Laos Records Second COVID-19 Death as Number of Infections Balloons

Cambodia and Vietnam also struggle with spreading outbreaks, but Phnom Penh boasts two million people vaccinated.

Laos Records Second COVID-19 Death as Number of Infections Balloons

Laos has recorded its second death and first Laotian victim from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus pandemic, while the number of infections in the country grew to nearly 1,500, according to health officials.

Rathsamee Vongkhamsao, deputy director of the Infectious Diseases Department under the Ministry of Health announced the latest death during a press briefing Thursday, adding that “of 1,200 samples collected, 16 more people were found to be infected with COVID-19,” one of whom is from the capital Vientiane, and the other 15 from Champassak province, which borders Thailand and Cambodia.

According to Rathsamee, the country’s second victim of COVID-19 was a 29-year-old Laotian man who “had a history of visiting entertainment venues” before the country went into a coronavirus lockdown and did not learn that he was sick until he went to a military hospital because of chest congestion on May 10. At that point, he said, the case was too advanced, and the young man died within two to three days.

A physician who observed the man at the hospital said that he had a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses he was unaware of before seeking treatment. Efforts by RFA’s Lao Service to reach the man’s family went unanswered on Friday.

BouaThep Phoumin, another deputy director of the Infectious Diseases Department under the Ministry of Health, called the man part of a “high-risk group of young people who are prone to infection with COVID-19.” He said that the victim had visited a popular nightclub on the same night that a young woman identified as COVID-19 Patient #59 was there.

An official from the Special COVID-19 Protection Unit in Vientiane municipality urged anyone who had been in close contact with the man or his family members to get tested for the disease.

The young man’s death comes days after Laos recorded its first victim of COVID-19—a 53-year-old Vietnamese woman living in Vientiane’s Xaysettha district who was admitted to the hospital with symptoms on April 30 and died on May 9.

While the coronavirus also made few inroads into landlocked Laos in 2020, the country of around 7.2 million has seen its economy battered by a series of lockdowns meant to stem the spread of the virus.

Vaccination drive in Cambodia

In neighboring Cambodia, which was also largely spared by the coronavirus last year, the situation has become increasingly dire in the aftermath of a February outbreak that led to the country’s first COVID-19 death the following month and has ballooned in recent weeks.

On Friday, Cambodia’s Ministry of Health reported five more deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll from the disease to 147. The number of infections in the country of 16.5 million surpassed 21,100 after more than 400 new cases were identified, the ministry said.

The drastic rise in cases prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen last month to lock down several so-called “red zones” in the capital Phnom Penh, residents of which have been confined to their homes for weeks without work or the ability to go out to make purchases needed to feed their families.

Nonetheless, Cambodia announced that health workers had administered two million doses of the coronavirus vaccine as of Friday, reaching nearly 20 percent of the country’s goal of inoculating 10 million people by year-end.

Industrial parks and hospitals in Vietnam

In Vietnam, authorities announced 104 new cases of the coronavirus overnight, bringing the total number of infections to 787 since health workers began struggling to contain a fourth major outbreak that was first discovered on April 27.

At least 133 infections were detected at industrial parks during the latest outbreak, prompting concern amongst factory workers, but officials have noted that the spread of the coronavirus has occurred at an even faster rate at some local hospitals. The Ministry of Health said a total of 363 local transmission cases were reported at the Dong Anh facility of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the Tan Trieu facility of the National Cancer Hospital in Hanoi alone.

Since January 2020, when the country registered its first case of COVID-19, Vietnam has identified 3,816 infections within its borders.

Reported by RFA’s Lao service, Khmer Service, and Vietnamese Service. Translated by Sidney Khotpanya, Samean Yun, and Chau Vu. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Interview: Every Soldier ‘Knows What They Are Doing is Wrong’

Privates Myo Min Tun and Phyo Wai Oo defected from Myanmar’s army to join the resistance against the junta.

