On 1st February 2021, the Myanmar military took power in a coup, announced a state of emergency, and formed the State Administrative Council (SAC) to rule the country instead of the elected parliament. The coup was justified under claims of electoral fraud, which were comprehensively rebuked by independent observers. The coup was widely condemned and millions of protestors took to the streets in protest participating in a Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). The military response to these protests was increasingly violent, with over 5,500 people arrested and more than 900 people killed since 1st February.
With the brutal backlash against the Civil Disobedience Movement in the urban areas, thousands of people sought shelter in the ethnic controlled areas. The National Unity Government (NUG) established by elected MPs and civil society leaders took steps to abolish the 2008 Constitution and to create a space for genuine Federal Democracy.
SAC interventions in the Central Bank of Myanmar and restrictions on internet access caused massive disruptions in the financial sector. The lack of cash liquidity constrained the operations of aid agencies alongside all other sectors with premiums increasing to at least 10% in informal money markets. The World Bank and UNDP have projected that the proportion of people living in poverty could double to almost half of the nation’s population by the beginning of 2022. This would reverse the gains made since 2005.
Indiscriminate artillery attacks against civilians in northern Karen and Kayah States have been the primary cause of displacement for 170,000 people. School buildings, health clinics and churches are amongst the community buildings that have been damaged by heavy artillery attacks. Patterns of systematic violence and abuse reflect the “four cuts” counter-insurgency strategies that have targeted civilians for decades to undermine the access of EAOs to food, recruits, intelligence and resources. These military offensives have disrupted access to fields just as upland farmers should be preparing hillside plots for the wet season rice crops, so food security for the coming year will be adversely affected.
More than 8,000 people crossed into Thailand, to be detained at the border by the Royal Thai Army and then sent back to Myanmar after the Thai army considered it safe, only to cross again when the airstrikes resumed but once again were returned back to Myanmar within days.
COVID -19 has surged in Myanmar with over 150,000 cases confirmed and 3,300 deaths exacerbated by the near collapse of the health system, targeting of health personnel, seizure of life saving equipment by the military and a slow roll out of vaccinations, hampered by mistrust of the military regime. By June only 3% of the country was fully vaccinated.
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