Ex-head of Myanmar's Covid-19 vaccination programme arrested

In this photo taken on May 28, 2021, Covid-19 patients receive treatment at a hospital in Cikha, Myanmar.
In this photo taken on May 28, 2021, Covid-19 patients receive treatment at a hospital in Cikha, Myanmar.PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (REUTERS) - The former head of Myanmar's Covid-19 immunisation programme has been arrested and faces charges of high treason for colluding with opponents of the military authorities, state media reported on Monday (June 14).

Myanmar's healthcare system and coronavirus prevention measures have collapsed since the army seized power on Feb 1 and overthrew elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose government had successfully stopped two waves of the virus.

On Sunday, reported cases surged to their highest since shortly after the coup.

Doctors and other medical workers have been at the forefront of a Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), leading strikes that have paralysed official and private business. Dozens have been arrested and hundreds more are wanted.

The Global New Light of Myanmar said Dr Htar Htar Lin had been arrested on June 10 and that she was also accused of working with the underground National Unity Government (NUG).

"According to her confession, she not only joined the CDM and formed the CDM Core Group together with other CDM doctors and staff, but also colluded with terrorist NUG," it said.

Reuters was unable to reach her or any lawyer representing her for comment.

The paper said she and 11 other doctors would face charges that included high treason, incitement and colluding with an illegal organisation.

The junta has branded the NUG set up by supporters of Ms Suu Kyi and other opponents of military rule as a terrorist group.

The arrest of Dr Htar Htar Lin and other doctors was condemned by United States-based Physicians for Human Rights.

"Dr Htar Htar Lin's arbitrary arrest is yet another sign that the military junta will stop at nothing in its war against Myanmar's health workers," said Dr Jennifer Leigh, an epidemiologist serving as the group's Myanmar Researcher.

The 373 new cases of Covid-19 reported on Sunday was the highest since Feb 3, just before testing collapsed in the wake of the coup.