Myanmar is gearing up for a crucial test of democracy, but it must pass other tests first

WION New Delhi, India Sep 15, 2020, 09.33 PM(IST) Edited By: Gravitas desk

File photo Photograph:( AFP )

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Polls in Myanmar are slated to begin on November 8, a crucial test for the country’s first democratic government in half a century

Polls in Myanmar are slated to begin on November 8, a crucial test for the country’s first democratic government in half a century. But the country has to first pass a different test - the coronavirus. In one month, deaths have tripled in Myanmar, infections have shot up by 700 per cent, and new infections are doubling every week.

Several members of state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi's office have tested positive, but the government has confirmed the leader is in "good health". Myanmar has one of the world's poorest healthcare systems. Hospitals in the Myanmar biggest city, Yangon, are overwhelmed.

Opposition parties want the election to be postponed. The people's pioneer party has called for a delay to allow the vote to be held "fairly and without chaos".

Also read: Casualties in Myanmar may represent war crimes: UN human rights chief

Local media reports say at least three other parties back the call. Commercial hub Yangon, capital Naypyidaw and conflict-stricken Rakhine state are all under lockdown. Neighbours China and Thailand are boosting security on shared borders to prevent the spread.

After detecting several new cases in the Chinese border city of Ruili, China announced a lockdown. Thailand has increased military presence on its border, and Myanmar is doing the same.

Myanmar has deployed over 2,500 additional troops near the Bangladesh border, in camps along the Rakhine and Chin states’ western border. The government says this is to suppress the Arakan army, which it calls a “terrorist group”. The deployment comes after two meetings last week.

Also read: Three years after exodus, Myanmar erases names of Rohingya villages. UN map makers follow suit

Bangladesh recently summoned Myanmar ambassador in Dhaka. Bangladesh fears a new round of killings and torture in Rakhine or Chin state, like they did in 2017. This could trigger another exodus. Myanmar is under the global scanner, the UNSC has urged it to ensure the participation of Rohingya in the election.