Myanmar’s Doctors Vow to Shut Hospitals in Anti-Coup Protests
(Bloomberg) -- Myanmar’s doctors have vowed to shut hospitals across the country as public protests intensified amid calls to defy the new military regime that took control of the government and seized civilian leaders in a coup on Monday.
A “Civil Disobedience Movement” started by pro-democracy activists including medical professionals announced on social media Wednesday that more than 70 hospitals and medical departments would stop work in protest of what it called an “illegitimate” government.
Another campaign initiated by lawmakers saw residents in Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, bang pots and honk car horns on Tuesday evening to show their opposition to the coup. They are planning similar events daily and want to expand the campaign to other big cities like Naypyidaw and Mandalay.
Calls to resist the government mark an escalation in tensions between supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since Monday along with other top party officials and the military, which has declared a yearlong state of emergency and warned people not to cause unrest. Protests have in the past been violently quashed under military rule.
The army has “ruthlessly” staged a coup and is “putting their own interests above our vulnerable population who have been facing medical, economic, and social hardships during this global pandemic,” reads a statement posted to the Civil Disobedience Movement Facebook page, which has gained more than 160,000 followers since it was started on Tuesday. The group pledges to only take direction from Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party. “We do not recognize them as our government.”
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A lawmaker from the NLD said citizens had suffered for decades under the previous army-led dictatorship.
“We don’t accept any type of military rule for any reason,” said Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo, who is one of the organizers of tonight’s event in Yangon, where there’s expected to be a mass rendition of the national anthem or other protest songs. “We hope to do this every single day until the military accepts that we no longer want military rule.”
One of about 400 lawmakers being held in detention at a compound in the capital since Monday, he said the group was told they could return home as long as they do not leave their residences. The party’s central executive committee wrote in a statement that the military on Tuesday conducted “illegal” raids on several regional offices during which it confiscated documents and computers.
Military spokesman Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun didn’t answer several calls seeking comments for this story.
In a country that has struggled to get Covid-19 under control -- with more than 140,000 total cases -- officials sought to dampen concerns that its vaccination plans would be affected by the protests.
Myanmar was ready to go ahead with its inoculation program, and was set to receive 2 million doses from India on Feb. 11 and a further 4.2 million doses from Covax by the end of this month, the director of emerging infectious disease at the Ministry of Health and Sports, Khin Khin Gyi, said Wednesday.
But virus experts warned the closure of medical facilities could exacerbate the problem.
“If doctors walk out, clearly that will adversely affect the health system,” said Raina Macintyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “If people are not getting tested and isolated the virus will spread more rapidly.
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