By MAW OO MYAR / KANTARAWADDY TIMES
The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) is among the organizations that have not yet responded to the government’s formation of a COVID-19 coordination committee with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), according to the committee ex-military vice chair.
“Four organizations have not replied to us. KNPP has yet to reply. The three northern organizations have not contacted us,” retired Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo said, referring to the Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.
On April 27, the government formed the national committee, endorsed by President Win Myint.
The COVID-19 coordination committee has invited non-signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) to cooperate with the government, such as the KNPP.
Among those non-signatory groups who have replied to the government action are the Mongla-based National Democratic Alliance Army, United Wa State Army, Shan State Progress Party and Kachin Independence Organization, according to Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo.
KNPP central committee member Aung San Myint said that we saw the announcement from the President’s Office on Facebook regarding the formation of the committee, but had not received an official letter because the KNPP offices are closed during the pandemic.
“It’s good,” he said of the initiative. “All stakeholders need to participate in [fighting COVID-19].”
An issue that the KNPP is concerned about are people currently stranded at the Thai-Karenni border, where all local border crossings have been shut down by Thai and Burmese authorities.
“There are many people who want to return home. If both Thailand and Burma open the official border checkpoints, many people will return home,” Aung San Myint told Kantarawaddy Times. “We need to discuss in detail how we can work together and how to prepare for these returnees.”
Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo said that the government was aware of the people waiting to return home, and that they would need to pass through territory controlled by non-NCA signatory armed groups like the KNPP.
“We need to protect them. That’s why we invited [KNPP] as a participant,” he said.
The committee vice chair said that the COVID-19 coordination committee had an informal meeting with NCA signatories on May 5. They will have a video conference—again with the signatories—to discuss the future working plan.
According to Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, the coordination committee restated its invitation to the non-NCA signatory EAOs on May 5.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, government forces have also been engaged in intensifying clashes with the Arakan Army in Rakhine and southern Chin states and have tried to stop NCA-signatory EAOs from carrying out COVID-19 prevention activities in Karen and Shan states.