Voices of Myanmar’s Martyrs Will Not Be Silenced by the Junta

By The Irrawaddy 11 May 2021

“I miss my son everyday,” said U Thein Zaw, father of 17-year-old protester Khant Nyar Hein, who was gunned down by regime forces about two months ago.

“He is always on my mind from the moment I wake up in the morning through the day until my bed time and even when I wake up in the middle of the night. All his pictures and memories well up before my eyes,” the father said.

Known as a smart, kind and friendly student, Khant Nyar Hein or Lin Yaozong, had begun the first year of the University of Medicine 1 in Yangon. His dream was to treat all poor patients without any charge once he became a doctor.

The teenager was killed on the street by the regime’s forces in Tamwe Township, Yangon Region, on March 14 while he was taking part in an anti-regime protest demanding democracy. A young female protester tried to save him, but the police dragged his body away. He was shot three times, his family said. They learned that after the body was handed over for a funeral the next day. The protester who attempted to save him was arrested.

“We lost our son. Although our son’s life is priceless, we are proud of him for his sacrifice for the country,” the grieving father told The Irrawaddy. Khant Nyar Hein was his only son.

Khant Nyar Hein, 17.

Khant Nyar Hein is one of more than 780 innocent people who lost their lives during brutal crackdowns by regime forces in the hundred days following the coup.

While a few bystanders were among those who died at the hands of the junta, the majority of those who lost their lives were well aware that there was a very real possibility they could be shot dead in the constantly escalating wave of brutality and violence.

But they still stepped out of their homes and put their lives at risk for what they wanted: democracy and their right to a bright future.

Early martyrs

The first martyr to die in the anti-coup protest movement in Myanmar was a 20-year-old student Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing. The young woman was shot in the head with live ammunition during a police crackdown on anti-regime protesters in Naypyitaw on Feb. 9. The bullet struck in her head and she had been brain dead and on life support when she was   pronounced dead 10 days after being shot. The regime denied responsibility for her death.

Protesters hold a picture of gunshot victim Mya Thwet Thwet Khine in Naypyitaw. / The Irrawaddy

Ko Zin Lin Htet, 21, was one of thousands of protesters who gathered at Hledan, one of the main anti-coup protest sites in Yangon, on the morning of Feb. 28. When military troops and police started firing at protesters, he tried to cover his body with a wood pallet as a shield. A bullet pierced his left eye and exited at the back of his head. He died on the spot.

Nyi Nyi Aung Htet Naing.

Ko Nyi Nyi Aung Htet Naing, a 23-year-old network engineer, was also killed after being shot in the chest at the same time in Hledan. As his body lay on the pavement after he was shot, no one could rescue him. Troops kept shooting protesters all around him. He managed to ring his mother to say, “Mom, I was shot,” just before he took his last breath.

The night before his death, he posted on his Facebook account: “#How_Many_Dead_Bodies_UN_Need_To_Take_Action?” urging, “Let’s post it together.” Like other protesters, he urged the United Nations to intervene to stop the military dictatorship in the country.

Teacher Daw Tin Nwe Yee.

Teacher Daw Tin Nwe Yee, a 59-year-old mother of two daughters, was among those who died during the bloody crackdowns in Yangon on the same day. She joined the general strike together with a group of other teachers in Kyeemyindaing Township on the morning of Feb. 28. A group of teachers wearing their teachers’ uniforms—a white shirt and green longyi (sarong)—was tear-gassed and fired upon with rubber bullets and live ammunition. Daw Tin New Yee was hit in the shoulder. She died of a heart attack.

She wrote on her Facebook account calling on the regime to stop harming the country’s precious youths.

Teenagers who sacrificed in the protest movement

The junta’s brutal assaults and killings failed to snuff out the courage of thousands of protesters and have only made them bolder. Like Khant Nyar Hein, determined young protesters continue taking to the streets to fight for democracy.

As the regime continued its crackdowns, the number of people killed increased day by day. Several teenagers are also among those who were shot dead by the regime forces while taking part in the protests.

Kyal Sin before she was shot dead by security forces (left); Tens of thousands mourned at her funeral (right).

Among them is Kyal Sin, 19, who was a singer, dancer and taekwondo champion in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city.

Kyal Sin, also known as Angel, was wearing an “Everything will be OK” T-shirt when the regime forces gunned her down. She led a group of young protesters in Mandalay, shouting to her friends, “Are we united? We will not run!” At the same time, she kicked open a water pipe so that other protesters could rinse tear gas from their eyes. She tried to protect her friends amidst the chaos, warning them to sit down as bullets flew over the protesters. Soon afterwards, she was shot in the head by the security forces. The regime denied the killing of the ethnic Chinese teenager.

Another casualty was Zue Wint War, 15, who left a handwritten note which said, “If I die in a protest, don’t rescue my body and leave it. And Keep Fight. If our revolution [succeeds], I will be happy to die.”

The high school student died the same day as Khant Nyar Hein on March 14, after she was fatally shot in the head in South Dagon Township of Yangon Region.

Those killed while trying to protect others 

Ma Thinzar Hein, a nursing student, was among the bravest. At the time she was gunned down, she was treating injured civilians during a crackdown on anti-regime protesters. She was working with a first aid rescue team for protesters in Monywa, Sagaing Region when she was shot in the head.

