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Burmese healthcare professions urged to stand by Sanghas and people

Mizzima News, September 23, 2007

Yangon, Myanmar -- A group of Burmese medical professionals today urged Burma's healthcare professions to stand by the protesting monks and the people. They were urged to take appropriate action to protect and care for the protesters.

The group, which could not be identified nor contacted, said there is information and evidence that the ruling junta is preparing for a violent crackdown on the ongoing protests and that hospitals are being alerted to prepare for casualties.

With indications of a heavy crackdown, the group urged all Burmese healthcare professionals to carry out their professional duties in the interest of the people without any discrimination or bias.

The group, which calls itself the 'Concerned Myanmar Physicians and Professionals Group', in a statement released today, said as the Sanghas (monks) and the people of Burma have always viewed healthcare professionals with respect and trust, healthcare professionals should refrain from taking part in any act of violent suppression against the protesting Sanghas and the people.

The group's warning follows monks and civilians the unabated protests for the sixth day on Sunday in Rangoon and parts of Burma. It is the biggest unrest in two decades in the military-ruled impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

The group's caution comes even as critics and observers see a possible crackdown on protesting monks and civilians in what might be a repetition of the 1988 uprising, where the army fired into protesting crowds killing thousands of students, monks and civilians.

While there are rumours that the ruling junta has forced doctors and nurses to evacuate patients from hospitals in Rangoon, an eyewitness in the city, however, told Mizzima that at least 50 percent of the Rangoon general hospital's ground ward is still occupied with patients and there appears no sign of any abnormality or sudden evacuation.

However, the eyewitness said, there has been a lot of security personnel positioned outside the new Rangoon general hospital but the scenario in other wards is not known.

The group, while calling on all Burmese medical professionals to join hands with the protesters, also warned of the possibility of the junta manipulating medical professionals as it did to the highly esteemed Myanmar Red Cross Society.

Despite the nobility of the organization, "It is a sad fact that in Myanmar, those who are in power have transformed some members of Red Cross into enemies of the people such as Swan Arrshin," said the group.

The group urged all members of the Red Cross to refrain from taking part in any act of suppression or violence against the protesting Sanghas and the people or to create misunderstanding among the protesters.

"If you cannot assist, at least do no harm," the group said.

The group further called on all Burmese medical professionals to "assiduously preserve evidentiary materials and wounds in accordance with medico-legal principles and procedures in case of casualties and death with a view to future legal actions and procedures."

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