A young woman who was shot in the head by police last week during a protest against the military coup in Myanmar has died.
It was the first confirmed death among thousands of protesters who have faced off against security forces since the junta took power on Feb. 1, detained the country’s elected leaders and prevented Parliament from convening.
Mya Thwet Thwet Khine was shot during a demonstration in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Feb. 9, two days before her 20th birthday. 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.
Her sister, speaking from the hospital’s mortuary, urged people not to give up their struggle to restore democracy.
“Please participate and continue fighting until we achieve our goal,” said Mya Thatoe Nwe. She said the funeral will be held Sunday.
Protesters in Mandalay, the country’s second biggest city, set up a sidewalk shrine with candles and photos of the dead woman. About 200 people paid their respects at a memorial ceremony at sunset at the site of a police dispersal of demonstrators with water cannons last week.
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.
“As protests continue to grow, Myanmar security forces must cease carrying and using lethal weapons and must respect people’s right to peacefully express their grievances,” Joanne Mariner, director of crisis response for Amnesty International, said in an emailed statement. “It is only a matter of time before the same brutal and abusive policing leads to more death and sorrow.”
A spokesman for the ruling military did not deny that Mya Thwet Thwet Khine had been shot by security forces, but said at a news conference this week that she was in a crowd that had thrown rocks at police and the case was under investigation. There were no independent accounts of her taking part in any violence.
Demonstrations continued Friday in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, and elsewhere.