Thailand is being urged to take a leading role in helping to ease the spread of COVID-19 along the Myanmar border.
Emma Leslie, executive director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Centre, said during an online briefing hosted by the Asian News Network entitled “COVID Crisis in Myanmar: Implications for the Region” that the situation in the neighbouring country could affect ASEAN as a whole.
“COVID-related deaths are up to a thousand and there could be potentially more uncounted deaths a day in Myanmar at the moment,” she said. “We have known that 15,000 tests have been done each day and 37% tested positive.”
“We also know that the United Kingdom had already warned the United Nations Security Council that they believed in two weeks, half of Myanmar would be infected. We are not clear on the statistics about the Delta variant,” she added. “So, at this stage, even with the limited information we know about it, we are facing a huge humanitarian crisis.”
She said there has been a pragmatic approach to the crisis, but it should not be dealt with alone, noting it must be taken seriously to prevent it from turning into a regional problem.
Ms Leslie said she suggested the idea of vaccinating everyone along a buffer zone along the Thai-Myanmar border.
“To do so, I suggested that Thailand should lead this action. We’re looking for Thailand’s leadership for that,” Ms Leslie said. “Thailand is, of course, one of the countries on Myanmar’s border, but also the one which has the capacity and ability to mobilise vaccination.”
“But, it needs to be handled dedicatedly and sensitively — Thai people must also be given the opportunity to be vaccinated,” she said.
Also, she said to do so, Thailand should have regional support, especially in terms of getting vaccine support.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army ousted its civilian leader in February, launching a crackdown on dissent that has killed more than 900 people according to a local monitoring group, as reported by AFP.
A resurgent coronavirus wave has also intensified the havoc, with many hospitals empty of pro-democracy medical staff, AFP said.
Ms Leslie said politics should be “put aside for now”.
Kobsak Chutikul, former Thai ambassador, said the crisis needs immediate action and measures should be issued following an ASEAN meeting this week on the situation in Myanmar.
“The situation in Myanmar is like a tsunami wave that could affect all of ASEAN, and we have to realise that Myanmar is a country that shares a border with India and China,” Mr Chutikul said, noting that half of the world’s population could be affected if COVID infections from Myanmar spill over.