The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) released a statement this week restricting outsiders from entering its territory through the end of the month as part of the armed group’s effort to control the spread of COVID-19.
The six-point statement was published on October 5, and reminded political parties campaigning ahead of the November 8 general election to follow the health guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) during their interactions with the public in villages in Shan State.
“COVID-19 infections are speeding up,” RCSS spokesperson Lt-Col Oum Khur told SHAN. “[Political parties] have to consider the health of local people. They can also launch online election campaigns.”
According to the RCSS restrictions, locals are not allowed to travel to communities outside of their home villages except in cases of emergency, and people from other areas are not allowed to enter RCSS territory.
Sai Lon, a parliamentarian from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy representing Mong Kung Township, told SHAN that they have kept the RCSS up to date of his party’s campaign plans.
“The RCSS released a statement and suggested political parties report it to them before we launch election campaigns [in their territory]. Therefore, we informed them and launched our election campaign in Mong Kung. We haven’t launched an online election campaign,” he explained.
The Ta’ang National Party (TNP) has said that online campaigning is not an option for them, because the technological infrastructure necessary does not exist in many Ta’ang communities.
“There is no phone or internet service in some areas, so it’s really difficult to launch an online election campaign,” Mai Noom Harn, chairperson for the TNP in Mong Kung, said. “In addition to this, some villagers cannot read or write.”
The RCSS, which has established its own multi-level COVID-19 response committee, has said that the organization would cooperate with the government, military and civil society to control the spread of COVID-19.
As of October 8, the MoHS had confirmed 21,433 cases of the coronavirus in Burma, along with 510 deaths and 6,084 recoveries.