Myanmar’s military regime has killed five doctors, arrested dozens of others, and driven hundreds more into hiding since it took over the elected government on Feb. 01, undermining the country’s fight against a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, doctors in the country told RFA.
Since the Feb. 01 coup, four doctors — Phyo Thant Wai, ThihaTun Tin, Sai Kwan Saing and Nyein Thu Aung — have died as a direct result of violence committed by the junta’s security forces during anti-coup protests.
A fifth doctor, Maung Maung Nyein Tun, a surgeon who had joined the anti-coup Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) was arrested by junta troops on June 13 and died Aug. 08 after contracting Covid-19 in prison.
The junta’s violent repression of anti-coup protests and professionals who walked off their jobs to support the CDM has killed at least 1,044 people and arresting 6,197 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
The AAPP has released a list of 45 arrested doctors and 416 doctors for whom arrest warrants had been issued through Aug. 30.
Doctors not already detained by the junta are on the run to avoid arrest warrants, even as the country struggles with increasing numbers of new Covid-19 cases.
Three doctors from Mandalay – Kyaw Kyaw Thet, Thet Htay, and the widow of Maung Maung Nyein Tun, Swe Zin Oo — were arrested in June and July. Sources told RFA that they are in prison and at least two of them have been infected with Covid-19.
Another Mandalay doctor who joined the CDM told RFA that being sent to prison during a pandemic is essentially the junta’s way of imposing a death sentence.
“In other words, they are being tortured and persecuted and killed indirectly. If people die in prison, the military can just put the blame on Covid. These are people that just have to die for opposing the junta. There is no proper treatment in the prisons,” said the second doctor, who requested anonymity to speak freely.
During the third wave of the pandemic, Myanmar’s cultural center and largest city Yangon has had a high mortality rate, but doctors there were not spared from arrests by the junta.
Members of the military disguised as Covid-19 patients on July 19 entered the temporary headquarters of the Covid-19 Prevention and Public Benefit Office in the city’s North Dagon township and arrested five doctors.
The junta announced days after the coup that people could get treatment for coronavirus at military hospitals, but when the third wave hit n July, civilians were denied military care unless they were part of a military family, sources told RFA.
The military has also arrested key people in Myanmar’s health sector, including Htar Htar Lin, the leader of the country’s Covid Vaccination Team, and Maw Maw Oo, chairman of the Myanmar Emergency Medical Association. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
According to statistics from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, Myanmar has confirmed 406,099 cases of the virus and 15,600 deaths as of Friday.
Doctors in Myanmar told RFA that deaths peaked when more than 1,000 people died on a single day in July, but the rate of infection has not dropped yet.
An AAPP researcher blames the high infection rate and death toll on the coup.
The New York-based PHR Physicians for Human Rights and CPHHR Johns Hopkins University Center for Public Health and Human Rights have reported at least 252 attacks on health workers by the junta since the Feb. 01 coup.
More than 190 health workers had been arrested in at least 86 hospital raids since the coup. Hospitals have been seized and occupied by the military at least 55 times, the two groups said in a report. (Source: RFA)