Home ဆောင်းပါး “Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein – ​the Heroine of Poor Patients in Rakhine” 

“Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein – ​the Heroine of Poor Patients in Rakhine” 

Thant Shin Tun

Compared to other regions and states in Burma, Rakhine is considered one of the least underdeveloped States, marked by a lack of access to economic opportunities and basic healthcare for its residents. Likewise, due to the ongoing conflict and continuing fighting, the people of Rakhine State including the IDPs cannot access different services including healthcare. 

“The conflict and frequent fighting have significantly reduced job opportunities and income, leaving us with no option. We have to live on no matter what and if we get sick, we buy medicine from the small pharmacy shop,” said a local woman from Rakhine State. 

“In Rakhine, there are not enough doctors and nurses in the hospitals and clinics, besides people cannot afford to have treatment at the clinic. People have to rely on their own ways to treat their sickness,” she further explained. 

However, there is one person who visited IDPs camps and to those who are in an unaffordable situation to treat the sickness for free. She is Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein who is the recipient of the Rakhine Women Outstanding Award in 2015. 

The 73-year-old Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein has brown skin and white hair, which might give the impression of a grandmotherly figure, but she radiates a remarkable freshness and strength to a young lady. She has nine siblings and Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein is the second eldest daughter in the family. 

Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein’s unique appearance is that aside from wearing a watch, she does not wear any gold accessories, including earrings. 

Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein said that she moved to Sittwe, Rakhine State as a doctor in 2013 with the sole purpose of helping local Rakhine people with her medical expertise.

“If we want to help the people, we need money. So, I sold my house and farm in Kalaw Township wit 25,000,000 Kyat and I came to Rakhine,” said Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein.  

She further explained that from a young age, she held a strong ambition to become an educated person, but her childhood was not easy. She had faced countless difficulties and challenges along the way.

“When I reached the third grade, my mother told me to discontinue my education and look after my younger siblings and do all household chores. However, my desire to become an educated person was strong, and I wanted to continue my study. So, I negotiated with her, offering to take care of the kids and manage household chores but allow me to continue my study,” she recalled.

Under the terms of their agreement, Dr. Kyaew Ther Sein had to wake up at 4:00 A.M in the morning to complete household chores before heading to school. Upon returning from school, she has to cook, pound chili and study in the kitchen. 

“My books were often stained with chili, rice syrup, and sauces, but my determination to become an educated person remained unwavering. Eventually, I progressed to the 10th grade without the need for extra special classes or additional assistance,” she recalled her past with a laugh.

As her responsibilities at home often took over her studies, her basic English Language skills were weak and consequently, she got only 35 points for English skills, falling into the (B) category. In the past, the 10th grade was divided into two levels, (A) and (B).

Having spent two years in the tenth grade, therefore she was not allowed to attend the official regular school. Subsequently, with no other choice, she had to attend night school to pursue her education.

“During that time, there was a night school for young people. Monthly fee is six Myanmar Kyat. I asked my mother to permit me to attend night school, and she agreed. However, she didn’t have the extra six Myanmar Kyat to cover my school fees. So, I had to take five to six cents from food allowances for the family and paid for the school fee. I could pay for the first one and two months but I could no longer afford afterward,” she explained how she could not afford for her education. 

Fortunately, the night school teacher noticed Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein difficulty and recognized her strong ambition and passion for her study, the teacher allowed her to study for free. 

However, obtaining something for free was not straightforward, as she had to promise her school that she would work diligently to attain a grade of A for an English subject. This commitment was the exchange offered in return for studying without payment.

“Making this promise was not easy for me, especially considering my performance in the English subject and the requirement to achieve a grade A. But, my strong determination pushed me to overcome this challenge, and I assured my teacher that I would give my best effort,” she said with a laugh. 

Successively, Dr. Kyaew Ther Sein excelled in her tenth-grade exams, achieving grade A in English, Chemistry, and Mathematics. She went on to earn her doctorate degree in 1983.

“I was initially hesitant to check my results. I went to the notice for B list and my name was not there. So I went to check the notice for A list and found out that I had achieved a grade A for English, Math and Chemistry.  It was quite an accomplishment, especially after failing twice in my tenth-grade exams. This time, I succeeded with top grades in three subjects,” she recalled.

Following the attainment of her doctorate degree, she worked in numerous hospitals across different States in Burma. As she approached retirement, she made the decision to move to Rakhine, where she dedicated herself to provide free medical treatment to the poor people and IDP camps in the region.

Lately, she has been providing mobile free medical treatment to individuals in IDP camps, relief centers, orphanages, and nuns.

The only challenge she faces is that even though she provides her services free of charge, she still needs to cover the expenses for medicines and transportation, she explained.

“I’m fortunate to receive some medicines from the Health Department; otherwise, it would cost more to purchase them in these current circumstances. Sometimes, I also receive some donation money to buy medicines,” she said. 

In addition to providing complimentary medical services to the people of Rakhine, she has also established a volunteer night school for the youth, with the money she got from selling her properties like house, car and land. Over the past five years, the school has helped approximately 150 students successfully finish the tenth grade, she mentioned.

A local resident in Sittwee expressed admiration for the presence of Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein in Rakhine, emphasizing her selflessness and dedication. 

“She sold all her own property to do all these charitable works. It is so rare to have someone like her. I wish to see there are more women like Dr. Kyaw Thar Sein appears for the well-being of the society,” stated the local resident.

Underdeveloped states like Rakhine, most of the people in Rakhine are in hope of accessible free healthcare services. Dr. Kyawt Thar Sein also reflected the needs of the Rakhine people and explained her dedication as followed; 

"I will never take for granted to get rich with the money that I receive from the people by treating them.” 

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