Doctors arrested in Myanmar over medical tourism

Written by Staff Writer

Eighteen medics have been arrested in northwestern Myanmar following a raid on a clinic.

The ministry of health said Tuesday that eight residents of Gehawe township in the state of Shan were detained in a raid on the Alfred Heights clinic.

Police accused the clinic’s staff of violating a 2011 law aimed at halting medical tourism in the country by providing services for members of anti-junta groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch says the law is part of a broader security crackdown in Myanmar after the country held elections in 2015 and 2016.

HMS Sanghee, a U.N. agency that treats internally displaced people, says Alfred Heights is among the few clinics to remain open in the area, after the local community closed other medical centers and a hospital “to avoid arbitrary arrests.”

The U.N. agency said local residents are “extremely worried about their loved ones who are receiving treatment from the clinic’s medical staff.”

Rights activists have called on the authorities to release the medics.

Myanmar’s military has long been accused of committing serious human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch has documented the detention of more than 20 medical personnel linked to pro-democracy groups.

Maung Maung, the owner of Alfred Heights, told reporters that two patients from Hpakant and a fellow staff member who worked at the clinic were not detained.

“If they won’t let the local people work (for clinics) they should open an emergency room, give free blood tests and of course free food to patients. If they don’t then they must be afraid of us because of us bringing healthcare to the local people,” Maung Maung said.

The Alfred Heights clinic serves three different areas in Shan state. The local government had allocated 7 million kyat ($4,500) for reconstruction following September’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

The local hospital received a batch of 49 mobile phone vouchers from the state government in September.

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