By Subir Bhaumik
Kolkata, April 15 | Myanmar’s ruling military junta has charged 19 medical doctors with ‘dereliction of duty’ for participating in protests against the February 1 military coup, a state-run newspaper has reported.
The doctors are charged with joining the civil disobedience movement in order to debilitate the state administrative machinery involved in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
Doctors, nurses and medical students had marched in protest rallies and joined strikes to oppose the military takeover that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government.
The doctors have been accused of supporting and participating in the civil disobedience movement “with the aim of deteriorating the state administrative machinery,” the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper wrote.
The military government has already issued arrest warrants for 100 celebrities from the fields of literature, film, theatre, arts, music and journalism.
Strikes have continued in various sectors of the economy and bureaucracy including railways and most banks remain closed.
The doctors face charges of ‘spreading information that undermines the stability of the country and the rule of law.’
This is not the first time doctors have been targeted by the military.
Earlier this month in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, security forces used stun grenades and fired guns to break up a march by medical workers protesting the army’s takeover.
The online news site The Irrawaddy reported that four doctors were arrested at that time.
Protests continued on Wednesday across Myanmar even as people boycotted the official celebration of Thingyan, the country’s traditional New Year, usually a time for family reunions and merry-making, but subdued this year due to the fear over killings by the security forces and the Covid pandemic.
In leaflets and social media posts last week by the pro-democracy protests, people were asked not to hold any Thingyan celebrations, saying it would be disrespectful to “fallen martyrs” to enjoy the festival.
The government’s violent response to anti-coup demonstrations has led to the deaths of 714 people by security forces, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Last week, at least 82 people were killed in one day in a crackdown by security forces on protesters, according to reports from independent local media and AAPP.
Last Friday’s death toll in Bago was the biggest one-day total for a single city since March 14, when over 100 people were killed in Yangon, the country’s biggest city. Bago is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Yangon.