Yangon (Agenzia Fides) - The internal conflicts in Southeast Asia do not stop. Eight civilians were killed on April 13 in clashes between government forces and the Arakan Army in a village in the Burmese State of Rakhine, Myanmar. And a day before, on April 12, a homemade bomb went off near the customs office in the city of Muse in Shan state, damaging a building and a car without causing casualties. These are the most recent signs that the bloody conflicts continue, despite the appeal to global ceasefire launched by the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierres and officially supported by Pope Francis on March 29, in a moment when the world has to address the pandemic crisis.
In Southeast Asia, there was a mixed response. Tatmadaw, the Burmese army, sent back to the sender the proposal for a truce made by various Burmese civil society organizations and some guerrilla groups including Karen National Union, Karenni National Progressive Party, Ta'ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar Democratic Alliance Army and Arakan Army. The latter was recently declared a "terrorist organization", which is why the police arrested some journalists guilty of interviewing the group's spokesman. The army then ignored an appeal signed on April 1 by the European Union and 17 other embassies in Yangoon - including the American one - calling for and supporting the UN request for a truce. Finally, great concern regards the condition of the many displaced people in the refugee camps of Rakhine, possible outbreaks of contagion, where armed confrontation with air raids is underway.
In neighboring Thailand, the military ignored the unilateral announcement of a ceasefire in the south of the Country by the separatist guerrilla of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, which had announced a suspension of military activity in order to facilitate the response to Covid-19.
Even in the Philippines the situation remains precarious: in response to the UN appeal, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a truce until April 15 with the National Democratic Front, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the rebels welcomed the proposal; but already on March 29, Malacañang reported a ceasefire violation after a clash between rebels and soldiers in Barangay Puray in the municipal area of Rodriguez in the province of Rizal a few kilometers from Quezon City.
The "Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform" (PEPP) - which welcomes Catholic bishops and representatives of evangelical and Protestant churches - welcomed the bilateral truce, noting that "peace is extremely necessary in these difficult times", especially to adequately deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Christian religious leaders hope that "unilateral ceasefire declarations will be faithfully respected by each side", and express the hope that "the short ceasefire will allow both sides to reconsider the start of peace talks in the immediate future". (MG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/4/2020)