Freedom Memoirs – Day 167

Covid-19 continues to wreck millions of Myanmar’s physical and mental health. Junta’s Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) this evening reported the death toll was 233 where the reality says the opposite. People lining up for their loved ones to be properly cremated at the cemetery is another common sight in Yangon. Dead bodies pile up waiting to be cremated has reached more than the height of a man, says a woman who witnessed when she sent her father off. Local charity groups and social support organizations told the media that the death toll could be estimated between 800-1000 in Yangon alone. Cremation no longer seems to be an option people can afford as social organizations suggest all the dead bodies need to be buried en masse. Within 24 hours from yesterday, Pathein township of Ayeyarwady region also witnessed the death of 33 people in a small town.

Despite the outbreaks, junta still targets members of support/charity groups (volunteers) and anti-coup civilians. Some volunteers are on the run as they are under warrant, some had been shot dead and tortured during the protest in early months, and some have died from Covid while helping others survive today. A monk has volunteered to carry the dead bodies of Covid-19 patients, and help the deceased to go peacefully to the afterlife by letting them take refuge in a short Buddhist sermon, a Buddhist tradition to help the deceased to go to a better place. Some social support groups are facing challenges of oxygen gas and cylinders supply shortage with high demands. A young man from the Sharing Charity Club was abducted in Bago yesterday, and some 15 members of charity groups are still detained for helping the civilians. 

Prisons are packed without facilities to provide support and with inadequate resources. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported that there have been outbreaks in many prisons across Myanmar— Insein, Hpa-An Taung Galay, Taunggyi and Taungoo prisons. Nearly 50 prisoners were reported to be Covid positive in Insein. Among them were NLD senior members, CDM doctors and American journalist Danny Fenster. NLD legal advisor U Nyan Win and former Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein and his wife were also confirmed positive. They are now receiving medical treatment at Yangon General Hospital while others have received none. In Lashio prison, a prisoner died yesterday from Covid. 

Amidst all the heartbreaks and tragedies, Myanmar people continue to show solidarity through mutual aid and support. In Mandalay, some people have cooked food for Covid-19 patients and distributed them. Similar acts of kindness were observed in other townships as well. Young people are seen distributing food, Covid-19 prevention kits such as masks in Pakokku township of Magway region, Longlon township of Tanintharyi region and in Yangon. In Shan State, NamKham township, villagers from Mant Swan donated their farm produce to the monastery for villagers in need to take them. In Yangon, some youth organized disinfecting services for the neighbourhoods. Since junta’s targets social support groups as such, they have to operate in secrecy to avoid being punished by the junta.

Blue collar laborers are more vulnerable to the hardship posed by the coup and Covid. Garment factory workers today face labor rights violations where they don’t receive medical treatments, and their wages get deducted when they take sick leaves. Up to six to ten workers are affected daily in Hlaingtharyar and Shwe Pyi Thar industrial zones in Yangon with nowhere to seek help. Similarly, another vulnerable population is children. The UN Child Right Committee warns “If this crisis continues an entire generation of children are at risk of profound physical, psychological, emotional, educational economic consequences depriving them of a healthy and productive future”. RFA news also reported close to one million children this year are unvaccinated due to health system collapse for common diseases such as Hepatitis B, tuberculosis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio and influenza. This will impact the future of Myanmar.

As usual, protests are still happening in the same areas in Sagaing, Mandalay and Tanintharyi. Sangha strike continued in Mandalay. Sagaing’s farmers crossed the Yinmar creek to join the coalition strike organized by villages of Yinmarpin district. In Sagaing’s Depayin township, women marched through the streets holding a banner, “Our sarongs, our flags and our victory”, and in Magway’s Natmauk township, farmers organized a strike while farming.

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