The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday it was providing more than $50 million in humanitarian aid to Myanmar citizens who are coping with a humanitarian crisis sparked by a February 1 military coup.
The coup in the Southeast Asian country, formerly known as Burma, has led to deadly anti-junta protests and clashes between several armed ethnic groups and the ruling junta. This has caused shortages of essential goods and services, and it has forced thousands to flee their homes.
“This aid will enable our international and non-governmental organization partners to provide emergency food assistance, life-saving protection, shelter, essential health care, water, sanitation and hygiene services to the people of Burma, including those forced to flee violence and persecution,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“We have a severe COVID-19 third wave in Myanmar,” the U.N. special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, told reporters Tuesday in a video briefing. “Entire families are falling sick with COVID, with relatives desperately seeking and struggling to access treatment, oxygen and other supplies, while prices have skyrocketed.”
She said there have been 330,127 confirmed cases of the infection, with 3,611 new cases recorded on Monday. The envoy said the cases are probably higher as testing is not being done across the country.
Separately, the special envoy said for the past two months, she has been discussing how to get an inclusive dialogue started among the military, the national unity government and ethnic armed groups, in an effort to resolve the political crisis.
“The ethnic armed organizations were, in the majority, very positive on this idea and really want to find a peaceful solution,” she said. “The National Unity Government was interested in the idea, but clearly would have preconditions to start such a dialogue.”
Schraner Burgener said she had a long conversation last month with the deputy commander in chief of the military but has not received any response regarding the possibility of a dialogue. The army is also not ready to allow her to visit the country, a request she has been making since the February coup.
Schraner Burgener welcomed the long-awaited appointment of a special envoy for Myanmar from regional bloc ASEAN and said the person, Erywan Yusof, would have her full cooperation and support.
Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced in the statement that the U.S. also was providing $5 million to help Thailand contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“Today’s announcement of additional COVID-19 assistance to Thailand will support health care workers administering vaccines and will strengthen the vaccine supply chain to help ensure that they reach the most vulnerable populations.”
Demonstrators reportedly were protesting in the streets of Bangkok again Tuesday to denounce the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Police fired water cannons at protesters who increasingly are angry about Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's handling of the country's most serious outbreak of infections and its adverse impact on the economy, according to Reuters.
(Reuters provided some information for this report.)