Former head of Myanmar’s vaccination campaign contracts COVID-19 in prison

Htar Htar Lin and her 7-year-old son Aung Thukhamein Lin. Photo: Dr Htar Htar Lin/Facebook
Htar Htar Lin and her 7-year-old son Aung Thukhamein Lin. Photo: Dr Htar Htar Lin/Facebook

The former director of Myanmar’s Vaccination Department has contracted the coronavirus over a month after she was jailed on charges of incitement, her associates say.

Htar Htar Lin, who pushed to secure vaccines under the former civilian government, contracted the disease recently following her arrest June 10 along with her young son. She was later transferred to a prison in Naypyidaw, but her current whereabouts are unknown.

She had been hailed for traveling to personally arrange the acquisition of Covidshield vaccines from India, but her defiance of the junta ultimately cost her freedom. Htar Htar Lin is accused of “founding” the so-called Civil Disobedience campaign by distributing MMK161 million (US$100,000) of immunization funds from government accounts to local health departments, drawing the military’s ire.

There’s been no word of the release of her 7-year-old son, Aung Thukhamein Lin, who was among a number of young children to be locked behind bars by the junta. She’s been charged with incitement under Section 505(a), a section of the Penal Code the junta has used to charge everyone from journalists and protesters to celebrities. If convicted, she faces three years in prison.

Myanmar health official still behind bars as calls for release intensify

Since the Feb. 1 coup, primary health care workers including hospital administrators, specialists, doctors and nurses have been arrested by the regime over their defiance of its rule, while the COVID-19 outbreak was in full swing.

Among those to arrested have been Maw Maw Oo, the head of the Emergency Department of Yangon General Hospital, and Than Min Htut, superintendent of Pathein Hospital.

Maw Maw Oo became infected with COVID-19 while held at Yangon’s Insein Prison and is currently being treated at North Okkalapa General Hospital.

“This is not the time for health professionals to be behind bars. They shouldn’t be on the run,” a friend close to Htar Htar Lin told reporters on Sunday.

“All arrested doctors and health workers must be released immediately and unconditionally … especially during such a hard time like this,” he added.

Yangon Region Prime Minister Phyo Min Thein and his wife were rushed to a military hospital in Mingaladon this morning after contracting COVID-19 while in detention. Phyo Min Thein reportedly lost consciousness and his current condition is unknown.

Cardinal Charles Bo has called for urgent medical assistance in the wake of the third wave of infections currently ravaging Myanmar.

“Let the gunmen drop their guns and seek medical treatment in God’s name as soon as possible. Let’s all unite to save lives,” he said.

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