Health centre built by Japanese donors targeted, destroyed in Myanmar army raid in Myaing

More than 20 people were taken hostage this week in a Myanmar army raid on a Magway Region health facility once built by the Japanese government as a rural development initiative.

Using helicopters, the military opened fire on Ma Gyi Kan village on Tuesday, 17 miles north of the administrative centre of Myaing Township. The troops centred their attack on the local centre, which had a 50-patient capacity and a labour and delivery room for expecting mothers. 

An x-ray machine valued at 50m kyat (nearly US$24,000) was destroyed in the assault and the walls of the building were riddled with bullet holes, a local staff member managing the site said. By Thursday, he told Myanmar Now that the structure had nearly collapsed due to the damage from gun and artillery fire.

While the Ma Gyi Kan community had been operating the health centre on their own since November 2021 in the aftermath of the military coup, Myanmar Now has learned that the site was built with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency—the development arm of the Japanese government—nearly 10 years ago. Since then, locals had expanded it, and even built bunkers in which they could seek shelter from airstrikes. 

“The building was donated by the Japanese,” the managing staff member explained. “It wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if the military had destroyed the annexes built by the community, but I feel very sorry that they destroyed a building donated especially for us by a foreign country.” 

He noted that an inscription on the structure commemorated it as a rural development project endorsed by Japan, and said that there were similar health facilities in other Myaing Township villages. Among them were Kan Net, Lim Ka Taw and Kyauk Sauk. 

At the time that the regime soldiers attacked the site, there were patients from Ma Gyi Kan and the surrounding villages undergoing treatment, including more than a dozen pregnant women preparing to give birth. 

“Most patients did not dare to go to the city, so that’s why we had opened this facility, despite the risks [of a junta attack],” the staff member said. He added that no one with a weapon was allowed to enter its premises, but that they would provide treatment to anyone in need, including junta soldiers, if they respected this rule.

The military council issued a statement on Wednesday confirming the attack on Ma Gyi Kan and claimed that members of the anti-junta People’s Defence Force (PDF) were hiding there and storing weapons in the facility. They said that grenades, missiles and ammunition were seized from the health centre, along with three cars and five motorcycles. 

Ten men and 20 women were captured in the raid, the junta said, alleging that the individuals had ties to or were part of the PDF. 

The managing staff member who spoke to Myanmar Now rejected the statement as false, noting that those captured by the junta were villagers and medical staff and that no weapons were confiscated at the health centre. Any arms that were seized were taken from a PDF camp located outside of Ma Gyi Kan, he added.

“They are lying that guns were found at the health centre,” he said. “No one was allowed to carry weapons inside the compound.”

Around 300 people, including patients, caregivers, locals and health workers were initially rounded up by the soldiers at the facility. The occupying soldiers stayed in Ma Gyi Kan until Thursday before leaving for Myaing town, forcing one woman and 20 men to accompany them, according to Cross, a leader of the local PDF chapter.

During the raid on Ma Gyi Kan, a 16-year-old boy was shot dead, Cross said. 

Myanmar Now was unable to verify the victim’s identity at the time of reporting. 

The base camp of the Myaing PDF, located outside of Ma Gyi Kan village, is seen after coming under attack by the junta (Supplied)

He confirmed that the troops had overrun the PDF’s base camp outside of the village after attacking the health centre and setting fire to four homes. 

Ammunition, communications equipment, and other property totalling more than 150m kyat (more than $71,000) in value were lost in the assault on their post, Cross said. 

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