Myanmar’s military junta detained five striking health workers from Mandalay on Saturday for allegedly supplying medicines to People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) fighting the regime.
Those detained were U Min Zaw Oo, who teaches in the Surgical Department of Mandalay’s University of Medicine, midwife Ma Poe Thant Aung, and nurses Ma Zin Mar Win from Mandalay General Hospital and Ma Kyi Thadar Phyu and Ma Yun Nandar Aung from the 300-bed teaching hospital.
They were arrested after junta troops acting on a tip seized a six-wheeled vehicle carrying pharmaceutical supplies heading to Sagaing, a hotbed of the armed resistance movement.
The regime said the instructor, midwife and two nurses from the teaching hospital joined the civil disobedience movement (CDM) shortly after the coup. It said they had been providing healthcare services for PDFs in Chin State and Sagaing Region, as well as training in first aid, and supplies of medicines and food.
Nurse Ma Zin Mar Win was also supplying PDFs in Htilin Township, Sagaing, the junta said.
The regime also detained three staff of the Shwe Metta long-distance bus service, accusing them of arranging transportation of medical supplies to PDFs.
More than 160 packages of medical supplies and other consumer goods were seized from the vehicle.
It is not yet known what the detainees have been charged with. But the regime said it would pay a large reward for information leading to the arrest of their accomplices.
Forty-six anti-regime health workers have been killed and more than 580 detained or imprisoned, according to the August report of the parallel National Unity Government’s Health Ministry.
Health workers were among the first to take to the streets in demonstrations against last year’s coup, and were also the first to come out on strike. Health workers from public hospitals across the country have joined anti-coup protests and some hospitals have even hung signs declaring they are CDM hospitals.
In the wake of the coup, more than 60,000 of the country’s 110,000 medical workforce including doctors, nurses and pharmacists joined the CDM. The mass strike brought an already understaffed health sector close to collapse.