The military regime in Myanmar has issued 360 arrest warrants for health workers and charged them under Section 505 of the Penal Code, sentencing some to three years prison, Public Services International (PSI) reported on Tuesday.
Health workers have been arrested whilst treating injured patients, others taken from their homes at night for joining strike actions or simply supporting strikes on social media.
Nurses, doctors and other health workers were amongst the first to walk off their jobs in opposition to the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021, sparking the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).
By late February, nearly one-third of Myanmar’s 1,262 public hospitals were closed.
Civil servants from other sectors have followed suit, bringing the operation of the country’s banks, schools, railway operations, and businesses to a halt.
By late February, nearly one-third of Myanmar’s 1,262 public hospitals were closed.
Since then the Tatmadaw (military of Myanmar) has been routinely targeting healthcare workers using violence, shooting at hospitals, arresting health workers, looting medical supplies and donation money, seizing ambulances and vandalising funeral houses to suppress their resistance.
On 15 April, Myanmar’s military opened fire on healthcare workers holding a peaceful protest in Mandalay.
Hospitals and medical clinics have been warned that they will be targeted if they allow health workers who have participated in the CDM to attend to patients.
Doctors found to be treating any patients free of charge have been fined or arrested.
Twenty-year-old nursing student, Thinzar Hein, was shot dead while trying to attend to injured protesters in Monywa on March 28th.
At least one other nurse and two doctors have been killed by the military since the coup.
The military has also been occupying public hospitals and deliberately preventing doctors from treating emergency patients.
They have shot at hospitals treating injured protesters.
They have targeted paramedics who seek to treat injured protesters and prevented ambulances from attending any non-military call outs.
They have attacked medics and destroyed or confiscated ambulances.
The sustained attacks on health workers, hospitals and health equipment is a violation of international law ‘which only serves to further undermine a health care system already embattled by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the coup,’ CNN announced on 8th March in a report entitled ‘Myanmar military occupies hospitals and universities ahead of mass strike’.
These attacks violate a range of internationally agreed standards designed to protect health workers from military attacks, most recently affirmed in UN Security Council Resolution 2286 (2016).
By the 99th day of the coup, the Tatmadaw’s forces arrested more than 4900 civilians including elected leaders, election commissioners, anti-regime protesters, teachers, doctors, journalists, writers, artists and civilians.
More than 780 civilians have been killed during military crackdowns, raids, arrests and random shootings, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
In response to the healthcare workers’ appeal to the international community in early February, PSI, as the global union representing health sector unions, has been organising to share their struggle.
‘Along with our allies, we have been calling on governments and global institutions to condemn the military coup and arrests, cease any funding to the Tatmadaw and recognise elected representatives as the government of Myanmar,’ says PSI.
Meanwhile, the Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) is calling on international brands and suppliers in the garment industry to protect the rights of trade unionists and ensure that workers will not be dismissed during the ongoing protests against the military junta.
The IWFM points out that, under martial law, workers run the risk of arrest or even being shot by the military if they attempt to return to work in any of the country’s major industrial zones.
Moreover, transport links have been suspended and communications channels blocked, making it almost impossible for workers to contact their employers.
In a statement, the IWFM said recently that many workers are too afraid to go back to work and thousands have already returned to their home villages.
Union leaders are being targeted by the military and have gone in hiding, severely hampering trade union work.
The situation is particularly severe in the Yangon township of Hlaing Thar Yar, where the military reportedly killed more than one hundred people during a brutal crackdown on 14-15 March.
Soldiers in Hlaing Thar Yar are now reportedly stopping workers at random and demanding they hand over their phones for inspection.
Those who do not have phones are heavily fined.
Nevertheless, despite all the risks, workers in the township are still staging protests against the coup.
Many employers in the industrial zones who have resumed production are reportedly using the current situation to dismiss, without severance pay, those workers and union leaders who fail to report to work for more than three days.
The IWFM is urging the international brands to guarantee that their supplier factories do not terminate employees who cannot return to work, and ensure that workers are given unpaid leave until such time as it is safe for them to return.
The factories should, in addition, provide a detailed list of the workers who have already lost their jobs so that all workers can be accounted for.
To ensure that supplier factories can comply with the above demands, the IWFM said the brands should not penalise companies for late deliveries caused by the unrest.
- The union representing New Zealand rail workers has spoken up against the deaths of rail workers under the Myanmar military dictatorship.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson says there have been reports of 15 railway workers, mostly union members, being shot at the railway compound at Myitnge near Mandalay, Myanmar last month.
‘The military dictatorship are waging a vicious war against unarmed civilians and workers, and New Zealand needs to do all it can to bring international pressure on them.’
Butson says the RMTU is backing calls by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions to halt the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement that includes Myanmar.
He said the Labour Government must place human rights before trade deals, and act accordingly.
Over 700 civilians have been killed in Myanmar since 1 February when the military overthrew the democratically elected Government.
Myanmar rail workers have been involved in strikes as part of a civil disobedience campaign against the military dictatorship, said Butson.
‘The military dictatorship is illegitimate and is responsible for mass killings.
‘The RMTU supports the Myanmar pro-democracy movement which includes our fellow rail workers,’ said Butson.
- Two union leaders in Myanmar were recently arrested for their participation in pro-democracy rallies, and unions worldwide are calling for governments to halt trade and other financial support that provide backing to the country’s military government.
The total number of union leaders arrested since the February 1 military coup is at least 20, according to union leaders.
Union members killed include Chan Myae Kyaw, a union activist and truck driver at a copper mine, who was shot dead while protecting other protesters during a peaceful rally.
Ma Myo Aye, leader of the Solidarity Trade Union Movement (STUM), was arrested at the union’s office in Yangon in recent days and taken to prison by the military.
Union leaders say she is charged with allegedly violating Section 505a of the Penal Code, which makes it a crime to cause or intend to cause disobedience or disloyalty to members of the government.
Ahead of her first court hearing, which was scheduled for April 29, she was transferred to Insein prison in Yangon, which union leaders say is notorious for its torture of prisoners.
Myanmar media is reporting horrific sexual assault and other forms of torture against women imprisoned by the military.
Mi Aung, the finance officer of the Hmawbe Brick Factory Union, an affiliate of the Building and Wood Workers Federation of Myanmar (BWFM), was arrested by the army in Hmawbe, where she was visiting her family. Her whereabouts are unknown.
The union is vowing to carry on the struggle for democratic freedoms.
The two leaders are among tens of thousands of union members who have taken a leading role in the nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) to peacefully protest for an end to the military coup.
Union offices have been ransacked and the military has conducted door-to-door searches for union activists, most of whom have now gone into hiding outside Yangon.
Arrest warrants have been issued for at least 75 union leaders.