Protesters are avoiding treatment for their wounds after getting shot during rallies against Myanmar’s military regime. As a result, they search desperately for sympathetic doctors to operate on them in secret. This is because they fear arrest if they visit junta-run hospitals.
Since the February coup that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the military is coming down hard on protesters. Accordingly, security forces are using sniper rifles, machine guns and mortar rounds to stop civilian protests.
More than 800 deaths
According to human rights groups, the running crackdown on opposition to the military regime led to over 800 reported deaths. Many more deaths go unreported. Wounded protesters number in the thousands.
A man using the fictitious name Maung Win Myo for safety reasons, says he used to earn a pittance. Maung used to work as a trishaw driver, ferrying people around the bustling commercial capital of Yangon.
Unfortunately, since March, the 24-year-old man could not work. This is due to him getting shot in his leg during a protest. At that time Maung was participating on the frontlines of the anti-junta protest.
Cost of the protests
Maung lies in pain on a mattress on the floor of a one-room apartment. This apartment is home to him, his wife and two children. Maung told AFP that “I can’t even sleep properly at night.”
A second operation at a private hospital to set the steel in his broken bone, would cost Maung around US$950. Maung says he will have to endure the pain for now, as he does not have the money.
Currently Maung relies on donations from neighbours to feed his family. He said “I don’t have any money as I cannot work.”
Fear of military hospitals
Maung Win Myo is left penniless after just one costly visit to a private clinic.
Maung’s wife said “We didn’t dare to go to military hospital, that’s why we went to a private hospital, even though we don’t have money.”
Like Maung, many others are scared to seek free treatment at military hospitals, despite having serious injuries. This is out fear that their involvement in anti-coup protests will be betrayed by their wounds.
Marjan Besuijen is Head of Mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Myanmar. Besuijen told international news agency AFP,“Not everyone is willing to go. They fear arrest”.
MSF said its partners in Myanmar had witnessed the junta raiding organisations providing first aid to injured protesters. Also, medical staff saw their supplies being destroyed by the junta. This is according to a MSF report issued in May.
After many doctors walked off the job following the coup, the junta has expanded their military hospital operations. However, military hospitals do not normally open to the public.
Thousands of government servants and civil servants have also joined in the strike. As a result, nearly all public hospitals in Myanmar are crippled and forced to close their doors.
The strike has also crippled Myanmar’s economy, resulting in a heavily taxed banking system.
Lining up at day-long queues at ATMs are faced by those lucky to still have jobs. To make matters worse, they can only withdraw a maximum of US$120 per week. This leaves many people struggling to pay for food and rent. The consequence of setting this maximum withdrawal amount is that medical fees are out of the question for many people. And surgery is next to impossible to consider.
In late April, security forces shot Ngwe Nu Nu’s husband in the eye while he was going to work. Her husband worked at a rice brokers in the central city of Myingyan.
Ngwe’s husband was taken to Mandalay for treatment. Unfortunately, he died in hospital a few days later. His death leaves her alone and in debt for his treatment, as he was the sole breadwinner in the family.
Ngwe told AFP “I tried my best to save his life.”
“Now I don’t know how to survive without him.”
More officials going on strike
The military coup is entering its fifth month. The latest on the line to strike are customs officers, thus making it very difficult to source medicine. As a result of the strike, clearance of incoming medical shipments are hampered. At the same time, stockists are running out of supplies. A doctor treating wounded protesters laments on the difficulty in getting surgical supplies for necessary operations.
10th June 2021 23:00
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