Families are concerned about nursing students who have been imprisoned on suspicion of having ties to the military.
The family members of two young nurses are concerned for their well-being after spending more than one month in junta custody after they were accused of being members of the People’s Defence Force (PDF).
On August 2, Thinzar Tun—a 21-year-old student from the University of Nursing in Yangon—and Si Thu Lwin, a 25-year-old practicing nurse, went to a bus station in the town of Kamma, in Magway Region to pick up medical supplies sent by donors from Mandalay to distribute to people displaced by the junta’s raids and offensives. The two nurses were arrested at the bus station.
“I want to get in touch with them. I want to know what they have had to eat and the conditions they are staying in. I’m just waiting for the phone to ring the whole day,” Thinzar Tun’s mother said, crying.
Thinzar Tun is a native of Kinma in Magwe Region’s Pauk Township, a 230-household village which was largely burnt down by the junta’s army in July. She was providing medical care to some of the 2,000 people who fled from seven villages in the area, including Kinma. She and Si Thu Lwin were both based in Pauk Township.
“Patients asked her for help, so she could not ignore them. She is still a student, so she doesn’t understand some of the medical issues. In those cases, she asked her teacher by phone what to do, and then she gave the appropriate treatment to those patients,” her mother said.
“Between four and 10 people a day have asked for her medical help. She has had no rest.”
Thinzar Tun’s mother is also currently on the run due to the arson attack on Kinma.
Si Thu Lwin, who was arrested alongside Thinzar Tun, had five years of experience as a nurse, and had worked in the Pyin Oo Lwin 300-bed general hospital. Since his involvement in the Civil Disobedience Movement, he had not gone to work, instead providing medical assistance to locals who fled villages like Kinma.
One of Si Thu Lwin’s family members said that he went to the Pauk Township police station—an hour’s drive from Kamma, where the arrest took place—to inquire about Si Thu Lwin’s condition but was not given any information.
“This is illegal. These kids have had their rights taken away,” Si Thu Lwin’s father said. “[The military authorities] did not contact us, so we tried to communicate with them, but it was in vain.”
Two other villagers who had accompanied the nurses were also arrested alongside them on August 2, and their families also remain unable to contact them.
During the arrests, the junta’s armed forces confiscated around 1 million kyat (US$607) worth of medical supplies including Covid-19 prevention materials, and medication for pregnant women and the elderly, said a colleague of the two nurses.
The junta announced on August 28 that Thinzar Tun and Si Thu Lwin had weapons on them at the time of their arrest, and stated that they were PDF members.
The military-run Myawaddy TV also broadcast video footage of the two nurses confessing to being members of the PDF.
Their family members insist that they are only volunteer nurses and are not part of the armed resistance movement.
“We want them to be released,” Thinzar Tun’s mother said. “We will be relieved when we get our kids back. It will only be all right when they are with their parents again.”
The parents of Thinzar Tun and Si Thu Lwin have asked that they be informed by the military council of their children’s whereabouts and be allowed to send them food and medicine.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported on August 30, the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, that the military junta had not disclosed the whereabouts of some 82 percent of the more than 7,000 detainees arrested since the coup
According to the AAPP, 78 health workers have been among those arrested. Three doctors died shortly after being detained by the coup regime.