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This picture taken on July 14, 2021 shows people waiting to fill up empty oxygen canisters outside a factory in Yangon, amid a surge in the number of Covid-19 coronavirus cases. Photo by YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images

Myanmar’s military regime is hoarding oxygen and limiting supply to residents, doctors say.

The crackdown on the life-saving supply comes as the country battles a deadly wave of COVID-19 cases.

The scarcity has sparked intensified anger amid an already-politically volatile situation following February’s coup.

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Myanmar’s military junta is hoarding oxygen and restricting access to the life-saving medical treatment as a third wave of COVID-19 ravages the country, according to doctors and residents.

More than five months after the military seized power in a February coup, authorities have inhibited private health clinics from acquiring oxygen, and barred citizens from buying supplies from oxygen producers, whom the regime has accused of price gouging, health workers told The New York Times.

Charity workers told the outlet the regime has also restricted charities from giving out oxygen to those who need it.

According to The Irrawaddy, a news website founded by Burmese exiles living in Thailand, the junta has also ordered private oxygen plants not to refill cylinders for people who need it, claiming that citizens are the ones hoarding supplies.

The crackdown on the lifesaving supply comes as Myanmar battles record numbers of COVID-19 cases amid a surge of the Delta variant. The country is recording daily cases in the 5,000s and more than a third of tests on average are coming back positive, state-run media reported this week. Public health experts believe the actual rate of infection is likely much higher.

Many of the country’s private clinics that have been barred from accessing oxygen are staffed by doctors who refuse to work in the state-run hospitals as part of an ongoing civil disobedience response to the coup. Several of those doctors told The Times they believe the regime is purposefully directing the country’s limited supply of oxygen to military hospitals where family members of the junta are primarily served.

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Health professionals told The Times and Reuters that the lack of available oxygen has resulted in multiple deaths from COVID-19 – a trend unlikely to end anytime soon as the authoritarian regime hoards access to most of the country’s vaccines as well, reserving the life-saving public health mechanism for members of the military.

Earlier this week in Myanmar’s largest city of Yangon, scores of residents waited in long lines hoping to fill up or buy a limited number of oxygen tanks, videos and photos on social media showed.

Witnesses told The Times that soldiers in the city opened fire into a crowd of people in line earlier this week. It was unclear if there were any casualties.

The scarcity has sparked intensified anger and desperation amid an already-politically volatile situation in the country.

Since the military announced it would be taking control following the detainment of several top politicians in February, more than 900 people have been killed by security forces, including dozens of children, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group.

“I wonder if the military is trying to survive by making it so there are no people left in the country,” Ko Thein Zaw, a resident of Mandalay, told The Times.

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