Doctors under fire as Myanmar military targets efforts to aid injured protesters

Medics tell of attacks on staff and ambulances to stop treatment of patients and punish those who took part in national strike

Medical workers rally against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, on 10 February. Photograph: Reuters

Rebecca Ratcliffe and Observer reporter in Myanmar

Htet Htet Win and her husband were late returning home on Sunday night. It was past the junta-imposed 8pm curfew when their motorbike passed through the streets of eastern Mandalay. The security forces reportedly shouted for them to stop, and then opened fire when they did not do so. Her husband was hit but managed to get away. She was knocked to the ground.

A grainy photograph, taken by an onlooker, shows her lying face down on the concrete, her arms reaching above her head, her purple top and bottoms marked with dark patches.

Doctors believed she was still alive, but were warned by residents that soldiers were waiting nearby. They feared it was a trap. “I felt like they were ambushing us,” said one of the rescuers. “I think she would have survived if we were able to pick her up as soon as it happened,” he said. They waited for more than an hour before the soldiers eventually retreated. It was too late.

For medics in Myanmar, it is a grimly familiar story. Doctors told the Observer they were routinely targeted with violence by the military, and prevented from treating the victims of its bloody attacks. They recounted attacks in which security forces – trying to suppress defiant opposition to the February coup – had raided their facilities, searched and fired at their ambulances, detained, beaten and even killed their colleagues.

It came as at least 82 people were reported to have been killed in one day in a crackdown by Myanmar security forces on pro-democracy protesters, according to reports on Saturday from independent local media and an organisation that keeps track of casualties since the military’s February seizure of power.

Friday’s death toll in Bago was the biggest one-day total for a single city since 14 March, when more than 100 people were killed in Yangon, the country’s biggest city.

Bago is about 60 miles (100km) north-east of Yangon. The preliminary death toll of 82, which has not been independently verified, was compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which issues daily counts of casualties and arrests from the crackdown in the aftermath of the 1 February coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.