A young woman protester in Myanmar who was shot in the head last week as police dispersed a crowd died on Feb. 19, her brother said, the first death among opponents of a Feb. 1 coup from two weeks of demonstrations across the country.
Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who had just turned 20, had been on life support since being taken to hospital on Feb. 9, after she was hit by what doctors said was a live bullet at a protest in the capital, Naypyitaw.
“I feel really sad and have nothing to say,” said her brother, Ye Htut Aung, speaking by telephone.
Her death is likely to become a rallying cry for the protesters who were again on the streets on Feb. 19.
“I’m proud of her and I’ll come out until we achieve our goal for her. I’m not worried about my safety,” protester Nay Lin Htet, 24, told Reuters at a rally in the main city of Yangon.
Feb. 19 marks two straight weeks of daily demonstrations against the military’s seizure of power and the arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The protests in towns and cities throughout the ethnically diverse country have been more peaceful than the bloodily suppressed demonstrations during nearly 50 years of direct military rule up to 2011.
But police have fired rubber bullets several times to break up crowds. The army says one policeman died of injuries sustained in a protest.
As well as the daily protests, a civil disobedience campaign has paralyzed much government business and international pressure is building on the military.
Police in Yangon sealed off the city’s main protest site near the Sule Pagoda, setting up barricades on access roads to an intersection where tens of thousands have gathered this week.
Hundreds of people gathered at the barricades anyway, a witness said, while a procession of several thousand formed at another favored protest site near the university.
In the northern city of Myitkyina, baton-wielding police and soldiers sent protesters scattering, video on social media showed, after young people waving signs and flags drove around on motorbikes and confronted police blocking some roads.
Clashes have occurred in the town, the capital of Kachin State, over the past two weeks with police firing rubber bullets and catapults to disperse crowds.
Britain and Canada announced new sanctions on Feb. 18 and Japan said it had agreed with India, the United States and Australia on the need for democracy to be restored quickly.
A small group of opponents of the coup gathered outside the British embassy in Yangon saying they wanted to offer thanks for the support. A member of staff came out to talk to them.
Myanmar’s junta has not reacted to the new sanctions. On Feb. 16, an army spokesman told a news conference that sanctions had been expected.
There is little history of Myanmar’s generals giving in to foreign pressure and they have closer ties to neighboring China and to Russia, which have taken a softer approach than long critical Western countries.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was already under sanctions from Western countries following the 2017 crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority.
“Sanctioning military leaders is largely symbolic, but the moves to sanction military companies will be much more effective,” said Mark Farmaner, director of the Burma Campaign UK group, in a reaction to the sanctions.
Nevertheless, youth leader and activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi applauded Britain’s asset freezes and travel bans on three generals as well as steps to stop any aid helping the military and to prevent British businesses working with the army. Canada said it would take action against nine military officials.
“We urge other nations to have such coordinated and united response,” she wrote on Twitter. “We will be waiting for EU sanctions announcement on 22nd.” she said, calling for sanctions to include measures against military businesses.
After decades of military rule, businesses linked to the army have a significant stake across the economy in the country of 53 million people, with interests ranging from banking to beer, telecoms and transport.
The army seized back power after alleging fraud in Nov. 8 elections won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, halting a transition to democracy that had begun in 2011 and detaining her and hundreds of others.
Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 521 people had been detained as of Feb. 18. Of them, 44 had been released.
Protesters have called for the recognition of last year’s election as well as the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees.
Suu Kyi, 75, faces a charge of violating a Natural Disaster Management Law as well as charges of illegally importing six walkie talkie radios. Her next court appearance has been set for March 1.
She spent nearly 15 years under house arrest for her efforts to bring democracy and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her struggle.