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Coup Watch July 2021: Junta Destroys Tools for Dealing with COVID-19

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  • In the sixth month since its forcible and unconstitutional power grab, the junta’s oppressive acts to secure political, territorial, or economic control have escalated conflict and the deadliness of a third wave of COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 ripped ferociously through Burma, where a weakened health system and junta restrictions on treatment measures contributed to untold deaths. As the junta brought testing closer to pre-coup levels, it saw COVID-19 positivity rates up to 40%.
  • The National Unity Government (NUG), ethnic health organizations, civil society, and foreign actors stepped up to fill the junta’s COVID-19 response gaps. The NUG created a COVID-19 Commission, issued detailed guidance on preventing transmission, renewed calls for vaccines through the COVAX program, and outlined pathways for international actors to facilitate vaccination.
  • The junta continued to bomb and shell innocent civilians and block humanitarian aid. Poor weather decreased the intensity of armed conflict, but over 550,000 people remained displaced, and natural disasters and the pandemic made it both more critical and more difficult for humanitarian aid to reach them.
  • During July alone, security forces killed at least 56 civilians. There were 348 violent attacks that either targeted or failed to protect civilians during 1–23 Jul, and a total 3,446 incidents 1 Feb–23 Jul.
  • In total, since 1 Feb, the junta has killed over 1,100 civilians, injured thousands more, and detained at least 6,994 politicians, activists, journalists and others, in attacks against the democracy movement.
  • The World Bank revised its 2021 projection, predicting an 18% contraction in Burma’s economy. Pandemic-driven border closures contributed to commodity price increases of up to 70%. Meanwhile, the junta continued to engage in illicit economic activity and shop for military equipment.
  • In order to minimize death and destruction, and create space for dialogue, the movement in Burma and allies urge:
    • The UN Security Council must mandate a humanitarian intervention in Burma to save millions from COVID-19;
    • The UN, foreign states, and international finance institutions (IFIs) must expand sanctions against the junta;
    • These actors must engage with the NUG as the legitimate government of Burma, particularly regarding COVID-19 relief.

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