Myanmar Junta Offers COVID-19 Vaccines to Arakan Army

By The Irrawaddy 22 September 2021

Myanmar’s military regime has offered Chinese-made Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines to the Arakan Army (AA), the ethnic armed group based in Rakhine State in western Myanmar.

“We were told that [Myanmar’s military] will provide us with 40,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through intermediaries,” AA information officer Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.

The ethnic armed group is still negotiating with the regime via intermediaries about the detailed vaccine roll-out plan, he added.

U Hla Thein, the junta’s Rakhine State Administration Council spokesperson, said that Rakhine would receive 226,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses in the second phase of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program under the junta, and that ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) would be prioritized at this time.

“There are 16 priority groups for the second phase of vaccination and the EAOs are among them. As the AA is an EAO in Rakhine, they are also included in the list. But the Union-level authorities have not yet given guidelines about the vaccination plan,” U Hla Thein, who is also the junta-appointed Advocate General of Rakhine State, told The Irrawaddy.

The vaccination rollout for the AA comes after coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said that his regime would provide jabs for all EAOs in the country. It is not clear yet how other EAOs have responded to the offer. But EAOs based along the Myanmar-China border in eastern and northeastern Myanmar have already started vaccination programs in the areas under their control, using vaccines either supplied for free by China or which they have ordered from China.

Myanmar’s military and the AA have observed an unofficial ceasefire since November last year, following almost three years of fierce fighting in Rakhine State. Since then, the AA has expanded its influence in Rakhine, installing its own administrative and judicial systems in the state.

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