Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Covid-19: Military coup in Myanmar sees virus response crumble as doctors are arrested

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: (Published 12 March 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n704

Read our latest coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Rapid Response:

Re: Covid-19: Military coup in Myanmar sees virus response crumble as doctors are arrested

Dear Editor,

Not only is the virus response crumbling following the coup in Myanmar, the Director of The National Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI) has had to go into hiding after being falsely accused of corruption and misuse of public funds by the military. The violation of medical neutrality must be condemned, the price of the coup particularly in the midst of a pandemic will be the lives of the people of Myanmar denied the healthcare the military provides for its own.

I and colleagues have been involved since 2018 in a project supporting the development of family medicine as a specialty in Myanmar in readiness for the National Health Plan for Universal Healthcare. This has come to a complete halt. We have formed a support group with Myanmar GP colleagues: Myanmar-UK GP Health Action, and the following declaration was endorsed on 17th March by The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges:

'Since the military coup in Myanmar on 1st of February 2021, Myanmar military and police forces have indiscriminately attacked crowds of peaceful demonstrators and health care workers with tear gas, rubber bullets and military grade weapons. 

We demand that the Myanmar military and police forces stop their violations of medical neutrality and comply fully with their obligations under international humanitarian law especially the Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949.

All medical professionals including general practitioners and other health care workers in Myanmar should be able to deliver medical care to anyone in need of their help, without fear of intimidation, attack or arrest.

The United Nation Security Council Resolution 2286 “strongly condemned attacks and threats against the wounded and sick, medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities.”

We strongly condemn the brutal attacks by Myanmar military and police forces on healthcare workers and medical transport who are treating the injured during peaceful demonstration.

We call for the immediate cessation and insist that the Myanmar military and police forces facilitate safe and unimpeded passage for medical and healthcare personnel so that they are able to carry out their work effectively.

All medical professionals must have access to use existing emergency healthcare facilities across the country. We urge the military and police forces not to occupy these facilities as their bases to threaten healthcare professionals and to prevent treatment of the injured.'

As referenced, on the 10th March, Professor Lord Darzi stated we must come to the support of our medical colleagues in Myanmar.

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 March 2021
James Brockbank
Retired GP. GP Appraiser. RCGP Trainer Myanmar Quality Improvement Project
Myanmar-UK GP Health Action