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COVID, Military Coup Pushing Half of Myanmar Into Poverty, UN Reports

By VOA News April 30, 2021

The political fallout from the military coup in Myanmar and the coronavirus pandemic threaten to push half of the country's population into poverty by next year, the United Nations warned Friday.

The U.N. Development Program said in a report that up to 25 million people could be forced into poverty by early 2022 as businesses remain closed during clashes between the junta and anti-government protesters.

"COVID-19 and the ongoing political crisis are compounding shocks which are pushing the most vulnerable back and more deeply into poverty," U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Kanni Wignaraja told Reuters.

In an interview with Associated Press, Wignaraja said, "The hardest hit will be poor urban populations and the worst affected will be female heads of households."

The report said 83% of all households in Myanmar reported their incomes were nearly cut in half because of the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. It also reported the pandemic's impact has resulted in an 11% increase in the number of people living below the poverty line, a rate it said could increase another 12% by early next year.

Protests against the military coup have continued daily despite the threat of violence from authorities. A flash mob protest took place Friday in the country's largest city of Yangon, with chanting banner-carrying demonstrators taking to the streets in heavy rain.

Myanmar's military government seized power on February 1. In a campaign to quell the protests, the government has killed at least 759 anti-coup protestors and bystanders since the takeover, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which tracks casualties and arrests.

When the military removed Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy government, it detained Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and imposed martial law across Myanmar.

Suu Kyi led Myanmar since its first open democratic election in 2015, but Myanmar's military contested last November's election results, claiming widespread electoral fraud, largely without evidence.



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