Dr. Maung is an infectious disease specialist in Myanmar where, in February of this year, a military coup ended democracy and established authoritarian rule. In response the country has risen up in protest.
Doctors have played a major role in the resistance by going on a well-publicized nationwide strike. In our interview, Dr. Maung explains how doctors have not forsaken patients but rather have abandoned the military-run public hospitals in an act of coordinated professional disobedience. They have set up an alternative informal healthcare system and practice medicine with limited supplies, mostly in hiding and without pay. Many doctors have been arrested and many others have been killed. Dr. Maung has fled his home and is being sheltered in a network of safe-houses. If caught, he believes he will be tortured to death.
The junta controls everything from the internet and media to basic utilities and the banking system to the delivery of food and medical necessities. They have cracked down in a systematic fashion by a combination of military force and an embargo on supplies. While the military and their families have all been vaccinated, these vaccines have been withheld from the rest of the country including healthcare workers. Now as the pandemic rages, the government is using Covid as a cudgel to extract obedience. Oxygen, high flow units and regulators are in short supply and Dr. Maung believes that the country is on the verge of a major medical crisis.
We were drawn to this interview because of the unique scenario of a nationwide strike of doctors and the ethical fine points of withholding care, yet the more we talked and learned about this desperate situation, it became clear that the real story is the enormous scale of suffering in the country and the great personal sacrifice being made by doctors and citizens of Myanmar in their struggle against tyranny. How to help? Follow this link.