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Myanmar's military declares Covid-19-related ceasefire

Myanmar’s armed forces (Tatmadaw) have declared a three-month ceasefire in conflicts with ethnic rebels to strengthen the national effort to contain the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in the Southeast Asian country.

In a 9 May statement the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, referred to the 23 March appeal made by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to parties to conflicts around the world to suspend hostilities in the face of the pandemic, adding that the Tatmadaw was throwing its weight behind a governmental committee set up in April to contain the virus.

To date 161 cases of Covid-19 infection have been confirmed in Myanmar, with six deaths.

However, the statement noted that the ceasefire would not apply to “areas where terrorist groups declared by the government take positions”: a proviso that in effect rules out any pause in the Tatmadaw’s escalating war in western Rakhine and Chin states with the Rakhine nationalist Arakan Army (AA).

On 23 March the government formally proscribed the AA, which enjoys widespread popular support in Rakhine state, as a “terrorist organisation”.

The statement also added a series of conditions, including requirements that other ethnic groups observe “strict adherence to existing laws” and do not impose “burdens on local people”. These are caveats that, in practice, can be used to justify tactical operations against insurgent groups more or less at will.

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