GENEVA/KUALA LUMPUR: Myanmar Red Cross workers have been arrested, intimidated and injured on the frontlines as they tried to treat mounting civilian casualties, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Thursday.
The agency said it was deeply concerned at the growing humanitarian crisis two months after the army seized power. More than 500 civilians have been reported killed as the junta's forces have tried to suppress daily protests.
Myanmar Red Cross teams had provided care for more than 2,000 people, a statement said. They have also been targeted.
"Myanmar Red Cross first aiders and medics have been wrongfully arrested, intimidated or injured, and Red Cross property and ambulances have been damaged. This is unacceptable," Alexander Matheou, IFRC’s Asia Pacific regional director, said.
"Health workers should never be a target. They should be granted unrestricted humanitarian access to people in need."
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The statement did not identify any group as being responsible for the attacks, and a Red Cross spokesman declined further comment.
Videos on social media have shown members of the security forces assaulting and abusing medics and, in at least one instance, shooting up an ambulance. Reuters has not independently verified these videos.
The Red Cross warned that Myanmar's crisis posed a wider health threat with a collapse in basic services such as transport and banking that could make it hard to sustain its humanitarian programmes.
The unrest also threatened efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, with testing, tracing and treatment sharply down.
"We could be facing a perfect storm in Myanmar where another wave of COVID-19 infections collides with a deepening humanitarian crisis spreading across the entire country,” Matheou said.