Protestors in Myanmar, mourning to a young death

A 20-year-old female protester who was shot in the head by police during a demonstration against the military coup in Myanmar was declared died, becoming the first known casualty of the unrest over the coup. Her wound was consistent with one from live ammunition, rights groups said.

Mya Thwet Thwet Khine was shot during a demonstration in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Feb. 9, two days before her 20th birthday. The video showed her sheltering from water cannons and suddenly dropping to the ground after a bullet penetrated the motorcycle helmet she was wearing. She had been on life support in a hospital with what doctors said was no chance of recovery. Myanmar’s military, led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, launched a coup on February 1, detained hundreds of politicians, and declared a state of emergency.

Since being shot, Mya Thweh Thweh Khine, who worked in a supermarket and was from the village of Yezin, has become a symbol of the protest, with demonstrators carrying banners with her face printed on them. Protesters have also co-opted the three-finger hand salute inspired by “The Hunger Games” films, which were previously used by protesters in Thailand and Hong Kong. Even before her death, Mya Thwet Thwet Khine had already been hailed as a hero in small ceremonies at several demonstrations. News of her passing is likely to inflame passions in the protest movement, which has embraced nonviolent civil disobedience.

“I want to encourage all the citizens to join the protests until we can get rid of this system,” Mya Tha Toe Nwe, the sister of Mya Thweh Thweh Khine, told reporters. “That’s all I want to say.” Thousands lined the streets to honour her, some making the three-fingered salutes used by demonstrators.

On Tuesday, Kyi Toe, spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD), the deposed ruling party, wrote on Facebook that Mya Thweh Thweh Khine was shot “by a bullet that pierced a motorcycle helmet.”

She has become a focal point for demonstrators, with her image often displayed by people resisting the coup. Her coffin was driven through the streets in a black and gold hearse, accompanied by hundreds of motorbikes. Protesters took to the streets across the country again on Sunday, despite the previous day seeing the worst violence yet in weeks of protests.

By Karishma Gwalani

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