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Dr. Aye Nyein Thu, Myanmar

Dr. Aye Nyein Thu, Myanmar


Great Britain made Burma a province of India in 1886, assigning Rangoon as the capital city. This colonial history set the stage for undemocratic rule in the nation for decades. Burma suffered military rule starting in the 1960s, challenged by a large protest movement in 1988 that was crushed by authorities. Starting in September 2007, another round of protests against the ruling government and its fuel prices were led by thousands of Buddhist monks (hence, “Saffron Revolution” referring to the color of the robes), during which dozens of protesters were arrested. A new constitution in 2008 granted broad military powers, even over civilian rule [2]. Democratic progress in 2011 led to the establishment of a parliament, but it was military-dominated, with seats reserved for members of the military[2]. Prime Minister Thein Sein was appointed president; he eased media censorship, encouraged foreign investment and oversaw Myanmar’s first nationwide election in 2015 [1]. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party, National League of Democracy, won this election. The most recent military coup occurred after the 2020 general election, where the NLD party enjoyed a landslide win. However, before election results were ratified, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and Tatmadaw soldiers arrested key government figures, including Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi.[1]. Using its constitutional powers to declare a national emergency, the military seized control of major institutions and suspended all telephone, TV broadcasting, and internet access. All flights were canceled, and the banks and stock markets were closed. In response, the People’s Defense Force assembled 60,000 soldiers to defend democracy against the Tatmadaw in spring of 2021. Since the start of the coup, more than 1.4 million civilians have been displaced, more than 2,500 killed, and more than 16,500 people arrested[1].

1. Who is Dr. Aye Nyein Thu?

Dr. Aye Nyein Thu, also known by A Nyein, is a 26-year-old medical doctor, a mother, and first responder in Myanmar. She has been a frontline volunteer during the Myanmar coup in 2021, providing medical care to injured civilians and protesters in Mandalay. She was recognized as one of the BBC’s 100 inspiring and influential women in 2022. She has one daughter, whom she has not had any contact with in fear of compromising her safety.

Dr. Aye Nyein Thu is committed to providing medical care to the population in the Chin State, where even in peaceful times doctors were extremely rare [10]. In November 2021, she was able to successfully build a hospital that served 20 people a day, sometimes up to 50 on busier days [10]. However, knowing the majority of the Chin State residents were unable to reach the hospital due to inaccessible modes of transportation, Dr. Aye Nyein Thu would close the hospitals over the weekend to travel to each village in a mobile clinic [10]. While each village may be walking distance from one another, the travel is difficult as villages may be on opposite sides of the mountain [10]. However, during the recent military coup, her hospital was one of the many buildings destroyed [10].

2. What happened?

In 2021, Dr. Thu traveled to Mindat Township, Chin State, to set up a makeshift hospital and an operating theater to provide medical care to Mindat residents and nearby villagers, as well as for camps of internally displaced people[2]. Dr. Aye Nyein Thu leads and runs her healthcare, fundraising, and revolution support activities through her initiative/group/organization called "Heal the World".

Heal the World had its 2-year anniversary last May. Three volunteers were arrested after attempting to deliver medical supplies to Aye Nyein Thu. The Tatmadaw seized an X-Ray machine, an anesthesia machine, and medicines, claiming she was receiving weapons, ammunition, and money to give to Chinland Defense Force, a local insurgent group. In September 2021, the Myanmar junta announced its plans to prosecute Dr. Aye Nyein Thu along with other volunteers, who have been aiding and providing healthcare treatment to internally displaced people, and allegedly supporting locals in the People's Defense Force. She has been accused of working for Zaw Wai Soe, the health minister of the rebel National Unity Government, as well as misusing any donations given to her hospital and giving them to anti-military groups. Although Dr. Aye Nyein Thu has disputed the allegations and claims against her, she still has a warrant out for her arrest[3]. 

3. How did the junta undermine right to health?

The Tatmadaw junta has violently persecuted anti coup protesters and has prohibited medical volunteers from treating wounded protestors and civilians[4]. Dr. Aye Nyein Thu spoke to multiple reporters before her arrest warrant, reporting how police officers were keeping injured civilians in vans and arresting them. Dr. Aye Nyein Thu further stated it's ethically incorrect to prohibit medical treatment of injured people[5]. In the middle of dealing with violence, these medical providers are forced to hide in these areas to treat patients, as there is no safe place to take them without their equipment or base being destroyed by the Tatmadaw[6]. Authorities are monitoring volunteer movements and activities, which undermines their willingness and capacity to deliver care.

4. Campaign for Justice

Dr. Aye Nyein Thu doesn’t have any specific campaign for justice for her current situation, but Myanmar has multiple general health worker campaigns for justice. The Chin Human Rights organization (CHRO) is a non-governmental non-profit organization legally registered in Canada and the United States[7]. Its mission is to protect and promote human rights through monitoring, researching, documentation, education, and advocacy on behalf of indigenous Chin people and other oppressed and marginalized communities in Myanmar. Another is the Justice for Myanmar campaign, created by the people of Myanmar to dismantle the military and fight for federal democracy along with their own lives[8]. This group seeks to undermine military sources of funds and arms by encouraging public divestment from businesses with ties to the military and encouraging targeted international sanctions to disrupt the military's global work. The plan of action is to expose businesses with financial ties to the Myanmar military, pressure these companies to cut funds to the military and governments to impose sanctions, and dismantle the military by cutting off its funds, arms, and other forms of support. 

Case prepared by Miranda Sahagun, University of Washington


  1. BBC News, “BBC 100 Women 2022.
  2. Chanayuth, “Myanmar Junta Seeks to Arrest Doctor Assisting Displaced Persons in Chin State.”
  3. Chanayuth, “Myanmar Junta Seeks to Arrest Doctor Assisting Displaced Persons in Chin State.”
  4. Thu and Diamond, “We Spoke to a Doctor Treating Victims of Myanmar’s Deadly Crackdown.”
  5. Gallo, “Myanmar Doctor Prevented from Treating Wounded Protesters.”
  6. Fishbein, “Medics Risk Lives to Treat Injured in Myanmar Anti-Coup Protests.”
  7.  “Activities – Chin Human Rights Organization.”
  8. “About | Justice For Myanmar.”
  9. “ချင်းတောင်တန်းကနေ မပြန်နိုင်သေးတဲ့ ဆရာဝန်မလေး အငြိမ်း”


“About | Justice For Myanmar,” 2023. .
“Activities – Chin Human Rights Organization,” 2023. .
BBC News. “BBC 100 Women 2022 - BBC News Pidgin.” News Pidgin, December 2022. .
BBC News. “ချင်းတောင်တန်းကနေ မပြန်နိုင်သေးတဲ့ ဆရာဝန်မလေး အငြိမ်း” 2022. 
Chanayuth. “Myanmar Junta Seeks to Arrest Doctor Assisting Displaced Persons in Chin State.” The Irrawaddy, September 24, 2021. .
Fishbein, Kyaw Hsan Hlaing, Emily. “Medics Risk Lives to Treat Injured in Myanmar Anti-Coup Protests,” March 3, 2021. .
Gallo, William. “Myanmar Doctor Prevented from Treating Wounded Protesters.” VOA, February 27, 2021. .
Paddock, Richard C. “Myanmar’s Coup and Its Aftermath, Explained.” The New York Times, December 9, 2022, sec. World. .
Thu, Aye Nyein, and Cape Diamond. “We Spoke to a Doctor Treating Victims of Myanmar’s Deadly Crackdown.” Vice (blog), March 2, 2021. .