28 May 2020
Myanmar is being affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic in many aspects – health wise, politically, economically and socially. The impact of the pandemic may be prolonged. In this regards, some Myanmar civil society organizations (CSOs) and networks convened online meetings on 29 April and 19 May 2020 to discuss ways to strategically respond to the pandemic. Based on these meetings, Myanmar CSOs plan to issue a manifesto on how to strategically coordinate and respond during the pandemic. While the manifesto is being prepared, which may take some time, there are some matters that require immediate actions.
Urgent recommendations and request:
1. Unconditionally stop armed conflict in all areas across Myanmar.
2. The Myanmar government should urgently support and provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and recent conflict affected population, especially in northern Rakhine and southern Chin States, and COVID-19 related response. Unconditionally remove all restrictions preventing CSOs from providing emergency assistance and humanitarian access must be granted.
3. Myanmar government, the military (Tatmadaw), and ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) should protect civilians in armed conflict affected areas and respect and fulfil international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
4. The government should buy goods with low shelf-lives from farmers and distribute them to people in need.
5. Agricultural loans repayment exemption from the government for farmers from armed conflict affected areas and suspend repayment of loans for farmers from other areas.
6. Unconditionally suspend land registration and land confiscation under the Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin (VFV) Land Management Law and the planning and implementation of business investments using Myanmar’s natural resources such as water, land and ecosystem during the COVID-19 pandemic when there are limitations on monitoring due to restrictions on people gatherings.
7. Temporarily suspend mineral mining, issuing licenses for mining, exploration, dam construction projects, hydropower projects and energy related projects that are detrimental to the environment and local communities since the public cannot gather to respond during the pandemic.
8. Immediately lift internet restrictions, which have been imposed supposedly due to armed conflict in Rakhine and Chin states and security reasons, limiting the public’s ability to access information, unblock ethnic websites and allow the media to freely access information and report. Media workers should not be charged under criminal laws or other repressive laws.
9. Provide unconditional food, money, and essential items support within a month to people are really poor and in dire need. Conduct a Rapid Needs Assessment to be able to provide such assistance. Government departments and CSOs should cooperate for the assessment.
10. Decisions on reopening schools should be based on the views of students, teachers, and parents and the situation of COVID-19 prevention efforts.
11. Collect data of migrant workers who have returned to Myanmar, unemployed factory worker and laid-off workers and provide them with the necessary support.
12. Provide protective equipment and materials for health workers and ensure plans to relieve their workload.
13. COVID-19 response planning and policy development should be based on human rights, democracy, and social justice principle and norm. Must ensure, Women and disable person participation and their concern and needs must be address on those policy making, planning and implementation.
This statement was signed by 213 civil society organisations in Myanmar. Download the PDF (English, Myanmar) to read the statement and see the full list of signatories.