Soldiers open fire, disperse crowds refilling oxygen tanks in Yangon

Civilians queueing for oxygen in Yangon. Photo: Facebook/Kyaw Oo
Civilians queueing for oxygen in Yangon. Photo: Facebook/Kyaw Oo

Soldiers opened fire on a crowd of people lining up for oxygen in Yangon’s South Dagon Township, with those experiencing the alleged brutality recalling the terrifying incident.

“Four shots were fired and then two more. I was scared and silent. The exact extent of the damage is unknown. I left with no oxygen tanks. I was lucky enough not to be chased,” said one victim, who wished to remain anonymous.

Oxygen cylinders were left behind as civilians queueing to refill their oxygen tanks at a factory on Loikaw Road, Industrial Zone 1 fled in panic while they were chased by soldiers.

“Everyone knows how hard it is to find oxygen at this hard time. It is the lifesaver of this time. People have been queueing up early in the morning even with the expectation of rain,” said a relief worker.

Witnesses said that soldiers arrived on motorcycles and opened fire. They were also seen shooting at civilians who were carrying oxygen tanks on motorcycles. There have been reports that soldiers have been ordered to disperse crowds at oxygen factories to ensure exclusive supply of oxygen to junta-run facilities.

There are no reports of casualties from the attacks.

Last night, a netizen posted pictures of people lining up in front of an oxygen factory. 

“COVID-19 is highly contagious and people without the support of the military regime are not afraid of the 10pm curfew. For the survival of their family, they are waiting tonight at an oxygen distribution center in the South Dagon Industrial Zone,” the netizen wrote.

“The shop was closed this afternoon due to reports of shootings, and was reopened in the evening.”

“Wicked dogs. They even shot civilians without saving them in the first place,” one commenter wrote.

In Myanmar, the number of COVID-19 patients is increasing day-by-day, and oxygen is in scarce supply for civilians.

According to the Ministry of Health and Sports under the military junta, more than 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Monday, including 89 deaths. Myanmar has in total reported 197,227 cases and 3,927 deaths.

Oxygen is needed more than ever amid the COVID-19 spike, which has seen mandatory stay-at-home orders enforced on as many as 74 townships and territories.

Several oxygen factories in Yangon announced on July 11 that they had stopped selling to the private sector and civilians because they had to supply government-run treatment centers and Yangon General Hospital. Government hospitals and clinics are overcrowded amid the surge, while private hospitals providing COVID-19 care are not accepting new patients.  

On Tuesday, a staff member at Yangon General Hospital told Coconuts that although the health care workers had returned to work, there were not enough doctors and nurses at the hospital as many joined the Civil Disobedience Movement in revolt against the rule of the military regime. 

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