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Myanmar Military Must Cease Occupation of Hospitals and Excessive Force Against Civilians: PHR

In response to reports that Myanmar security services have engaged in a new round of violent night raids on March 7 and have occupied public hospitals by force, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued the following statement:

“Physicians for Human Rights is appalled by this latest wave of violence by the Myanmar military, including the invasion and occupation of public hospitals and wanton excessive force against civilians. If it was not obvious before, it is absolutely clear now: the Myanmar military will not stop violating the rights of the people of Myanmar until the international community acts decisively to prevent and account for these outrageous acts.

Recent images and footage that appear to show Myanmar military forces conducting night raids – shining flood lights into apartments, arbitrarily arresting and detaining people, and beating and firing at protestors – are terrifying. The military also appears to be occupying public hospitals by force – 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 military’s recent coup d’état.”

One eyewitness account detailed armed security forces entering and seeking to occupy West Yangon General Hospital by force. Beyond West Yangon General Hospital, Physicians for Human Rights partners can confirm from reliable sources that other hospitals are being occupied by the Myanmar military, including: Yangon General Hospital; North Okkalapa Waibagi Specialist Hospital; South Okkalapa Women and Children’s Hospital; East Yangon General Hospital; and Central Women’s Hospital. Reports of similar sieges – attempted or otherwise – have been received from elsewhere in Myanmar, including Mandalay, Monywa, and Taunggyi. 

In addition to seeking to occupy hospitals by force, media footage appears to show government security personnel conducting a new round of night raids in Yangon that include arbitrary arrests, detentions, shootings, and beatings of townspeople and the use of sonic bombs, guns, and other weaponry.

“Even though medical personnel vacated their government posts to initiate the Civil Disobedience Movement, many returned to government hospitals in response to escalating violence against peaceful protestors,” said Sandra Mon, MSPH, junior epidemiologist, Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This widespread siege of hospitals follows several days of prominent civilian injuries and casualties, and can be interpreted as a direct attempt to impede access to care for civilians. It is also a threat to attending medics to warn them against further treating injured protestors. The Myanmar military has impunity despite their intentional acts of nighttime terror. We may be seeing a nationwide upsurge in military retaliation against peaceful protestors and medics in the days to come.”

Under international human rights law, states are obligated to ensure effective protection for health workers at all times, and to provide unencumbered access to emergency health care for all. These obligations remain in force regardless of any context of conflict, civil unrest, or state of emergency. The Myanmar military appears to be violating these foundational principles and interfering in the provision of health care to all without discrimination.

“Actions taken by the international community thus far are clearly insufficient to stop these egregious human rights violations,” said Raha Wala, JD, advocacy director at PHR  “If anything, the Myanmar military appears to be emboldened and is expanding its abusive tactics to hospitals and additional residential areas. Hospitals and clinics should always be protected, safe for staff and patients alike, and the medical care of patients should never be impeded. This is an urgent, emergency situation that must be treated as such by the international community. Governments must exert concerted pressure on the Myanmar military, including additional targeted sanctions to impose real costs on the units and commanders in the Myanmar military responsible for these offenses. Any corporation with operations in Myanmar that provides funds, products, or services to the Myanmar military that is engaging in these violations is complicit in this brutal crackdown, and must immediately cease such engagements and operations.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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