Two protesters were killed and around 30 injured on Saturday (February 20th) in Mandalay, central Burma, by law enforcement fire during a rally against the junta, rescue workers reported. One of the two people killed was a minor who was shot in the head, they said, adding that “half of the victims were targeted by live ammunition. The results could still be provisional. Several hundred police officers intervened at a shipyard in the city, raising fears of arrests of workers mobilized against the coup. Protesters then banged on pots in an attempt to prevent the arrests, but the police fired, according to an Agence France-Presse journalist at the scene. “We received six men with gunshot wounds, two of whom were seriously injured,” said a caregiver earlier. An on-site doctor confirmed the use of live ammunition.
The day before, a young grocer, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who immediately became an icon for the demonstrators, had died of her injuries, becoming the first victim of the military repression. The junta in power since the February 1 coup continues to increase pressure on the pro-democracy movement. Despite this, several thousand protesters, including representatives of many ethnic minorities in traditional dress, again took to the streets of Rangoon, the economic capital, on Saturday. They demand the return of civilian government, the release of detainees, and the abolition of the constitution which is very favorable to the military. Near the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in the city center, a funeral wreath has been laid in homage to Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing. “The bullet that pierced him hit all of our heads,” said one protestor. “You are our martyr,” wrote another, placing a white rose at the foot of his portrait.
The girl was targeted in the head with live ammunition, doctors said. The authorities claim that only rubber projectiles were used that day by law enforcement officials. A funeral service is scheduled to take place on Sunday. Almost three weeks after the putsch that toppled the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi and ended a fragile decade-long democratic transition, the concert of international protests and the announcement of new sanctions are not swaying the generals. Along with the rallies, calls for civil disobedience continue, with doctors, teachers, air traffic controllers, and railway workers still on strike. In Monywa (center), a soldier gave a three-fingered salute (as a sign of resistance), before joining a demonstration – according to images posted on social media.
Cooks from Mandalay have also responded in their way to appeals by engraving Aung San Suu Kyi’s face on decorative watermelons. Burma also suffered a near-total internet shutdown for the sixth night in a row, according to NetBlocks, a UK-based specialist observatory. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been blocked in all languages.
They can kill a young woman, but they cannot steal the hope and resolve of a determined people, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Tom Andrews, wrote on the same social network. The European Union, whose foreign ministers are due to meet on Monday to discuss the measures they could take against the junta, sent its condolences to those close to Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing and expressed its “solidarity with the people” Burmese. Brussels, on this occasion, “reiterated its call on the Burmese security forces to refrain from violence against demonstrators protesting against the overthrow of their legitimate government,” according to Nabila Massrali, an EU spokesperson.
The United Kingdom, the former colonial power, announced that it was sanctioning three Burmese generals for “serious human rights violations”, while Canada took similar action against nine army officials, denouncing “a systematic campaign of repression. The United States “reiterated calls for the Burmese military not to use violence against peaceful protesters Human rights groups have nevertheless felt that it is necessary to go further and to attack the economic activities of the army, in the mining of gems and the fields of beer or the banking sector. The junta, starting with its leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, who has become an international pariah since the atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in 2017, has so far turned a deaf ear to the multiple international condemnations. Nearly 550 people have been arrested since the start of February, according to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners.