A colonel in the Myanmar military has admitted seizing 100 medical oxygen cylinders officially imported from Thailand by Yangon charities to treat COVID-19 patients.
Colonel Myo Min Naung, first member of the junta’s Administration Council in Karen State, ordered the life-saving oxygen to be seized as the cylinders were brought into Myanmar on Saturday via the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge No. 2 in Myawaddy, a border town in Karen State, eastern Myanmar.
The colonel subsequently denied confiscating the oxygen, telling junta-controlled newspapers that he had only borrowed them for emergency use.
“We have ordered 100 cylinders for Karen State and already paid for them. At first, it was not important when we get those cylinders. But, unfortunately, the oxygen plant in Mawlamyine, from where we were collecting oxygen for Karen State, broke down. So I decided to take those 100 cylinders for hospitals and COVID-19 centers that need them urgently,” he said.
However, those at the scene said junta forces acted in a threatening way, displaying their weapons as they took the oxygen cylinders, while using COVID-19 patients in Karen State as an excuse. The junta troops took the cylinders despite an intervention from Major Mote Thone of the Karen State Border Guard Force based in Myawaddy.
On Saturday evening, military regime forces handed 800,000 Thai Baht (around 40 million kyats) to the importer of oxygen cylinders as a guarantee that they would return the cylinders to him.
Minister U Aung Naing Oo of the junta-controlled Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations has intervened in the case, but the 100 oxygen cylinders have not yet been returned.
The Irrawaddy was unable to contact Colonel Myo Min Naung for comment.
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