The military has begun shutting down all underground medical clinics serving those suffering from the third wave of covid-19. But a few days ago, in an area on the north side of the city, another one opened. To foil the military’s attempts to discover it, this new centre was tucked away in a residential neighbourhood, and those in need of help were not permitted to actually go to the clinic. Instead, whoever was seeking treatment was first interviewed by telephone by one of the five doctors on duty. If the doctors determined that the patient required in-person treatment, they would travel to the patient’s address, thus preventing the military from easily identifying and shuttering the clinic.
Yesterday the clinic responded to a patient who it determined needed immediate in-home care. Upon arriving at the patient’s house the two doctors were horrified to discover that the “patient” was actually a group of soldiers, who promptly arrested them. After taking the doctors to a nearby police station where they were interrogated, and in all likelihood beaten and tortured, the soldiers were able to extract the location of the underground clinic. Five military trucks were immediately dispatched to arrest the staff, including three more doctors, and confiscate all their oxygen cylinders, oxygen generators and whatever other medical supplies they had.
This is the kind of retaliation that caring Burmese people must always anticipate whenever they attempt to help others. Dispensing food, medicine or healthcare is illegal, and only done at considerable risk to the donor.
Now, however, a change seems to be occurring as people become angrier and angrier at the military for its callous and brutal behaviour. People seem even more disposed to giving assistance, and to hell with the uniformed criminals who try to thwart them.
At our nightly local security meeting, discussion centred on the spread of covid-19 in our quarter, where 18 people have perished in the past seven days. We determined that there was an urgent need for money and sources for oxygen. Money is the highest priority, because without it there is no way to purchase oxygen and other necessities. Some of those attending the meeting immediately rose to leave with the intention, despite the curfew, of going around the quarter to solicit donations. Undeterred by the concerns expressed by others, away they went to stump the dark streets and ask for help.
Publicly appealing for donations at night after curfew is, at best, ill-advised and reckless, and can lead to immediate arrest. Fortunately, after a half hour or so, they recognized the foolishness of their efforts at such a late hour and returned to their homes. Nonetheless, in the short time that they were out, they collected the equivalent of US$300, which, in the city, at today’s painfully inflated prices, is enough to purchase one cylinder of oxygen. But it’s a start, and today their efforts will surely continue.