Ma Thinzar Hein.

Putting her own life at risk, she took to the streets to help protesters the day after the junta killed more than 100 civilians across the country in the bloodiest crackdowns. Ma Thinzar Hein left a note on Facebook, “I am walking a path and uncertain of returning home, please forgive me, loved ones.”

Dr. Thiha Tin Tun.

Aware of the risks to his life, assistant surgeon Dr. Thiha Tin Tun left a message to his mother and granny asking them to be proud of him and not to grieve for a long time if something happened to him. Then he headed out to a protest.

In the letter, he said, “It is time we take back what we have lost, no matter what the cost is.” He also left a message to his fellow pro-democracy supporters. He urged them to never give up, saying, “Rest only when the power of the people is restored. … I am sorry I had to leave you so soon. May dictatorship fall! May the power of the people prevail!”

He paid with his life after being shot in his head and arm while he was helping to build a roadblock to protect protesters against advancing police and soldiers on the bloodiest day, March 27. His body was taken away by the military.

A 20-year-old delivery man for Foodpanda, Ko Zaw Thein Aung, was shot in the head while he was helping an injured woman during a crackdown by the regime’s forces in Monywa, Sagaing Region. He was a happy man and always willing to help others. He told his friends often that he would fight until the end to return his motherland to civilian rule.

Martyred CDM heroes

Thang Hou Gin, a 25-year-old police officer, wanted to be “people’s police.” And he proved it with his life. He was killed right after he led a grenade attack on a police outpost in Sagaing Region’s Tamu Township which killed five police officers on April 2.

After throwing the hand grenades, the group was retreating when the military opened fire with machine guns. Than Hou Gin was killed about 200 meters from the outpost.

CDM Police Thang Hou Gin and CDM forestry worker Ko Tun Htet Aung.

An ethnic Kuki from the remote region near the Indian border, he had joined the fight against military rule in February after defecting to the civil disobedience movement (CDM).

Ko Tun Htet Aung, a 24-year-old forestry worker, died of injuries sustained from torture and brutal beatings by regime forces. He had been arrested as he left home to join an anti-regime protest in Sagaing Regioin’s Monywa.

The youngest member of his family, he was affectionately called “Phoe Nge” (little boy). He joined the CDM to protest the military regime.

When he was conscious in his hospital bed before he passed away on March 18, Ko Tun Htet Aung spoke of the need to continue the fight against the junta.

“He told me, his big brother, that we have to have guns to battle against them. He said please allow me to fight back against them. I must fight them. They are so violent,” he said.

United against the Junta

Medical students hold up the three- finger salute at the Yangon funeral of Khant Nyar Hein, first year medical student who was fatally shot during the crackdown. (Photo: CJ)

Nearly two months after his son death, Khant Nyar Hein’s father said he sees Myanmar’s youth still united in demanding democracy and the restoration of their rights. That’s what his dear son wished for.

U Thein Zaw said if Khant Nyar Hein still alive, there is no doubt he would continue fighting together with others in spite of the risk to his safety.

“As a parent, I can feel all [the] grief and pain of families who lost their beloved sons and daughters,” he said.

“I pray for all kids to be safe and their desires to be full,” U Thein Zaw said, addressing young protesters who are taking to the streets as his own blood.

Anti-regime protests continue 100 days after the coup, making it clear the regime is still not in control of the country.

The regime has failed to end any of the many forms of resistance. Demonstrations continue to take place on the streets, mainly organized by young pro-democracy protesters. The CDM launched by civil servants and some private workers continues to spread. And political and diplomatic offensives have been launched by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and the National Unity Government.

And in the latest form of resistance, local people are taking up rudimentary weapons against the regime’s forces and seeking military training in ethnic armed groups’ territories in border areas. Ethnic armed groups have also united with anti-coup protesters against the junta by stepping up their attacks.

A young man who lost his only brother during an anti-regime protest in February that he felt heartened that protesters have not given up and continue the movement against the junta despite the brutal crackdowns.

“I lost my brother. Some of my friends are in jail and some got shot too. We are no [longer] safe. And our future has [been] lost. I wish to win over this situation [as soon as possible],” he said.

“This is the last battle to win”

People stage a guerrilla-style protest against the regime in downtown Yangon on Apr. 23. / The Irrawaddy

“Those more than 700 martyrs shall not have died in vain. We will continue it until the end and honor them at a national level which they deserve,” said Nan Lin, a student activist in Yangon.

The student activist said the more the junta killed, arrested and tortured protesters to terrorize them, the more the protest movement would be fueled to continue.

“Every time we heard about their brutalities on peaceful protesters, our hatred, disgusting feeling against them only grow and [we become more determined] to eradicate the dictatorship,” he said.

He said that all protesters are ready for any sacrifice regardless of death or arrest because they believe the dictatorship must be rooted out.

Win Zaw Khaing, a protest leader in Monywa, Sagaing Region, was one of them. He said that he is ready to pay any price in the continuing fight for democracy.

“We will keep fighting together until the military dictatorship is eradicated to compensate for the blood of those who killed and for the future generations of the country, he said.”

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