Former US Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson left Myanmar after completing a private humanitarian mission in which he sought to bolster the Southeast Asian country’s efforts to fight the pandemic of COVID-19 and facilitate the delivery of aid.
Richardson concluded his visit on Thursday as a detained US journalist was charged with a third charge that could see him in prison for several years.
“The primary focus of my discussions was to identify specific ways to expedite the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility in Myanmar and help mitigate a possible fourth wave of COVID-19,” a- he said, according to a statement released by the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.
COVAX is an international effort supported by the United Nations to standardize the global distribution of vaccines by providing doses to low- and middle-income countries. Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia.
During his visit, Richardson met with the head of Myanmar’s military government and other senior officials, members of the foreign diplomatic corps and representatives of the United Nations and other international organizations, the statement said.
He said he recommended a series of specific humanitarian measures – mainly to facilitate the delivery of aid to remote areas.
The situation was aggravated by the armed conflict that followed the army’s takeover in February, when it overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Opposition to the takeover has turned into an underground movement that some UN officials say could turn into a civil war.
Richardson, who also served as energy secretary and governor of New Mexico, “also encouraged Myanmar authorities to engage with UN and ASEAN special envoys, suggesting creative ways out. of the current impasse,” the statement said.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has sought to find a solution to the violent conflict, but Myanmar’s military leaders have not cooperated.
Richardson said he was able to secure the release of a woman, Aye Moe, from jail on Wednesday. Moe was working with his center.
The military-installed government has arrested more than 9,700 people on political grounds since it took power, although many have since been released.
Rights watch groups say at least 1,200 people have been killed since the February coup.
Daily protests against the military government continue across the country, as ethnic rebels in the north also battle with government troops.
Demonstrations in support of the KIA/PDF/NUG and against Myanmar’s military dictatorship continued today (4 November) in Hpakant, where the internet connection was cut.
— Burma Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) November 4, 2021
Richardson is known for his past efforts to secure the freedom of Americans detained in countries with which Washington has poor relations, such as North Korea.
His visit had raised hopes he might secure the release of US journalist Denny Fenster, who has been jailed for more than five months on political charges, but the statement did not mention his case.
A court on Wednesday denied Fenster’s bail request and added a new charge of violating immigration law, with a possible sentence of six months to five years in prison.
Fenster had previously been charged with incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information – an offense punishable by up to three years in prison, and for allegedly violating the Unlawful Associations Act for alleged ties with illegal opposition groups, which carries another two to three-year prison term.
The UN’s top humanitarian official in Myanmar, Andrew Kirkwood, said in late September that Myanmar’s “grave crisis” is the result of growing communal conflicts, the military’s overthrow of the country’s democratically elected government and the pandemic. of coronavirus, which had “a devastating effect”. third wave” of infections in recent months.
Myanmar’s per capita death rate was the worst in Southeast Asia for a week in July, when bodies were lined up outside overcrowded crematoriums.
Even before the surge, the country’s central health system was collapsing as the military attacked and drove underground many of the medical workers who were early opponents of the February takeover.
As of November 2, about 13.5 million of Myanmar’s approximately 55 million people had received at least one dose of the vaccine.