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Myanmar anti-coup: Medics risk lives to treat injured in protests

International desk || shiningbd

Published: 14:49, 3 March 2021  
Myanmar anti-coup: Medics risk lives to treat injured in protests

Aye Nyein Thu finished medical school in Myanmar’s central city of Mandalay less than a year before the military seized power in a coup on February 1. Now, the 25-year-old is providing emergency medical assistance as state forces crackdown on mass protests.

“Most [victims] had head injuries because police are using batons to beat protesters. Some people were shot as well,” said Aye Nyein Thu, who estimated she had responded to 10 emergency cases as of March 1. “We are facing the most terrible situation.”

Since the military arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 40 elected officials and declared a year-long state of emergency, millions have taken to the streets across the country, while approximately three-quarters of government workers are estimated to have gone on strike as part of a nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement.

With the demonstrations showing little sign of abating, authorities have turned increasingly to force.

They have fired live and rubber bullets, deployed water cannons,s and used tear gas and stun grenades on the crowds. The crackdowns have so far killed about 30 people and injured at least 200 more, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), a monitoring group. At least 18 people lost their lives on February 28, a day the demonstrators have now dubbed “Bloody Sunday”.

The Civil Disobedience Movement has hampered the formal health system across the country – one official from the Yangon General Hospital told Radio Free Asia on February 9 that as many as 80 percent of government hospitals had shut down.

To meet the public’s medical needs, healthcare providers are now offering services voluntarily outside of government facilities, but the increasingly violent crackdowns mean many healthcare workers are risking their own lives to deliver life-saving treatment to those joining the protests.

“The biggest challenge is not to get shot when we help on the ground,” said Ze Nan,* a volunteer nurse in the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina. “The bullets can hit us, too; we can also die anytime.”