Crowds in Myanmar’s capital attended a funeral Sunday for the young woman who was the first person confirmed to have been killed in protests against the military’s takeover, just one day after security forces shot dead two more demonstrators.
Mya Thwet Thwet Khine was shot in the head by police on Feb. 9, two days before her 20th birthday, at a protest in the capital, Naypyitaw, and died Friday.
Mourners lined the entrance to a cemetery in the city as the hearse carrying her body arrived and was taken to a crematorium where more people had gathered. They silently raised their hands in three-fingered salutes — a sign of defiance and resistance adopted from neighbouring Thailand — as the black and gold vehicle rolled slowly past.
Inside the crematorium hall, the lid on Mya Thwet Thwet Khine’s coffin was partially removed to allow a last glimpse of her head resting on a bed of red and white roses before she was cremated. Members of the crowd outside chanted “Our uprising must succeed!”
Protesters elsewhere in Myanmar gathered again Sunday for street demonstrations that have been going on for more than two weeks.
In Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, about 1,000 demonstrators began the day by honouring Mya Thwet Thwet Khine at a ceremony under an elevated roadway.
“I want to say through the media to the dictator and his associates, we are peaceful demonstrators,” said protester Min Htet Naing. “Stop the genocide! Stop using lethal weapons!”
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There were also protests in Myawaddy, on the border with Thailand, and at Inle Lake, a popular scenic tourist attraction, where dozens of its famous longtailed wooden boats were moored near shore and those aboard chanted anti-coup slogans.
Demonstrators turned out in force in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, where security forces shot dead two people on Saturday near a dockyard where the authorities had been trying to force workers to load a boat. The workers, like railway workers and truckers and many civil servants, have joined a civil disobedience campaign against the junta.
Shooting broke out Saturday after neighbourhood residents rushed to the Yadanabon dock to try to assist the workers in their resistance. One of the victims, described as a teenage boy, was shot in the head and died immediately, while another was shot in the chest and died en route to a hospital.
Several other serious injuries were also reported. Witness accounts and photos of bullet casings indicated that the security forces used live ammunition, in addition to conventional riot control equipment and slingshots, a traditional hunting weapon in Myanmar.
The new deaths drew quick and strong reaction from the international community.
“I am horrified at more loss of life, including a teenage boy in Mandalay, as the ruling junta escalates its brutality in Myanmar,” Tom Andrews, the U.N.’s independent investigator for human rights in the Southeast Asian country, said on Twitter.
“From water cannons to rubber bullets to tear gas and now hardened troops firing point blank at peaceful protesters. This madness must end, now!”
Germany’s Foreign Ministry condemned the violent crackdown, and called for the immediate release of all of those arrested, in particular ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, to allow the “democratically and constitutionally legitimized institutions to resume their work.”
Anti-military demonstrations continue for 9th straight day in Myanmar
Singapore, which together with Myanmar is part of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, issued a statement condemning the use of lethal force as “inexcusable.” Urging “utmost restraint” on the part of security forces, it warned that “if the situation continues to escalate, there will be serious adverse consequences for Myanmar and the region.”
The authorities have continued arrests that began on the day of the Feb. 1 coup, when Suu Kyi and members of the government were detained. According to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 569 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced, with 523, including Suu Kyi and Win Myint, still in detention.
A live Saturday night broadcast on Facebook showed the wife of actor Lu Min describing to neighbours how her husband was arrested and taken away from their home shortly after midnight. He was one of six high-profile people in the entertainment industry charged last week with inciting civil servants to stop work and join the protest movement, which he and the others have publicly championed.
On Sunday, Facebook announced that it took down the page run by the Myanmar military information unit “for repeated violations of our community standards prohibiting incitement of violence and co-ordinating harm.” It had already taken down other accounts linked to the military.
The junta took power after detaining Suu Kyi and preventing Parliament from convening, saying elections last November were tainted by voting irregularities. The election outcome, in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won by a landslide, was affirmed by an election commission that has since been replaced by the military. The junta says it will hold new elections in a year’s time.
The coup was a major setback to Myanmar’s transition to democracy after 50 years of army rule that began with a 1962 coup. Suu Kyi came to power after her party won a 2015 election, but the generals retained substantial power under the constitution, which had been adopted under a military regime.
© 2021 The Canadian Press