Myanmar: Polices attempted to raid the housing compound of medical professionals who are on strikeEvent
- Initial Date
- Feb 15, 2021
- Event Description
“Doctor Soe” was alone in his room on the afternoon of February 15 when police attempted to raid the housing compound for doctors at the Sao San Htun hospital in Taunggyi. He saw about 30 officers coming towards his room. He quickly locked the door and hid inside the bathroom, terrified.
Keeping perfectly still, he listened as they banged on the door for several minutes. Apart from the sound of his heartbeat, there was complete silence in the room. The banging seemed to get louder and louder.
After about 10 minutes, the police left.
“It was the first time the police came for us. Previously, they were just patrolling around the hospital,” Doctor Soe told Myanmar Now.
That night, Doctor Soe and other doctors at the hospital left the compound and went into hiding.
The 28-year-old is one of over 100 doctors and nurses at the hospital who have been on strike since the military seized power on February 1.
According to Thiha, another doctor who works at the hospital, no operations have been performed there since nearly the entire medical staff, except for the hospital’s superintendent and deputy, stopped going to work.
Doctors said they didn’t know who the authorities wanted to arrest that day, but they seemed to be targeting one specific person, as the police didn’t knock on the doors of any of the other doctors’ rooms.
They are among thousands of civil servants in Myanmar who chose to go on walkout rather than work under the country’s new dictatorship. This growing civil disobedience movement aims at toppling the regime’s government mechanism.
Photo_2.Jpg Doctors march in Yangon on February 22 as part of the nationwide general strike to demand an end to military rule. (Myanmar Now) Doctors march in Yangon on February 22 as part of the nationwide general strike to demand an end to military rule. (Myanmar Now)
Abandoning government hospitals
At least one doctor who joined the movement has been arrested, while many others around the country have been intimidated by police or pressured by their superiors to return to work.
A few others, including Prof Zaw Wai Soe, the vice chair of Yangon’s Covid-19 task force and rector of the University of Medicine (1) Yangon, have been charged with incitement for supporting the movement.
Doctors and other healthcare workers were among the first in Myanmar to join the nationwide movement to resist the return to military rule.
They have also been at the forefront of the country’s battle against Covid-19 since the deadly pandemic struck last year. Praised as heroes for risking their own lives to treat Covid-19 patients, they are now seen as champions of a very different fight.
“We were so exhausted all last year. At the start of 2021, we were hopeful because people were going to start receiving Covid-19 vaccines and we wouldn’t have to fear the pandemic anymore,” said May Yamone, a 31-year-old general practitioner.
“The military coup has ruined all our hopes,” she said.
Photo_3_doctors.Jpg Health workers in Mandalay protest against the military regime on February 18. (Myanmar Now) Health workers in Mandalay protest against the military regime on February 18. (Myanmar Now)
Since the military takeover, the same healthcare workers who were on the frontline of the country’s health crisis have been blasted by the ruling military council for “abandoning” their patients.
May Yamone said the authorities and those who call doctors “unethical” for going on strike are hypocrites, because the generals are the ones who have failed to uphold their real responsibilities.
“We have no reason to work under a military dictatorship that tries to govern the country, because that is not the military’s job,” she said.
“If the military returns to where it belongs and performs its own duty, which is defending the country, we doctors will also go back to our places.”
Photo_6.Jpg Healthcare workers from a private hospital in Yangon greet protesters from medical universities with a three-finger salute on February 22. (Myanmar Now) Healthcare workers from a private hospital in Yangon greet protesters from medical universities with a three-finger salute on February 22. (Myanmar Now)
May Yamone said that only doctors can truly understand how hard it is for them to leave their jobs, but added that initiating the civil disobedience movement was “essential” for the future of the country.
The doctors who joined the movement left the hospital facilities that are now controlled by the military with the purpose of defying the military’s orders, not because they don’t want to work, said 29-year-old Aung Thu, who used to work at Yangon General Hospital.
“We abandoned the government hospitals, not our patients,” he said, adding that they are coordinating with other medical practitioners to ensure that their patients continue to receive treatment.
Photo_4_nurses_.Jpg Nurses in Mandalay take part in a protest against the military regime on February 18. (Myanmar Now) Nurses in Mandalay take part in a protest against the military regime on February 18. (Myanmar Now)
No turning back
Nearly 12,000 health workers, including May Yamone and Aung Thu, joined the nationwide general strike on Monday to demand that the military regime restore power to Myanmar’s elected civilian government.
Millions of protesters came out into the streets across the country, from the northern mountain towns of Chin state to the coastal regions of Tanintharyi. The movement that started on Monday has been dubbed the “five twos” general strike because of the date, 22.2.2021.
Doctors who have joined the movement say they fear that a return to military rule could do irreparable harm to Myanmar’s public health sector.
While the past five years could not completely undo the damage of decades of military mismanagement, they say that the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi had made some headway in improving the country’s long-neglected public health sector.
“During the old days, people were urged not to go to public hospitals. But the NLD government was able to change that situation. We can’t go back to the previous situation,” said a doctor who used to work at a township hospital in Mandalay.
Photo_5.Jpg Medical imaging technologists take part in the nationwide general strike to demand an end to military rule on February 22. (Myanmar Now) Medical imaging technologists take part in the nationwide general strike to demand an end to military rule on February 22. (Myanmar Now)
Another doctor from a 300-bed hospital in Mandalay said that that Myanmar could not afford to have another dictatorship.
“We can’t accept another one. We can’t serve the junta, either,” he told Myanmar Now.
According to data from the website cdm2021.com, more than half of the 22,597 civil servants who have joined the civil disobedience movement across the country are from the public health sector.
Doctors who have joined the movement said they will continue fighting until the country’s elected government is allowed to take office.
Vowing never to kneel down to the regime, they insist that the civil disobedience movement is the only weapon that can succeed against the military’s might.
“We will resist until the very end. The military can’t force us to return to work by pointing guns at us,” said Thiha.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Intimidation and Threats
- Rights Concerned
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to Protest
- Pro-democracy activist
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On February 15, 2021, a doctor who had been participating in the recent strikes, had his home attempted to be raided by police