Angered by doctors’ support for anti-junta protests, Myanmar’s military has arrested several doctors independently treating COVID-19 patients, aides and media said, as the health system struggles to cope with a record wave of infections. fights for.
Since the military overthrew the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in February, ensuing turmoil and protests have thrown Myanmar’s COVID-19 response into chaos, as activists say in the civil disobedience movement Score of doctors have been arrested for their leading role.
Myanmar recorded more than 6,000 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday after reporting 286 deaths a day earlier, both record highs. Medics and funeral services say the real death toll is far higher, with crematoriums unable to keep pace.
To help those who either refuse to go to the state hospital because of opposition from the army, or find the hospitals too cramped for treatment, some doctors took to the telephone to participate in the anti-junta campaign. Gave free medical advice and in some cases visited the sick home.
But over the past few weeks, nine volunteer doctors offering tele-medicine and other services have been detained by the military in Yangon and Mandalay, Myanmar’s two largest cities, according to doctors and media reports.
The Army-led State Administration Council information team issued a statement denying reports that five doctors were arrested in Yangon, but omitted any reference to the alleged arrests in Mandalay, including those active in the civil disobedience movement. Doctors were involved.
All telephone calls from Reuters to a spokesman for military officials went unanswered.
A doctor, who asked anonymity for fear of being targeted by military officials, said four of his colleagues from the medical family – the Mandalay group – have been arrested.
These included Kyaw Kya Thet, who taught medical students, and senior surgeon Thet Htey, who said he was handcuffed and seen with bruises before being taken on July 16.
His group was set up over the telephone to advise virus victims on how to breathe, how to use oxygen concentrators, what drugs to buy and how to administer them.
“We are giving medical treatment to hundreds of patients every day,” the doctor said, adding that many more patients could have died if they were not taken care of.
Yangon media reports, which have been denied by military officials, said three doctors from a COVID-19 response group were arrested after being lured into the house by soldiers on the pretext of needing treatment. Authorities also denied a report in Myanmar News that security forces had arrested two doctors during a follow-up raid on their offices in Yangon’s northern Dagon district.
The National Unity Government, set up as a shadow body by the army’s opponents, and media reports also accused security forces of taking oxygen cylinders, protective clothing and medicine for their use during those raids.
‘Making Kovid-19 a weapon’
It was unclear why a doctor would have been detained, but the military has previously arrested medical workers for their specific support for the civil disobedience movement.
An activist group called the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has said that hundreds of doctors involved in anti-incumbency campaigns have been accused of spreading false news and 73 have been arrested.
The resulting shortage of staff in hospitals and clinics has further increased public distrust of the ruling Military Council.
A military spokesman last week urged people to cooperate with the government in overcoming the pandemic. And according to some doctors, the latest arrests may be an attempt to force people to trust military authorities more.
Denying alleged arrests in Yangon, the military administration cited information about COVID-19 patients being treated covertly and charging high prices or being directed to online treatment, it said. Saying that lives were being lost unnecessarily.
Yangi Lee, a former UN special envoy on human rights in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is now on an advisory council. He has accused the junta of “weaponizing COVID-19 for its political gains”.