Local virus outbreak in Myanmar sparks fears for Rohingya camps

Local virus outbreak in Myanmar sparks fears for Rohingya camps
A deserted main street is pictured on August 23, 2020 during a lockdown amidst fears of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine State southern Myanmar. (AFP)
Updated 23 August 2020

Local virus outbreak in Myanmar sparks fears for Rohingya camps

Local virus outbreak in Myanmar sparks fears for Rohingya camps
  • Local virus outbreak in Myanmar sparks fears for Rohingya camps

SITTWE: Rohingya in Myanmar’s conflict-wracked Rakhine state expressed fears Sunday of a coronavirus outbreak reaching their overcrowded camps, after a spate of infections sent the state capital into lockdown.
Nearly 130,000 Rohingya Muslims live in what Amnesty International describes as “apartheid” conditions in camps around Sittwe.
The city has recorded 48 cases in the past week, making up more than 10 percent of the about 400 cases so far registered in Myanmar.
“We are extremely worried about the virus because we are living in limbo and it won’t be easy to control,” said Rohingya Kyaw Kyaw.
Authorities visited the Thae Chaung camp this week to talk about social distancing — an impossibility as 10 families typically squeeze into a single house — and gave out hand sanitiser and face masks.
“But if the lockdown is for a long time, we will... need help,” Kyaw Kyaw told AFP, adding that everyone in the camps had locked themselves indoors.
Sittwe’s streets were empty Sunday, with masked residents encountering barricaded roads as they tried to run errands.
Street vendors hawked plastic face shields and surgical masks.
An overnight curfew order has been in place since Friday, while all public transport — including domestic flights — into the capital was suspended.
Rakhine state has long been a flashpoint for ethnic and religious conflict.
The embattled Rohingya Muslim minority are widely regarded as foreign “Bengalis” despite having lived in Myanmar for generations. They lack citizenship rights and their freedom of movement is restricted across the country.
A local Rakhine parliamentarian this week blamed the Rohingya for the virus spread in a Facebook post that was later taken down.
Some 750,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh following a military crackdown in 2017 — operations that Myanmar is currently facing genocide charges for at the UN’s top court.
Further north in the state, the military is also battling the Arakan Army, a rebel group seeking more autonomy for the state’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, and violent clashes have displaced thousands of civilians from their homes.
In Mrauk-U — where three cases were found this week — Rakhine residents feared a halt to food donations to the displacement camps, said camp leader Hla Maung Oo.
“We have nowhere to run if the virus becomes widespread because we also can’t go back to our villages,” he told AFP.


Kremlin says would welcome Biden’s efforts to extend New START arms control treaty

Kremlin says would welcome Biden’s efforts to extend New START arms control treaty
Updated 20 January 2021

Kremlin says would welcome Biden’s efforts to extend New START arms control treaty

Kremlin says would welcome Biden’s efforts to extend New START arms control treaty
  • The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) accord limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads
  • A failure to extend New START could fuel a potential arms race and tensions between Moscow and Washington

MOSCOW: The Kremlin said on Wednesday it remained committed to extending the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States and would welcome efforts promised by the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden to reach agreement.
The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) accord, which was signed in 2010 and expires in February, limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy.
“Russia and its president are in favor of preserving this agreement,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “If our American colleagues will in fact demonstrate a political will to preserve this pact by extending it, this can only be welcomed.”
Biden’s choice for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said on Tuesday that the incoming US administration would seek to extend the pact and decide how long an extension to pursue.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last year called on Washington to extend the last major nuclear arms pact between the two countries for a year without any conditions.
A failure to extend New START could fuel a potential arms race and tensions between Moscow and Washington.