Myanmar’s junta shuts down public hospital in wartorn township

Doctors and healthcare staff are told to relocate, creating a medical crisis for the community.
By RFA Burmese
2024.03.21
Myanmar’s junta shuts down public hospital in wartorn township Maungdaw district’s public hospital in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is seen in 2021. (Myanmar military)
Photo: RFA

Junta authorities closed a public hospital and several private clinics in a wartorn area of Myanmar’s western Rakhine state and ordered doctors and other medical personnel to relocate to the state capital, leaving residents without access to healthcare.

It’s the latest example of how Myanmar’s three-year civil war has taken a huge toll on hospitals and schools, which have also been forced to close

A woman said she’s worried her pregnant sister and other women won’t be able to safely deliver their babies.

“The nurses wrapped all the medical devices and equipment at the hospital,” she said, requesting anonymity for security reasons. “The next day, all the doctors and nurses left the hospital.”

The March 1 notice in Maungdaw township comes amid intense fighting between junta troops and the rebel Arakan Army, or AA, which has attacked positions in junta-controlled Maungdaw and neighboring Buthidaung township in recent months.

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Maungdaw district’s public hospital in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is seen to the right of the sign in July 2021. (RFA)

All patients at Maungdaw’s public hospital were discharged after the order, a hospital official said. One infant has since died during a delivery that took place outside the hospital, he said.

Rakhine state has been the center of intense clashes since the AA ended a ceasefire in November in place since the military seized power in a February 2021 coup d’etat. 

Junta troops have suffered heavy losses on the battlefield while the AA has captured a half dozen townships since November – some of them near the fortified administrative and military hub of Sittwe, where residents have been preparing for possible fighting inside the city. 

‘No safety guarantee’

There wasn’t an official written notice; medical personnel were given a verbal order by junta authorities, sources close to the health care workers told RFA. No specific reason for the move to Sittwe was given, they said.

Three days after the closure, junta authorities announced that the hospital could reopen. But doctors and other medical staff haven’t returned due to security concerns and the facility has remained closed, the sources close to the health care workers said.

“No one has gone inside the closed hospital because there’s no safety guarantee,” the hospital official said. “No medical treatment is provided and medicines aren’t available. Even the private clinics outside have all closed due to a lack of doctors.”

RFA attempted to contact Kyi Lwin, the director of Rakhine state’s Public Health Department, and Hla Thein, the junta’s spokesperson for Rakhine state, to ask why all medical staff were told to relocate to Sittwe, but they couldn’t be reached on Wednesday.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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