Two doctors were arrested in Mandalay last week, offering further evidence of the regime’s targeting of healthcare workers despite a spiralling public health crisis.
Dr. Thet Htay, 41, and Dr. Kyaw Kyaw Thet, 21, were both viciously beaten as they were arrested for taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against military rule, witnesses told Myanmar Now.
Dr. Thet Htay was on his way home from a charity hospital where he volunteered his services when he was detained by police and soldiers in Mandalay’s Chanmyathazi Township at around 2pm on July 16.
Later that night, he was taken back to the hospital, where soldiers confiscated some of his belongings, including his laptop.
“His face was beaten to a pulp,” said Dr. Soe Thura Zaw, a fellow CDM participant who spoke to witnesses at the hospital.
Dr. Thet Htay previously worked at Mandalay General Hospital but practised exclusively as a volunteer surgeon after joining the CDM following the February 1 coup.
Among his patients were victims of the junta’s brutal crackdowns on protesters, according to other members of Mandalay’s medical community.
Dr. Kyaw Kyaw Thet was arrested three days earlier, on July 13, when around 20 soldiers and police stormed his home in Mandalay’s Maha Aungmyay Township.
His brother was also detained at the time but was later released.
Dr. Kyaw Kyaw Thet was teaching medical students online as part of a program organized by the shadow National Unity Government (NUG). He was also providing online medical consultations for Covid-19 patients until his arrest.
Dr. Soe Thura Zaw speculated that Dr. Kyaw Kyaw Thet was targeted for his role in the NUG’s medical training program, which mainly features lectures by instructors based in the UK. The regime likely saw his involvement as a provocation, he said.
Both men are currently being held in an interrogation centre, according to family members who spoke to Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity.
They added that attempts to contact them have so far been unsuccessful.
The arrests come as Myanmar is facing a major public health crisis resulting from the junta’s mismanagement of the response to the third wave of Covid-19 in the country.
On Monday, military officials pretending to be Covid-19 patients arrested three doctors who responded to a request for emergency treatment in Yangon’s North Dagon Township.
Meanwhile, doctors in Mandalay say that the junta is spreading misinformation, accusing doctors taking part in the CDM of causing more Covid-19 patients to die.
“They’re raiding oxygen plants. They’re arresting doctors. And then they say that doctors taking part in the CDM are killing patients? It doesn’t even make any sense. Doctors have been saving lives by volunteering everywhere that they can. The real killers are the military council,” said Dr. Soe Thura Zaw.
On Monday, the Mandalay Health Society released a statement condemning the arrests of doctors amid the Covid-19 crisis, demanding that they be released as soon as possible.
Around 900 CDM doctors have been treating Covid-19 patients by telephone under the NUG’s supervision, according to Dr. Zaw Wai Soe, the NUG’s health minister. Around 2,000 final-year medical students have also volunteered to assist, he said.