Myanmar Junta Continues to Block Medicines in Rakhine, Despite Ceasefire

By The Irrawaddy 8 December 2022

Despite the recent ceasefire between Myanmar’s regime and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State, the regime is still restricting deliveries of pharmaceuticals, according to medics.

Not only private clinics and pharmacies, but public hospitals and rural clinics run by the junta’s health ministry are affected by the restrictions.

A doctor at a rural hospital in northern Rakhine told The Irrawaddy: “We can’t dispense medicines. When we went to the Rakhine State health department last month to take the medicines allocated to our hospital, it said we couldn’t because the Naypyitaw authorities are yet to grant official permission.”

The regime has restricted the supply of medicines into Rakhine since September following renewed fighting with the AA in August.

Rakhine purchases the bulk of its medical supplies from Yangon.

The regime’s blockade of roads and waterways also made it difficult to deliver pharmaceuticals from the capital Sittwe to other townships.

Before that, pharmacies and drug companies in Rakhine had to seek approval from the junta-appointed Rakhine State security and border affairs minister to buy medicines from Yangon.

A doctor at a northern Rakhine State hospital said: “It has been months since some rural hospitals sought approval from the security and border affairs minister. Our hospital was granted permission to take out medicine from Rakhine health department last month. But first, we had to report the quantities, the vehicle license plate, the driver’s details and their route.”

But junta soldiers at security checkpoints would check each box and detain the vehicle or boat driver claiming there was extra cotton wool or something, the medic said.

The owner of a private clinic in Mrauk-U said: “The junta imposes restrictions on all types of medicines. It is more difficult to carry medicines than illegal narcotics. Sittwe pharmaceutical firms use different modes of transport and the prices have almost doubled because of rising transport charges.”

Ethnic Rakhine politician U Pe Than said: “It is an evil act to cut the supply of medicines and food. It is indirectly killing people. It is a war crime. The regime should relax restrictions to create some trust or fighting will break out again with the AA.”

On September 27, the regime arrested a rural doctor in Nga Pa Thone village, Myebon Township, while he was bringing pharmaceuticals to his clinic. He was released after weeks in detention. His boat driver remains in detention.

Junta troops in mid-October seized nine boats from Rathedaung, Ponnagyun and Pauktaw townships heading to Sittwe to buy food. All nine drivers are still in regime custody.