Myanmar Junta Charges 100 Healthcare Pros for Work Stoppage Protests
2021-04-19 -- Myanmar's military junta has charged more than 100 healthcare workers for their refusal to return to government hospitals in protest of the military's violent crackdown on dissent over the Feb 1. coup, sources in the country told RFA.
For taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), the junta charged the healthcare professionals, including experienced doctors and specialists, with violating Section 505 (A) of Myanmar's penal code for spreading dissent against the military.
Tens of thousands of physicians nationwide are participating in the CDM nationwide, with many still providing care to the people through unofficial channels.
"As doctors, we want to provide medical treatment to the sick. We have gone through many years of schooling to study to become doctors," a doctor facing charges for her participation in the CDM told RFA's Myanmar Service.
"The military's arrests of doctors make it impossible for us to continue working. What has happened is unacceptable from any point of view, whether it is from a medical or human rights standpoint," she said.
The doctor, who requested anonymity for security reasons, worked at the 500-bed hospital in the western city of Sittwe. She is currently in hiding to avoid arrest and has been providing medical advice over the phone since refusing to work in the government-run facility.
Tay Za San, a medical doctor and protest leader in Myanmar's second-largest city Mandalay, told RFA that the doctors' refusal to work was a means to treat the country itself.
"We are not sitting at home. Doctors and other medical personnel are joining in anti-military protest movements and helping people who need medical treatment from wherever we can," Tay Za San said
"They have even joined protesters on the ground and picked up the bodies of those killed an injured. We are not just sitting at home relaxing," he said.
Myanmar has about 30,000 physicians, approximately 20,000 of whom work in government hospitals. Of those, an estimated 75 percent are participants in the CDM movement.
The junta has arrested more than 30 medical doctors for their involvement in the CDM. The military has killed four healthcare workers including a medical student.
A physician from the country's largest city Yangon told RFA on condition of anonymity that the junta's security forces have opened fire on hospitals and threatened medical personnel with weapons.
"We were forced at gunpoint to write false reports. For example, there was a protester on a motorcycle who they shot and killed, we were forced to write a death certificate that said he was killed in a motorcycle accident," the physician said.
"For a man whose ribs were broken in brutal beatings, we were forced to write a report that said he broke his ribs by falling off a ladder," said the physician.
Among the 100 with arrest warrants are doctors from a 1,000-bed hospital in the captial Naypyidaw's Zabuthiri township who gave medical treatment to the first protester shot by security forces following the coup, Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing.
Police shot her in the head on Feb. 19 while she took part in protests. She died in the hospital later. Though the junta said of the incident that it had fired only rubber bullets, the medical team at the hospital said her injuries were from live ammunition.
Some medical personnel face punishment for refusing to treat patients loyal to the military. A pediatrician who requested anonymity told RFA that authorities arrested him for refusing to treat the child o fa police officer.
Another doctor from Mandalay told RFA that the military is reporting incorrectly that hospitals are reopening.
"Hospitals have not yet been reopened. The military is just saying they are, but they are not. No doctors are showing up and no patients are being seen," the Mandalay doctor said.
But in parts of the country some medical staff have returned to work.
Yangon General has resumed operations according to sources close to the hospital, but Mandalay General has not reopened. The State Administration Council (SAC) has threatened to suspend licenses of doctors found giving treatment at private hospitals.
A Yangon resident told RFA the shortage of doctors in government hospitals has driving up the price of treatment in private hospitals.
"They say the people can go to military hospitals, but no one does. Only those who support the military go there. Everyone else goes to private hospitals, but those who can't afford it just take medicine at home," the resident said.
A Mandalay-based physician, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said military hospitals offer sub-par treatment.
"The qualifications of the doctors at the military hospitals are not as good as the ones in public hospitals. The people do not want to go to the military hospitals," he said.
Another doctor in Yangon said there were not even enough medical staff in hospitals to ensure that certain vaccines were kept properly.
