As Myanmar Mourns Slain Protesters, Military Junta Threatens More Violence

Feb 22, 2021
Originally published on February 21, 2021 5:16 pm

The 19-year-old woman was standing with a group of about a dozen people on Feb. 9, peacefully protesting the recent military coup in Myanmar, when suddenly, she dropped to the ground.

A bullet fired by Myanmar troops had pierced the motorcycle helmet that Mya Thwet Thwet Khine was wearing. For more than a week, she lay in a hospital bed in Myanmar's capital, passing her 20th birthday while unconscious.

Mya Thwet Thwet Khine died from her injuries Friday morning, becoming the first confirmed fatality in the ongoing confrontation between protesters and the Myanmar military. On Sunday, thousands of mourners lined the streets of Naypyitaw, as a hearse carried her golden coffin and hundreds of motorbikes trailed behind.

The mourners raised three fingers to the sky — a gesture of solidarity introduced in The Hunger Games, which has been adopted by young Myanmar activists.

If the Myanmar military hoped their show of strength would quell dissent, Mya Thwet Thwet Khine's death could very well lead to the opposite. "Please participate and continue fighting until we achieve our goal," her sister Mya Thatoe Nwe said from the hospital's mortuary, The Associated Press reported.

Mourners raise three fingers to the sky as the body of Mya Thwet Thwet Khine is taken to be buried. The gesture of solidarity, introduced in The Hunger Games, has been adopted by Myanmar activists.
Stringer / AFP via Getty Images

Protests a day earlier were among the largest yet — and led to to the worst day of violence since the coup began. In the city of Mandalay, security forces opened fire, killing two protesters and injuring at least 20 more. One doctor who was on the ground in Yangon told Al Jazeera the scene reminded him of a "war zone."

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Burma condemned the use of deadly violence. "No one should be harmed for exercising the right to dissent," the embassy wrote. "The military must stop violence against the people of Myanmar."

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres joined the condemnation. "The use of lethal force, intimidation & harassment against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable," he tweeted. "Everyone has a right to peaceful assembly. I call on all parties to respect election results and return to civilian rule."

The Civil Disobedience Movement, a loosely organized coalition of activists, has called for a general strike this week to protest the army's takeover of the country. Late Sunday, state television carried a message from the military junta warning of dire consequences if the protests continue.

"It is found that the protesters have raised their incitement towards riot and anarchy mob on the day of 22 February," read the English text that appeared on screen, the AP reported. "Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life."

The U.S. Embassy in Yangon says it has received reports that Internet and mobile data "may not be available" on Monday in the city, the country's largest, for the first half of the day. And Myanmar journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu reports that the military has blocked the roads leading to several embassies in Yangon.

"The military junta may think the world doesn't see beyond Myanmar's biggest city," tweeted Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "We notice," he added.

And just over a week after restricting the Myanmar military's use of Facebook, the social media company deleted the page entirely Sunday. "In line with our global policies, we've removed the Tatmadaw True News Information Team Page from Facebook for repeated violations of our Community Standards prohibiting incitement of violence and coordinating harm," Facebook said in a statement, Reuters reported.

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