Myanmar’s Rescue Workers, Medical Volunteers Targeted by Security Forces

By The Irrawaddy 4 March 2021

YANGON—Rescue workers and social welfare organizations delivering humanitarian services to wounded anti-coup protesters in Myanmar have been attacked and arrested by the military regime.

Four volunteers of Mon Myat Sate Htar charity group who assisted protesters and residents shot by security forces in North Okkalapa in Yangon were arrested on Wednesday, the group’s chairman U Hla Kyaing told The Irrawaddy.

Video footage of the arrest shows the police kicking the heads of the crew members and beating them with the butts of their rifles. The ambulance the members were using was also destroyed by police.

U Hla Kyaing said the group heard the detained members had been taken to Insein prison, but was still confirming their whereabouts.

“It is a really depressing situation. They were arrested on their way to assist more wounded patients; they were trying to send them to clinics to receive timely treatment,” he continued. North Okkalapa saw the highest death toll on Wednesday.

So far, at least 15 deaths have been confirmed by The Irrawaddy. Locals reported the deaths could be higher—up to 32—and around 80 were seriously injured, many of them shot while attempting to carry and save the gunshot victims.

Red Cross volunteers carry a wounded person in Mandalay during a violent crackdown on an anti-coup protest. / The Irrawaddy

Two volunteers from the We Love Yangon-North Okkalapa Branch were also briefly detained on Wednesday while they were helping wounded persons. A member of the group said the detained members were beaten and one of them was shot in the thigh at close range and forced to kneel for more than an hour before their release. The ambulance they had with them at that time was also shot at.

Later the pair were released along with two other seriously wounded protesters.

At 12 a.m. Thursday, the office of the Free Funeral Service Society (FFSS) in North Dagon Township, Yangon, was also raided. Volunteers and staff present at the office were beaten and the organization’s computers and electronic devices were confiscated. The well-known social welfare organization has been assisting wounded anti-coup protesters and providing funerals for those killed in the crackdowns. It also helped people who were wounded when police shot into the crowds in North Okkalapa Township on Wednesday.

Following the military’s killings of protesters, the FFSS recently announced it wouldn’t provide family members of police or military personnel with funerals and health care.

The office of the Free Funeral Service Society (FFSS) in North Dagon Township, Yangon, after it was raided at 12 a.m. on Thursday. / Ye Kyaw Thu

Three Red Cross volunteers (RCVs) from Pakkoku Red Cross Branch were also arrested in Pakkoku Township of Magwe Region on Feb. 27, according to the Myanmar Red Cross Society.

Two RCVs from Chan Mya Thasi Red Cross Branch in Mandalay were also attacked and injured while they were on duty providing first-aid treatment to those injured during the protest, and two ambulances were damaged during the attack, on Feb. 28.

The Myanmar Red Cross Society issued a statement on Monday calling for the release of detained RCVs and an end to violent acts against volunteers and ambulances who are delivering humanitarian services amid the current situation in line with the  seven fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and in accordance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

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