Chin did not receive public health notices circulated on Facebook, a shipping application message and government website.

“When I ask people in my constituency if they know Covid-19, I have to explain the global pandemic to them from the start,” Htoot May said. “I have to explain to them what social distance is and how to practice proper hand hygiene.”

“I cannot travel widely because of Covid-19, obviously, so there are only so many people I can warn about,” MP continued.

“They are not afraid of Covid-19 because they don’t know it, at this stage they are much more worried about fighting.”

CNN has approached Burma’s State Counselor Office spokesman Zaw Htay for comment.

Ongoing clashes

Fighting broke out in late 2018 between the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, and the complete Arakan Army, who wanted greater autonomy for Rakhine Buddhists, the majority of the population in the state of Rakhine.

When war broke out, the closure of the internet had resulted in more civilian deaths by rejecting people’s information directly, according to one Open letter published by a coalition of political groups and the Rakhine community to social media on Sunday.

Clashes have escalated in spite of the internet blackout, while 151 civilians were killed and 344 injured in the crossfire between January and May, according to the letter.

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“This is not a conflict that can be won by both sides on the battlefield,” Myanmar independent analyst Richard Horsey said in a statement to The International Crisis Group. “This is basically a political problem where the people of Rakhine want more autonomy and talk more about their future. (Myanmar) needs to develop a political response and which is currently lacking.”

The alternative is an ongoing war, said Horsey, and both the Arakan Army and Myanmar’s military have been accused of atrocities. Khine Kyaw Moe, an MP representing the Rakhine National Party, said that without an internet connection, the atrocities would not be reported and were not documented.

“The two forces committed human rights violations and, without the internet, people were cut off from journalists and from local and international NGOs where they might report these things to,” Khine Kyaw Moe said.

An open letter on Sunday, addressed to Suu Kyi and signed by 79 Rakhine stakeholder groups, said they were looking for a political solution, which would begin with the government reconnecting the internet.

“Freedom of speech and access to information are the basis of democracy. In this day and age, access to the internet is a standard of democracy. Equality demands ready information about the economy, education, health and society,” the letter reads.

Election Year

Like many other countries, Myanmar imposed a curfew, banning large gatherings and quarantine periods for foreign migrants in an effort to control the spread of the corona virus.

The government also imposes criminal penalties for people who do not obey the rules, including imprisonment for those who violate quarantine orders. At least 500 people, including children, have been sentenced to one year in prison.

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The state’s response seems to have stemmed the spread of the virus, but not without criticism.

“Throwing hundreds behind bars in a dense and unhygienic prison defeats the purpose of holding back the spread of Covid-19,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch in a statement in May.

Suu Kyi’s approach to the pandemic could hit her as the country prepares to vote in elections later this year.

MP Htoot May said the battle at Rakhine and the closure of subsequent communications could also erode voter support for Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy.

“In 2015 I believed in Suu Kyi and I enjoyed working with her,” MP Htoot May said. “I would think that Aung San Suu Kyi would help people in remote areas to get internet access, not break their relationship.”

“Human rights are not something Aung San Suu Kyi can talk about. She needs to practice it.”

On the other hand, Suu Kyi’s notes about the virus have nothing to do with the results of her election – because of the internet closure, a large number of people in the west end of the country might never know it happened.

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Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.



Portuguese historical films will premiere on 29 December.

Method Media Bermuda will present the documentary FABRIC: Portuguese History in Bermuda on Thursday, December 29 at the Underwater Research Institute of Bermuda.

A spokesperson said: “Method Media is proud to bring Bermuda Fabric: Portugal History to Bermuda for its 5th and 6th showing at the Bermuda Underwater Observatory. In November and December 2019, Cloth: A Portuguese Story in Bermuda had four sold-out screenings. Now that Bermuda has reopened after the pandemic, it’s time to bring the film back for at least two screenings.

“There are tickets For $ 20 – sessions at 15:30 and 18:00. Both screenings will be followed by a short Q&A session.

Director and producer Milton Raboso says, “FABRIC is a definitive account of the Portuguese community in Bermuda and its 151 years of history, but it also places Bermuda, Acors and Portugal in the world history and the events that have fueled those 151 years.

“It took more than 10 years to implement FABRIC. The film was supported by the Minister of Culture, the Government of the Azores and private donors.

Bermuda Media Method [MMB] Created in 2011 by producer Milton Raposo. MMB has created content for a wide range of clients: Bermuda’s new hospital renovation, reinsurance, travel campaigns, international sports and more. MMB pays special attention to artistic, cultural and historical content.

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Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.



Maestro de Braga is the first Portuguese in the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

Maestro Filipe Cunha, Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Braga, has been invited to conduct the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, as announced today.

According to a statement sent by O MINHO, “he will be the first Portuguese conductor to conduct this orchestra in its entire history.”

In addition to this orchestra, the maestro will also work with the Lyceo Mozarteum de la Habana Symphony Orchestra.

The concerts will take place on 4 and 12 March 2023 at the National Theater of Cuba in Havana.

In the words of the maestro, quoted in the statement, “these will be very beautiful concerts with difficult but very complex pieces” and therefore he feels “very motivated”.

From the very beginning, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 will be performed by an Italian pianist (Luigi Borzillo), whom the maestro wants to bring to Portugal later this year. In the same concert, Mendelshon’s First Symphony will be performed.

Then, at the second concert, in the company of the Mexican clarinetist Angel Zedillo, he will perform the Louis Sfora Concerto No. 2. In this concert, the maestro also conducts Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

“This is an international recognition of my work. An invitation that I accept with humility and great responsibility. I was surprised to learn that I would be the first Portuguese member of the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. This is a very great honor,” the maestro said in a statement.

“I take with me the name of the city of Braga and Portugal with all the responsibility that goes with it, and I hope to do a good job there, leaving a good image and putting on great concerts. These will be very special concerts because, in addition to performing pieces that I love, especially Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, I will be directing two wonderful soloists who are also my friends. It will be very beautiful,” concludes Filipe Cunha.

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