19 April 2022

Reunion with Burmese colleagues


For over two years, the Corona pandemic has hampered our project work in Myanmar. Then, more than a year ago, the military coup in Myanmar completely isolated the country. Our help could only take place digitally. Now, finally, there was a reunion in Bangkok, Thailand, between Dr. Veronika Hofmann and Michael Kneis and the Burmese project leaders Thang Min Len and Su Myat OO.

The German gynaecologist Dr Beate Vollmer was the last person to be deployed to the Irrawaddy River Doctors mission. However, she had to break it off involuntarily due to the rapidly spreading Corona pandemic. We were hopeful that once the pandemic was contained, missions would soon be possible again and so planning for 2021 was started with confidence.

However, on 1 February 2022, the generals in Myanmar couped their way to power. Since then, the country has descended into chaos - over 1500 people have been killed and the UN estimates that over 9000 people remain in custody. Even today, more than a year after the coup, the situation has hardly eased: A state of emergency is still in place and the people are oppressed by the rulers - the junta. Protests are violently suppressed and the ousted head of government and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was given another prison sentence in January. The politically extremely tense situation was compounded by further corona outbreaks, and entry was impossible for foreigners for a long time.

Travel warnings remain in place for the country and entry for foreigners is currently only possible in exceptional cases after a case-by-case decision by the Burmese authorities. Until further notice, entry visas will only be issued in urgent exceptional cases. In addition, every traveller must complete a five-day quarantine in a government-designated hotel.

Nach langen Überlegungen wurde daher ein Treffen in Bangkok im benachbarten Thailand geplant, um insbesondere ein Ultraschallgerät für das neu eröffnete Mutter-Kind-Zentrum in Bogale sowie weitere Materialien, die in Myanmar nicht erhältlich sind, zu übergeben.  Die Wiedersehensfreude war auf beiden Seiten riesengroß und auch wenn der Kontakt auf digitalem Weg nie abgerissen ist, so kann doch nichts ein persönliches Gespräch ersetzen. Gestärkt, mit neuen Plänen und mit viel neuer Energie sind die Parteien wieder zurück in ihre Länder gereist – zuversichtlich, dass ein baldiges Wiedersehen auch in Myanmar möglich sein wird.

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