Healthcare in the Junta’s Crosshairs

May 3rd, 2024  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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“Hundreds of doctors and medical workers in central Myanmar, who have resisted the military’s administration and joined the [CDM], have formed humanitarian and medical networks to address the dire needs deep within the country,”

The Myanmar military junta’s attack on a hospital in Chin State on 25 April is the latest in its pattern of lethal attacks on healthcare infrastructure across the country. Since its failed coup, the junta has bombed hospitals and clinics; targeted, arrested, and killed healthcare workers; and blocked lifesaving aid, all with completely impunity—putting millions of human lives at stake and severely exacerbating the dire humanitarian crisis across the country. Amidst the junta’s campaign of terror and destruction, local frontline humanitarian responders are working tirelessly and with remarkable ingenuity to deliver healthcare services to communities across Myanmar through field hospitals, mobile clinics, and other efforts.

On 25 April, the military junta attacked Wammathu Hospital in Mindat Township, Chin State, dropping six 150-pound bombs and engulfing the hospital in flames. The junta’s aerial attack completely destroyed the hospital, killing four civilians and injuring 15. This hospital was staffed by members of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and relied on by countless civilians as the main healthcare provider for the local community and neighboring areas. Frequently in the junta’s crosshairs, it had previously been raided by junta troops in August 2021 and February 2022.

In the first three weeks of April, more than 80 people died of dysentery in internment camps in Rakhine State due to extremely poor living conditions, particularly unclean water and lack of doctors and medicine. What’s more, on 15 April, the office and pharmacy of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Buthidaung, Rakhine State, was burned down amid ongoing violence, destroying all available medical supplies—another crippling blow to the “decimation of healthcare options for the people in Rakhine State.” On 17 April, MSF raised the alarm that there’s “a near-total absence of humanitarian assistance for communities who rely on it, including the Rohingya people,” with the junta denying permission to operate to all organizations delivering healthcare in Rakhine State.

Myanmar’s health sector is undeniably under deliberate assault. Since the end of February alone, the junta has destroyed at least 35 hospitals and clinics across Chin, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan States and Magwe Region. Today, the junta’s war of terror on healthcare continues unabated as a form of collective punishment against the people’s democratic resistance movement. Through its relentless violence, the junta has caused rates of infectious disease to soar, forced thousands of doctors to flee for their lives or go into hiding, and denied nearly all children access to critical vaccinations.

In defiance of the junta’s attacks, “Hundreds of doctors and medical workers in central Myanmar, who have resisted the military’s administration and joined the [CDM], have formed humanitarian and medical networks to address the dire needs deep within the country,” including through “successfully opening hospitals to provide medical assistance for free [in Chin State],” according to Adelina Kamal and Rin Fujimatsu’s paper on Myanmar’s resistance humanitarians. These local efforts across the country are nothing new: For decades, the Ethnic Health Systems Strengthening Group (EHSSG), a network of ethnic and community-based health organizations, has been working towards an improved, equitable decentralized healthcare system that serves vulnerable and displaced people countrywide.

It is with exceptional creativity, tenacity, and bravery that member organizations of EHSSG and healthcare workers across the country are providing lifesaving care through building field hospitals and conducting mobile clinics. In sharp contrast to the assistance blocked by the junta, mobile clinics are able to reach the most vulnerable communities, including internally displaced persons repeatedly targeted by the junta’s campaign of terror. In this vein, a member of Nway Oo Kyan Mar (Burmese for “Spring Health”), a group of CDM healthcare workers in Karenni State, said, “Only with a stethoscope, only with a syringe—we don’t have anything to resist the jet fighters. But we resist very well.”

With the junta’s targeting of healthcare and weaponization of aid on full display, the international community must immediately stop making efforts to channel humanitarian assistance through the junta and UN agencies. Humanitarian assistance through the junta cannot reach those under junta attack and in the direst need, while UN agencies are unable to get permission from the junta to reach these most vulnerable populations. The international community’s current aid approach of partnering with the junta has been dangerously misguided from its inception. The Myanmar military—the creator and exacerbator of Myanmar’s humanitarian and human rights crisis—has repeatedly proven that any incoming aid is only ever used to its strategic political and military advantage at the expense of civilian lives.

To address the intensifying humanitarian crisis on the ground, the international community must robustly support frontline responders, including civil society and community-based organizations, directly through locally led cross-border channels. This must also involve “forming meaningful and equal partnerships with local organisations,” rather than a so-called ‘localization’ strategy that ignores the will and sacrifices of Myanmar’s people to end the military’s tyranny. The world must put its trust and investment in local organizations, which have proven to have the access, trust, and competencies to provide healthcare services and meet the emergency needs of Myanmar’s communities.

As Myanmar’s healthcare remains in the junta’s crosshairs, the world must no longer delay putting its full support behind the people’s steadfast resistance movement and providing humanitarian aid directly to the people through locally led cross-border channels.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

New Study Finds Mental Harm Inflicted on Myanmar’s Rohingya a Form of Genocide

By Fortify Rights

Info Birmanie and Justice For Myanmar Call On French Authorities To Investigate Myanmar Military Linked HEC Paris Student

By Info Birmanie and Justice For Myanmar

NUG Ministry of Health Announcement (3/2024)

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Statement on the situation in Buthidaung

By National Unity Government

Appeal to the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand

By National Unity Government



“My Tears Could Make A Sea”: The Infliction of Mental Harm as Genocide Against Rohingya

By Fortify Rights and Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic

Bulletin Issue 10 – Message from the Head of the Mechanism

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Attacks on Health Care in Myanmar (03-16 April 2024)

By Insecurity Insight

Myanmar UNHCR Displacement Overview 22 Apr 2024

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee

China Forces Myanmar Scam Syndicates to Move to Thai Border

By United States Institute of Peace

2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Burma

By U.S. Department of State

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”