China Donates 500,000 COVID-19 Vaccines to Myanmar Junta
By The Irrawaddy 3 May 2021
The Chinese government has handed over 500,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the junta, even as millions of civilians and health workers are boycotting the military regime’s vaccine program.
The vaccines were donated by China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, and arrived in Yangon on Sunday. They will be distributed to hospitals across the country, according to the office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services.
While many countries have cut ties with the regime’s leaders following their coup and the brutal killings of peaceful protesters, the Chinese Embassy in Yangon said that the donated vaccines demonstrated the “Paukphaw” [fraternal] friendship between China and Myanmar.
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi promised to provide 300,000 doses of China’s COVID-19 vaccine during a meeting with Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in January.
During that visit, Myanmar and China signed agreements on the economy, trade and technical cooperation and pushed to speed up the implementation of bilateral projects, including transport infrastructure projects under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which is part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
But thousands of social media users in Myanmar are skeptical of China’s vaccine donation saying, “No thanks, we don’t need your vaccines,” on posts on the Chinese embassy’s Facebook page.
Anti-Chinese sentiment has risen dramatically in Myanmar after China repeatedly blocked attempts by the United Nations Security Council to take action against the coup leaders.
One social media user wrote, “Let me die with COVID-19, I won’t inject any vaccines from China.”
“While millions of people are refusing to take COVID-19 jabs, China sent vaccines to the regime. It is very clear who they are supporting,” another social media user wrote.
“Chinese vaccines will only be for military officers and their cronies. Not for us. Even if they give it to us, we won’t take it as long as we are being ruled by the regime,” a social media user wrote.
Myanmar’s COVID-19 vaccine program has struggled under the military regime, with millions of civilians refusing the jab and thousands of health workers choosing to go on strike rather than work for the regime.
The National League for Democracy government started a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program on January 27, with healthcare staff and volunteer medical workers the first to receive shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by India.
Following the military takeover on Feb.1, almost all health workers have refused to receive the second jab of the vaccine as a protest against military rule.
The military-controlled MRTV has claimed that more than 1.5 million people in Myanmar received their first dose of the vaccine between January and April 23, while another 312,953 people received their second dose.
Military-controlled newspapers frequently publish photos of monks, military officers and government officials receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
At first, the military regime offered the jab to people over the age of 64. But since late March, it has begun to offer the vaccine to anyone aged 18 and older after few people showed up at the vaccination center in Yangon, according to medical volunteers.
COVID-19 testing has been crippled since the coup with so many healthcare staff on strike. Under the civilian government, around 16,000 to 18,000 swab tests a day were carried out in January. But since the regime’s coup in February, only around 1,500 to 2,000 tests per day are being administered.
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