Myanmar Medics in Hiding as Regime Targets Hospital-Led Disobedience Movement

By The Irrawaddy 19 February 2021

YANGON—Hundreds of doctors and nurses participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against the military regime are now in hiding, as authorities have sought to arrest them since last week.

In the three weeks since the military seized power from the democratically elected government, the movement initiated by Myanmar healthcare workers has gained momentum, with thousands of civil servants from various sectors joining millions of anti-coup protesters nationwide.

The movement has halted operations at many government departments across Myanmar as staff refuse to work for the military regime. The coup leaders have repeatedly warned civil servants taking part in the CDM to get back to work and have threatened to take action against those who fail to do so.

Police and soldiers have increased their attempts to arrest doctors and government staff who participate in or support the movement. Dr. Pyae Phyo Naing, who works at a hospital in Ayeyarwady Region’s Ingapu Township, was arrested by police on Feb. 11. At the time of his arrest he was treating patients at his philanthropic clinic amid the closure of government hospitals; his family has heard nothing of his whereabouts since.

Many other doctors have managed to evade arrest, however.

Three of Ingapu Township’s four hospitals are currently closed after the doctors joined the CDM and went on strike.

Attempts by men and women in plainclothes, claiming to be police, to take away doctors who have participated in the CDM have also been reported in Mandalay, Magwe and Naypyitaw regions and Shan State, but their attempts failed after local residents intervened.

On Thursday, police in plainclothes tried to arrest Dr. Win Marlar Kyi, assistant director of the Naypyitaw Medical Services Department in Pobba Thiri Township. But as they did not provide any reason or declare their identities, the community did not let them take the doctor.

A doctor in Mandalay, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy that so far, no doctors there had been detained, though police were surveilling them, as they are all taking part in the CDM.

The doctor—a member of the CDM support team in Mandalay who is now in hiding—said several medical specialists are now giving free treatment to patients from government hospitals at private clinics.

Asked to comment on the regime’s crackdown on the CDM, the doctor said, “I dare to say that the more pressure they [the military regime] put on us, the greater the response they will face.”

According to doctors from the Naypyitaw 1,000-Bed Government Hospital, around 150 doctors and nurses who are taking part in the CDM left the staff housing there under pressure from the medical superintendent of the hospital, and after several police and military troops were deployed in the hospital’s compound.

Dr. Lynn Letyar, a surgeon at the Lashio 500-Bed General Hospital in northern Shan State, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that most doctors from the hospital returned to their homes, fearing they would be arrested if they were seen in public.

Initially, doctors provided free treatment at their private clinics for patients with the hospital’s medical records, as around two-thirds of the Lashio hospital’s medical staff went on strike in solidarity with the CDM.

The surgeon, who has been under police surveillance and is now in hiding, said doctors and nurses would continue the movement despite the arrests.

At 12 a.m. last Friday, Mandalay police raided the home of Professor Dr. Khin Maung Lwin, the rector of Mandalay University of Medicine, without a warrant, on suspicion of supporting the movement. However, the police retreated after residents appeared in the street, banging pots and pans and shielding the professor from arrest.

On the same night, police had to abandon their attempts to arrest the medical superintendent of Aunglan Hospital in Magwe Region over the hospital’s support for the disobedience movement after residents immediately appeared in front of the hospital.

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