Aung Htein | DMG
29 September, Sittwe
The Tatmadaw has announced that it will extend its unilateral ceasefire by another month, through October 31, but the military is holding steadfastly to a caveat that exempts “areas where terrorist groups declared by the government take positions.”
Citing previous motivations for the ceasefire including the COVID-19 pandemic, with Myanmar experiencing a surge in cases of the virus over the past six weeks, the Tatmadaw’s September 29 announcement largely mirrored a prior one-month extension promulgated on August 24.
“Due to the increasing spread rate and death toll amid second wave of COVID-19 across the country, Myanmar Tatmadaw is actively taking part in prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19 for the interests of country and people,” said Tuesday’s statement, adding that the latest extension is intended “to increase momentum of effective and rapid containment, prevention and treatment of COVID-19 in Myanmar and restoring lasting peace.”
On March 23, the Myanmar government declared the Arakan Army to be a terrorist group. With the ethnic armed group active in Arakan and southern Chin states, the Tatmadaw’s ceasefire is thus largely understood to have no applicability across large parts of conflict-torn western Myanmar. The unilateral ceasefire was first announced on May 9, to be enforced from May 10 to August 31.
U Tun Thar Sein, an Arakan State Hluttaw lawmaker for Mrauk-U Township, said the Tatmadaw should consider putting Arakan State under its ceasefire umbrella because the state has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19 in the so-called “second wave” of infections.
“The media have reported that the second wave of COVID-19 started in Arakan State. Among the 14 regions and states, the infections of COVID-19 are the second highest in Arakan State. If the Tatmadaw ceasefire [extension] is due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it should take Arakan State into consideration,” U Tun Thar Sein said.
Northern Arakan State has seen continued displacement of civilians due to conflict between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army over recent weeks, even as the region has been put on lockdown as a coronavirus preventive measure.
In Arakan State there were 1,516 COVID-19 cases, 698 patients discharged from hospitals and three dead through September 29, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.