BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – ASEAN has managed to raise US$10 million in relief funds and medical supplies for crisis-hit Myanmar, with delivery expected to take place in batches over the next two months.

US$1.1 million in humanitarian assistance was already handed over to the Myanmar Red Cross on September 15, ASEAN’s secretary-general Dato Lim Jock Hoi said on Friday.

Items in this batch were donated by the governments of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, and Temasek Foundation International, and will be used to provide immediate support for Myanmar’s COVID-19 response.

He added that preparation is also underway for the second batch of aid later this month, with a third delivery following in November.

FILE PHOTO: Secretary General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi arrives at the ASEM leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium on Oct 18, 2018. Photo: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters

Speaking at a virtual dialogue hosted by the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, Dato Jock Hoi said a pledging conference was held on August 18 to raise funds from ASEAN member states and its dialogue partners.

A total of US$8 million was raised initially, with a further US$2 million pledged after the conference. The donations comprise cash, medical equipment and supplies, including COVID-19 vaccines.

The items will be delivered to Myanmar hospitals where the Red Cross operates.

“In order to effectively carry out this plan, ASEAN cannot work alone. ASEAN must work constructively and in a practical manner with our partners,” the secretary-general said.

“Myanmar has suffered from a third wave of COVID-19 and we need to help them. And this assistance is very important in terms of medical supplies, as well as vaccines.”

Long queues for burial are seen at the Kyisu Cemetery in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Myanmar Pressphoto Agency via Reporting ASEAN

Humanitarian assistance from international NGOs and UN agencies is struggling to reach the areas where it is most needed due to the deteriorating security situation since the army’s February 1 coup.

Clashes between security forces and opponents of the military regime have already claimed 1,100 lives.

Existing aid programmes in Myanmar are also experiencing significant funding gaps, with many western countries redirecting aid away from the military-run government.

The UN said its 2021 Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan received only 46 percent of requested funds to date.

A group of women hold torches as they protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on July 14, 2021. Photo: Reuters

During the dialogue, the secretary-general did not address the junta’s unwillingness to call a ceasefire with its opponents, a move that would facilitate the safe delivery of aid.

Dato Jock Hoi said it was important to not politicise ASEAN’s humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, so that aid can reach affected communities without impediment.

He added that everyone in Myanmar, irrespective of political affiliation, should be able to access humanitarian relief.

Earlier this week, ASEAN countries voiced their deep disappointment over the junta’s failure to live up to an agreed roadmap to restore peace, saying they may bar Myanmar from the upcoming leaders’ summit.

“We want to see Myanmar be stable because they are part of ASEAN, and an unstable Myanmar has implications for ASEAN,” the secretary-general said.

“I think a peaceful resolution to the current situation rests on the people in Myanmar… Of course we can help them. But [a resolution] won’t be reached overnight, it will take some time.”