The Philippines alone supported donating COVID-19 vaccines to Myanmar after an increase in infections worsened the crisis in the Southeast Asian country following a February coup that toppled its duly-elected government.
Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Tuesday, August 31, that the Philippines voiced its position on the issue at the Association fo Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers Meeting and related meetings where the pandemic, vaccines, and Myanmar were among priorities tackled.
“Among foreign donors, we alone spoke up to provide vaccines to Myanmar which is under the triple scourge of dictatorship, repression and the pandemic,” Locsin told lawmakers at the House of Representatives during the DFA’s proposed 2022 budget hearing.
It was not clear if the Philippines would donate vaccines itself, as supplies currently remain limited here, or if it simply expressed support for such measures to provide aid to Myanmar.
In calling for vaccine donations for Myanmar, Locsin said such assistance to Myanmar should “not be used as a weapon for submission to dictatorial rule.”
“I said, vaccines will not be used to lure suspected critics of the junta. In short, vaccine followed by incarceration; jail after coming forward to be jabbed,” he said.
Six months after the army seized power, Myanmar’s economy has collapsed and its health system has buckled as coronavirus cases surged.
As of August 31, Myanmar recorded 395,883 infections and 15,287 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Data from Reuters shows at least 6,253,687 doses were administered so far, covering just some 6% of the country’s population.
The death toll as a result of Myanmar’s February 1 coup topped 1,000 as of August 20, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group, which has been recording killings by security forces.
The Philippines has repeatedly pressed for the release of detained Myanmar civil leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected leaders in the country. It also called for the return to a “fuller democracy in Myanmar.”
A United Nations special envoy earlier said military ruler Min Aung Hlaing appeared determine to solidify his grip in the country after announcing that he was now prime minister in a newly formed caretaker government and a formal annulment of the results of a November election, which was won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com