The Irrawaddy

Red Cross Volunteers Ambushed in Kokang Region to Earn Presidential Honor

A man holds a bandage over the eye of Zaw Min Htike following an ambush of a Myanmar Red Cross Society aid convoy on Feb. 17. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Three Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) volunteers who were victims of ambushes on aid convoys in February in northeast Burma will receive the Presidential Award for Excellent Performance on Friday.

MRCS convoys took fire from unknown assailants on two separate occasions while carrying internally displaced persons, Red Cross workers and journalists between Laukkai and Chin Shwe Haw in northeast Burma’s troubled Kokang Special Region.

Two Red Cross volunteers, Zaw Min Htike and Moe Kyaw Than, were injured in the first ambush on Feb. 17. The presidential honor will be awarded posthumously to 45-year-old Moe Kyaw Than, who was shot in the abdomen during the attack and succumbed to his injuries on March 27.

In a second attack on Feb. 21, Red Cross volunteer Kyaw Zaw Htoo and a journalist from the government-affiliated Myanmar Radio and Televeison-4 were wounded along with three others believed to have been migrant workers from Upper Burma.

Thein Myo, president of the MRCS chapter in Kunlong Township, said the organization was informed three days ago that the three men were selected to receive the Presidential Award for Excellent Performance this week in Naypyidaw.

“Although no one works with the intention of receiving such awards, it is really great since they will be awarded in recognition of their work,” he said.

Thein Myo said Moe Kyaw Than’s widow would travel to Naypyidaw to accept the award on his behalf.

“They worked selflessly. They deserve this award,” said Dr. Tha Hla Shwe, chairman of the MRCS, adding that the men should serve as role models for younger generations.

Shwe Zin Myint from the MRCS said that the organization applied in March for Moe Kyaw Than to receive the Henry Dunant Medal, the Red Cross Movement’s highest, and expects to hear the outcome of that petition in the next three months.

“I feel both happiness and sadness,” 39-year-old Zaw Min Htike, whose right eye was injured in the attack, told The Irrawaddy. “I feel like I am receiving this award on behalf of all volunteers with the Myanmar Red Cross Society, so I am happy for that. But I am sad for the death of my colleague, Moe Kyaw Than, and for his wife and children.”

The conflict in the region where the convoys were ambushed has displaced tens of thousands of civilians since fighting first broke out on Feb. 9. The ongoing hostilities have pitted the Burma Army against rebels from the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).