August 6, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers Myanmar updates, repression from Belarus, a Bolivian lake, and the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
This week, fighters from Ethiopia’s Tigray region gained control over a UN World Heritage Site in the neighboring region of Amhara. Lalibela, known as the “Jerusalem of Ethiopia,” contains 11 medieval churches carved out of a rock face. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians consider the churches to be a holy site. While the United States called on the Tigrayan fighters to protect the sacred site, the Ethiopian government warned that further expansion into Amhara and neighboring regions would be cause for fresh fighting. Last week, the United States announced its intention to deliver $149 million in humanitarian aid to the Tigray region. Nearly 400,000 people in Tigray are currently enduring famine-like conditions as the conflict continues. In recent weeks, the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has emboldened Taliban fighters to launch an aggressive offensive campaign. The Taliban hold more territory now than at any point in time during the twenty-year war since the initial American invasion in 2001. Although much of the country remains contested or under control of the Afghan government, Taliban militants are gaining ground in rural provinces and some major cities like Kunduz, Herat and Kandahar. The US has increased airstrikes in recent weeks with the intent to slow the Taliban’s momentum as the Afghan security forces prepare to fully take over the war effort.
The known total of global Covid-19 infections has surpassed 200 million on Wednesday. Alongside this, the World Health Organization called for a temporary delay on booster shots until the end of September, so that vaccine supplies can be sent to other countries. With a goal of helping all countries vaccinate at least 10% of their population, The WHO has shifted their attention to the wealthiest nations. According to director general of The Who Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of more than four billion vaccine doses administered around the world, more than 80% have been used in high and upper-middle-income countries. With the rise of the Delta variant, cities across the world are beginning to impose strict lockdowns and regulations. Sydney, Australia is scheduled to be under lockdown until at least August 28th. In an attempt to avoid another lockdown, Israel has reinstated mask wearing requirements, a shift to work-from-home policy. Other regulations popping up across cities include vaccination mandates for certain job fields and proof of vaccination to travel and enter restaurants or entertainment venues. In other news, monthly shipments of vaccines acquired by the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AU) has begun this week to all AU member states. A total of 6.4 million Johnson and Johnson vaccines will be distributed throughout August. Monthly shipments will continue with a target to deliver around 50 million vaccines by the end of the year. Following a concerning fourth wave of infections and deaths, Africa has begun to see a small dip. Africa and Europe have witnessed a two percent decrease in COVID-19 deaths, according to WHO’s COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update. South-East Asia, on the other hand, has seen a three percent increase, according to the same update. On Wednesday, Indonesia recorded a total of more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19. Due to distribution issues and infrastructure, only 8% of the population is fully vaccinated. Alongside mitigation efforts, the Thai government has opened its mass vaccination campaign to the general public to anyone 18 or over, including foreign residents. By the end of the month, the government plans to have 80% of Bangkok residents vaccinated. Bangkok and 28 other cities have been recently labeled as “dark red” provinces, facing heavy infection rates and rising regulations. Numerous businesses are closed until the end of August and a new ban on mass gathering has just been issued this week, discussed further in Thailand’s section in CANVAS’ Weekly Report.
With Sunday marking six months since the military took power from civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s military leader declared himself the prime minister of the new “caretaker government”. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing also announced a state of emergency for the next two years and promised elections by August 2023, citing the need to “make preparations” beforehand. Pro-democracy militia have reported finding about 40 dead bodies in Myanmar’s jungles over the past few weeks. The bodies, some showing signs of torture, were found around Kani, a town in the Sagaing area, which has been a hotspot for violence between anti and pro-junta militias. The opposition militia and Myanmar’s UN envoy, Kyaw Moe Tun, believe the murders are extrajudicial killings by Myanmar’s junta and have labeled the event a massacre. Kyaw Moe Tun represents Myanmar’s elected civilian government and has refused to leave his UN post since the coup. He declared in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the killings are “clearly amounting to crimes against humanity”. In his letter, Kyaw Moe Tun also pleaded for humanitarian aid to Myanmar. According to the Association of Political Prisoners, military-controlled security forces have killed over 946 people since the coup in February. The junta denies this statistic as well as the claims of a massacre in Kani. On Friday, the military announced they will grant amnesty to activists currently on the run from the junta, as long as they turn themselves in. Many in hiding responded with skepticism and plan to remain hidden, as they have no reason to trust the junta’s word.