"Measles and polio vaccinations have all stopped and we do not know when they can be restarted. The military has also confiscated all the COVID-19 vaccines, and no one can say whether these are still effective. One could say that the health system is totally down," said the Yangon doctor.
Despite junta threats and pressure, medical personnel involved in the CDM have declared that they will not return to work until a popularly elected civilian government returns to power.
At least one person was killed and several others were injured across the country between Sunday evening and Monday Morning.
In the Mandalay region, security forces shot and killed 20-year-old Thein Min Soe in the city of Myingyan.
Sources told RFA that hospital officials reached out to a local aid group to retrieve Thein Min Soe's body, saying that he had been shot by the military. RFA was not able to independently confirm how he was shot and killed.
A man who declined to be named told RFA that he witnessed some of the day's violence in Myingyan.
"Two more were wounded this morning. We were able to rescue one but there was no chance to get the other, so I don't know his condition," the man said.
"There are police and soldiers at every corner, and no one dares to leave their houses. The situation is very bad. In Ward 6, they are now searching house to house," he said.
Residents said the army and police injured two others when they opened fire at some youth who were trying to rebuild barricades that had been removed by the army and police overnight.
As of Monday afternoon, security forces were removing barricades in Myingyan's Wards 3 and 4.
"Soldiers and police fired at random. They also started a fire that destroyed a house and four motorcycles parked there," a resident who saw the barricade removal operation told RFA.
Security forces injured two more men Sunday night as they cleared the barricades. Two more were injured Monday, bringing the total to six injured by shooting over a 24-hour period.
One of the wounded was rushed to Mandalay city at 11 a.m. Sunday and the rest were undergoing treatment in Myingyan, a local resident said.
The army and police also raided security cameras installed in some homes. Since the coup began Feb. 1, at least 23 Myingyan residents have been killed while protesting.
Meanwhile, the Ward Administration Office on Khine Shwewah Road in Ward No 10 (South) of Thaketa Township, Yangon, caught fire at around 1 p.m. Monday. The fire was put out by locals and did not spread to nearby houses. Its cause is currently unknown.
In Yangon's Insein township Monday, security forces arrested 14 youth.
A witness told RFA, "we were taking a rest from the protest when military and police vehicles arrived from both ends of the road and arrested them. There must have been about 40. I didn't see much violence but 14 got nabbed."
As of Monday evening, the arrested youth were still at the Insein police station, sources said.
Police in Mandalay arrested 10 youths after crashing into their motorcycles in unmarked cars. Among the 10 were students from the All-Burma Federation of Students' Unions (ABFSU).
The arrests occurred at about 8 p.m. Monday following a protest march that went smoothly earlier in the day involving 400 people.
In Mohnyin, Kachin State, two youths were arrested at around 9:30 a.m. Monday for protesting against the military council.
"The authorities were already there in civilian clothes when we started the protests. One of the leading girls was arrested during the melee and we don't know where she is being held now," said a leader in the Mohnyin protest.
RFA was able to confirm the identities of the two as Myat Noe Wai, a senior math major at Myitkyina University, and protest leader Kyaw Myint Tun.
Since the Feb 1. coup, three residents of Mohnyin have been killed and 60 have been arrested.
Arrest warrants have been issued for 12 students from the Mohnyin University Students Union and Mohnyin Technology University Students Union, two protest leaders and a freelance journalist. All are charged with Section 505 (a) for defamation of the military.
In Mogok, Mandalay, police Sunday arrested Sai Wunna, a member of the Ta'ang Literary and Cultural Association, at around 10 p.m. in connection with anti-military protests, residents said.
Monday Morning, security forces searched for Aung Chan Thar Ward Administrator U Byar Lay, who had joined the CDM. They arrested his daughter Mary Oo when they could not find him.
Residents also said Aung Thein, a town elder, and his son, Joshua, were also arrested. Two people were killed, and seven others were injured in the violence in Mogok on Saturday, April 17.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Thailand-based Myanmar NGO, says that as of Monday, 738 people have been killed and a 3,261 people have been detained by the military regime.
Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Whong.
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