Interview: Every Soldier ‘Knows What They Are Doing is Wrong’

Myo Min Tun and Phyo Wai Oo, both privates in Myanmar’s army, met while in the same basic training unit five years ago. The two ethnic Shan soldiers were then assigned to the Special Construction Operations Command Headquarters in the capital Naypyidaw and became close friends. Myo Min Tun, 40, and Phyo Wai Oo, 26, are members of ethnic Shan minority groups. They joined the army to protect the people of Myanmar, but Phyo Wai Oo said that armed conflicts with ethnic minorities bothered him, so when the military ousted the country’s democratically elected government on Feb. 1, the two friends decided to defect to an undisclosed region of Shan state in eastern Myanmar. Washington, D.C.-based RFA Myanmar Service reporter Khin Maung Soe conducted a telephone interview with the two soldiers, who said they planned to join the People’s Defense Force (PDF), a military organization which the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) hopes will grow to eventually be able to resist the junta by force. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

RFA: Why did you decide to defect?

Myo Min Tun: Since the military coup, I felt very upset when I saw all that was happening. I felt so sorry… especially when the military was treating civilians like that. It got to be worse and worse, so I contacted some people to join the Civil Disobedience Movement. We will work together with the people to overthrow the dictatorship.

Phyo Wai Oo: I don't like the military. Because I come from an ethnic area near the border, I have a different opinion on things. I thought that things would be fine if I could just make it to retirement…but I did not support the coup. What good is it if the people die? I do not like the army shooting at people protesting. When the death toll rose higher and higher, my thinking [about staying until retirement] changed. I felt very bad. 

RFA: Are most soldiers aware of the scope of what is happening? Do they know the extent of the violence and bloodshed?

Myo Min Tun: We did not know much about what was going on. We cannot use the internet in our units. We were not allowed to go out anymore, so we could not use the internet in nearby areas. Some said they had internet in Naypyidaw. I was closely following current events until the lines were shut down.

Phyo Wai Oo: At first, I was still able to watch the news when the internet was only partly shut down during the night. When wireless internet was cut off, we could not follow the news anymore. We learned about the first death in Naypyidaw when Mya Thwei Thwei Khine was killed. Later I heard about the killings in Mandalay. We last heard there were about a hundred deaths, and we only now found out that it was more than 800. I called home and learned from friends who are participating in the protests.”

RFA: What do you know about the wealth of coup leader Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders?

Phyo Wai Oo: We saw reports about their backgrounds recently. We found out that their daughters owned hospitals. I knew they were rich, but I didn't know what they own. We only found out from online reports recently how much they own and how rich they are. How could he own that much with an official [monthly] salary of 5 million kyat [U.S $3211.12]? Even if he were to starve himself for a whole month there’s no way he could be so wealthy on that salary.

RFA: Are there others in the military who want to defect?

Phyo Wai Oo: Most soldiers feel the same way I do. There are some people who cannot leave even though they know things are so bad, because they have families and they have to stay because you cannot leave as a family. Many are aware of what is going on though. Everyone knows that what they are doing is wrong. There are so many just waiting for an opportunity to leave, but it is too difficult for this right now.

RFA: How were the two of you able to defect?

Phyo Wai Oo We had been trying to leave for a long time but we did not get the opportunity. We had no money. We had to wait until the end of the month and soon after getting our salary we left by motorcycle as if we were out shipping to some small villages nearby. We used to go shopping there before.

RFA: What will you do next?

Phyo Wai Oo: “I would like to join the PDF if the opportunity comes. That is what we decided to do when we left.

RFA: What do you think lies in store for the future of Myanmar?

Phyo Wai Oo: This coup is an opportunity for the people. Simply put, they are giving the people a chance to overthrow the dictatorship. The people should take advantage of this opportunity. I just want to say that this is the time when we can get rid of it completely. Additionally, I am very happy that people from the majority are sympathetic to the lives of the ethnic minorities. In the past they did not realize that murders and rapes were happening in the mountains. Now the majority is sympathetic to ethnic minorities because it is now, they too that are being shot, arrested and tortured. Now we are all one.

Reported by Khin Maung Soe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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