Last night before curfew, I took a walk to the place where our meagre stash of communal oxygen tanks and related supplies is stored. It’s necessary to keep them hidden from the military for fear of confiscation, arrest, or, more likely, both. When I arrived, the half dozen people keeping watch were in a celebratory mood because after searching all day they were able to obtain a single oxygen cylinder. The guy who located it was being lauded as a hero. Until it arrived, all we had were five empty cylinders, which these days are next to impossible to have refilled. I well understood their reason for jubilation.
However, no sooner did the oxygen come in, then it went out to someone in need, and now again, we were left with nothing. We discussed how we might be able to get more the next day, but there was little optimism. With the hospitals and quarantine centres at or above capacity, the only option remaining for people is home care, even in the most dire circumstances.
The latest law promulgated by the military junta is nothing but a sentence of death by asphyxiation. Now, before you are permitted to purchase a cylinder of oxygen, you must find a doctor willing to come to your home, do an examination, and certify that a patient is in critical need of oxygen. However, most doctors have been in hiding for months, targeted for arrest by the military for being on strike or for their involvement in the civil disobedience movement. So, you have to find a doctor working underground who is willing to potentially be exposed by signing a certification form. While some doctors are still working above ground, they are very, very few. This is the first obstacle.
If you have somehow acquired the proper medical certification, the next requirement is the written endorsement of your quarter’s military-appointed administrator. No small hurdle! First, you have to find him. Because most of these new administrators serve primarily as informers for the military, they are being targeted for execution by the People’s Defence Forces and, like the doctors and nurses, are also, ironically, in hiding. To avoid being killed, they vary their routines and hours of work, so who knows where they are at any given time.
If by some great good fortune you are able to find the administrator and persuade him to provide the necessary signature, then you next have to collect a similar written approval from the general in charge of the township. Locating him is no different than searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.