Myanmar’s police and military forces have turned their attention to targeting medics and volunteers assisting wounded anti-junta demonstrators, at times using excessive force against them, witnesses, officials, and emergency medical workers said Thursday.
On Wednesday — the deadliest day since the coup began on Feb. 1— police beat up, shot, and detained medics helping injured protesters in Yangon and Monywa, the largest city in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region, they said.
Security forces in recent days have destroyed ambulances, medical equipment, and internationally recognized Red Cross flags, and have injured medics, the Myanmar Red Cross Society said in a statement on Tuesday.
The organization called on the police and military to respect medics and aid volunteers and refrain from targeting them.
In a particularly brutal incident caught on CCTV on Wednesday, police stopped an ambulance from the Mon Myat Seik Htar Charity group in North Okkalapa township, Yangon, beat and kicked four medics, and shot out the vehicle’s windows. They then hauled the men off to Insein Prison on the outskirts of Yangon.
“Our team was taking out the people who got injured in the crackdown,” a spokeswoman for the volunteer group said.
The four medics were responding to a call for help but had to take small alleyways to get to the location because of police presence on the main roads, said the woman who declined to be named for safety reasons.
“Unfortunately they were caught by a group of policemen who ordered them to get out of the vehicle, and they were violently beaten up,” she said. “We know they had some injuries on their heads and bodies. We were told not to worry.”
Two members of We Love Humanitarian Group also were roughed up by police and taken away but later released. Officers damaged the vehicle’s windshield and windows.
At least 11 people died from police violence in North Okkalapa township on Wednesday, while about 20 others were injured, according to an RFA tally.
‘We are on the run’
In Yangon’s North Dagon township, police on Wednesday night raided the office of the popular Free Funeral Service Society led by former film star and director Kyaw Thu and beat up workers inside the building, an employee said.
Workers from the civil society organization tried to provide assistance to protesters with gunshot wounds on Wednesday.
“Right now we are on the run,” said the worker who declined to give his name for safety reasons. “There were about 30 of us inside when they came. We tried to escape, so I don’t know how many were left inside or how many got arrested.”
The association’s chairman, Kyaw Thu, was not in the office at the time of the raid. RFA could not reach him Thursday for comment on the incident.
A statement issued by the association said that it no longer would provide free funeral services for the families of the police and the military following the attack on its office.
In Sagaing region, police warned first-aid teams not to accompany protesters either on the sidelines of demonstrations or by following them during marches through the central city of Monywa, where huge crowds of demonstrators have been gathering, emergency care workers said.
Sein Ko Ko, president of the Monywa branch of the Myanmar Humanitarian Group, told RFA that Wednesday was the first day that there were a lot of casualties from the anti-junta protests. Eight deaths were reported in the city on Wednesday, according to news reports.
“We are now not allowed [by police] to go into the hot spots,” he said. “People have to bring in the wounded to our ambulances parked far away. Only after that can we take the wounded to the nearest hospital.”
“We have been warned that if we go along with the protesters, our vehicles will be shot, too,” Sein Ko Ko added.
Monywa authorities arrested nine volunteers from the Myanmar Humanitarian Group and three doctors from the local branch of the Myanmar Medical Association on Monday, but released them later the same day, he said.
Police also detained about 20 medics from four other humanitarian groups and five ambulances on Feb. 26, but released them all after three days, aid workers said.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.