Myanmar civilians ‘unnecessarily buying oxygen’: military spokesperson

Tatamadaw spokesperson Zaw Min Tun in a photo from the military’s PR website. Yes, it is at Really. Photo:
Tatamadaw spokesperson Zaw Min Tun in a photo from the military’s PR website. Yes, it is at Really. Photo:

Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun admitted in a press conference on Monday that they ordered oxygen plants to restrict the right of individuals to refill oxygen tanks.

Zaw Min Tun argued that Myanmar civilians were “unnecessarily buying oxygen,” Khit Thit media reported. The comments come amidst an uncontrollable surge in COVID-19 cases that have reached every corner of the Southeast Asian country.

In a bizarre statement on Monday, army chief Min Aung Hlaing also said in a speech that “Most of the people criticize regarding the Oxygen in recent days. Actually, we have enough Oxygen.”

Since July 8, crowds have gathered outside of oxygen factories around the country from early morning to late evening in hopes that they could acquire life-saving oxygen for family and loved ones. Social media is flooded with desperate pleas for oxygen, as well as obituaries, underscoring the far-reaching devastation of Myanmar’s third COVID-19 wave.

On July 12, junta security forces fired rounds to disperse a crowd waiting to refill their oxygen tanks in Yangon’s South Dagon Township. Soldiers on motorcycles were seen shooting at civilians carrying oxygen tanks away from the scene.

According to the junta-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports, Myanmar confirmed 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, including 89 deaths. In total, Myanmar reported 197,227 cases and 3,927 deaths.

Scenes of long queues waiting for oxygen, testing, and waiting for hospitalisation have become commonplace in Myanmar. After the Feb. 1 coup, Myanmar’s healthcare system has all but collapsed after doctors across the country participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement and walked out of their jobs. Many refused the second coronavirus vaccine dose in a similar show of defiance to the junta.

In an op-ed, Myanmar Now argued that the ongoing public health catastrophe in the country requires “an unprecedented international response,” while cautiously working with all actors including the junta.

“The international community and donors must urgently do more to provide Covid aid and be flexible and creative in how support is distributed, with a strong emphasis on guaranteeing that it is not misappropriated by a junta desperately seeking new revenue amid efforts to choke off its sources of funding,” Myanmar Now argued. 

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