COVID-19 Rips Through Myanmar Military: Soldiers

By The Irrawaddy 27 July 2021

The State Administrative Council (SAC), the governing body of the military regime, has imposed a news blackout on COVID-19 deaths in the military, despite widespread infections.

The infected junior personnel and their families do not receive treatment at military hospitals until their conditions are serious. Until then they are ordered to isolate in their accommodation, said military personnel.

“Four cases have been found in my unit and many more are sick. [The commanders] do nothing for them. They were transferred to [military hospitals] only when they had difficulty breathing,” said a soldier from a battalion in Meiktila, Mandalay Region.

“But they received no treatment at hospitals. [Doctors] only tell them to stay strong. They had to buy medicine. They were tested after two weeks and discharged if they test negative,” he said.

Widespread coronavirus infections have been reported among battalions in Yangon.

Personnel and their families who have fever and no sense of smell are ordered to isolate in their quarters, said a soldier assigned to help patients in a military hospital in Yangon.

“There have been many infections in my unit. I am still clear but I haven’t returned to my family for more than three weeks because I am concerned about infecting them. We are sliding into chaos and I don’t want to work any longer,” he said.

COVID-19 infections have also been reported among senior military leaders. Deputy Home Affairs Minister and Police Chief Lieutenant-General Than Hlaing and his wife and the wife and son of Adjutant General Lt-Gen Myo Zaw Thein are reportedly receiving treatment at military hospitals for COVID-19.

Some units in Yangon, including the Yangon Command Headquarters, have reportedly been placed under lockdown.

More than 300 military personnel at an ordnance factory on the banks of the Pyay in Bago Region were infected with coronavirus and nine died last week. But the military regime only registered two deaths as COVID-19 fatalities, the independent media outlet Democratic Voice of Burma was told by “People’s Soldier”, a Facebook page run by striking military personnel.

Despite infections, personnel were forced to continue working at the factory, said the People’s Soldier.

Soldiers are seeking help from striking officers as the regime is unable to provide proper treatment for them, said Captain Nyi Thuta, who is on strike.

“Soldiers can do nothing. They are at the hands of the regime. Ordinary people can still look for oxygen but soldiers can’t go out and are helpless. They told me that they can do nothing but are waiting to be infected,” he said.

Though Myanmar’s military initially revealed the infections and deaths of its personnel and their families, it is now hiding the COVID-19 death toll.

In early July, coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said there was enough oxygen in Myanmar. Since then, cemeteries in Yangon have been overflowing with bodies from coronavirus deaths with most fatalities blamed on a lack of oxygen.

At least 10 military personnel and their relatives have been dying per day at a military hospital in Mandalay due to a shortage of oxygen and doctors, Myanmar Now reported on Sunday, quoting a military medic at the hospital.

Another military medic, Major Min Maung Maung, said: “Though they had made preparations, they can’t handle it when the pandemic broke out. I want to question what they are doing. They can neither control the virus in the military nor provide proper treatment for the people. They keep saying that they are addressing but it is untrue.”

There have also been widespread infections among police amid independent media reports of around 10,000 police officers infected with coronavirus nationwide.

Around 100 trainees caught COVID-19 at the training school of the Criminal Investigation Department in Yangon’s Insein Township in early July.

“The military leaders have no goodwill not only to the people or lower ranks. The other ranks are becoming more aware of that. It has become more obvious during the COVID-19 outbreak that they are being ignored. It has become clearer that not only the people but also the soldiers are suffering from the bad legacy of the dictators,” said Capt. Nyi Thuta.

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