“About 70 percent of the educated professionals like those in the medical and engineering fields are not supporting the coup,” says Captain Surgeon Min Maung Maung.
Captain Surgeon Min Maung Maung was an army surgeon in the No. 14 Military Medical Unit before he joined the anti-junta Civil Disobedience Movement in support of the Spring Revolution, which what opponents of the military junta that seized power on Feb. 1 call their protest campaign. Khin Maung Soe of RFA’s Myanmar Service spoke to the doctor by telephone about what he said were massive cover-ups in medical examinations of detainees who died during military interrogation.
RFA: Why did you decide to join the Civil Disobedience Movement?
Min Maung Maung: After finishing high school, I attended the Military Medical Institute, the 6th Class, and I had all along strictly followed the rules and regulations. I had a great interest in libraries and worked for the library of the institute and I learned a lot about historical facts of the country. In 2010, when a quasi-civilian government came into power I had a lot of expectations, hoping for changes in the military but those changes never came. And I noticed that in some cases the military was not even acting in the interests of the people and so I officially asked for permission to leave my post but my request was not accepted as I was a specialist in my profession. And then after the Feb. 1 coup, I was very upset by the military’s use of lethal force against the people. And then three things happened that broke my heart. The first thing was the case of a mentally handicapped man who came out at the front of a group of young Gen Z protesters and confronted the armed soldiers. The young protesters were yelling out ‘Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot at him’. It broke my heart. The second event was when soldiers were firing rubber bullets and live rounds at the young protesters and the latter responded back with slingshots. A young man was heard shouting to his friends ‘Don’t respond. Don’t do that, you might hit other people’s cars.’ That was a very civilized thought, not wanting to get other people’s property damaged. And then, there was the case of young men in Kayah state courageously defending themselves day after day with old-fashioned traditional hunting rifles. All these events strengthened my decision to quit the military.
RFA: What do you think about the cooperation between the ethnic armed organizations and the young Gen Z members of the Spring Revolution?
Min Maung Maung: In the past, we had a lot of misunderstandings about the ethnic armed groups because of the various kinds of government propaganda. Ethnic minority people in rural and border areas have suffered so much in the past. Now we see the brutal acts of the military against the people in urban areas and airstrikes on villages and people driven out into the mountains to become internally displaced persons and people now have more and more compassion for their ethnic minority brethren. Now both sides have more understanding of each other and are becoming more united.
RFA: When you carried out surgical operations on wounded soldiers from the frontline, did you feel that these men were sacrificing themselves for the country?
Min Maung Maung: I think their sacrifices are all for nothing. It’s true that the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) is defending the country but they are defending in a wrong way.
RFA: During this Spring Revolution we have heard reports about some internal organs of some of those who died at interrogation centers were missing and there was speculation that these organs were sold abroad for cash. What do you know about this?
Min Maung Maung: Some people got killed during the protests. In the case of Kyal Sin (a 19-year-old ethnic Chinese woman who was shot dead in March) in Mandalay, her body was exhumed and the army forensic doctor who was asked to perform the autopsy ran away. I don’t know where he fled. Many doctors refused to do such autopsies and so warrant officers were assigned to do the autopsies. When the forensic doctors refused to sign the death certificates, they produced fake seals and fake signatures. When an autopsy is carried out you have to take out some of the organs and these warrant officers did it in a very crude way. Some of them put back the organs properly and some didn’t care about putting back all before stitching it up. It isn’t true that they sold off the organs abroad for cash.
RFA: Zaw Myat Lin, a National League for Democracy official in the Yangon Region, died in custody on March 9, a day after his arrest. Witnesses who examined his body speculated that a strong kind of acid must have been poured into his mouth because of the injuries on his mouth and the melted tongue. What do you think of that?
Min Maung Maung: I saw the reports in the news and what I saw in the pictures seems to me that boiling hot water was poured onto his face. The corroded lips and the swollen mouth looks like some kind of acid-like liquid had been poured into his mouth. It was an extremely inhuman act of torture. He must have suffered a living hell.
RFA: Do you have anything to say to your fellow officers in the military?
Min Maung Maung: There are many in the military who supported the coup d’etat and there are many who wanted to stand against evil. And there are also many who are sitting on the fence watching the unfolding events. In my opinion, about 70 percent of the educated professionals like those in the medical and engineering fields are not supporting the coup. Many of these people are holding onto their jobs in fear or for the sake of their families. At present it is so obvious that the whole population is rejecting the military dictatorship and People’s Defense Forces are being formed in many townships, some in collusion with Ethnic Armed Organizations. I would like to tell fellow officers like doctors and nurses to have some professional pride and stand by the people instead of believing the military propaganda that is spread among them. The country is now at a very important intersection and I would like to ask them to join hands with the people.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane.
Original Post: RFA