Woman Shot by Myanmar Police During Anti-Coup Protest Declared Brain Dead

By The Irrawaddy 10 February 2021

Ma Mya Thwet Thwet Khine, a 20-year-old student who was shot in the head by a police officer during an anti-coup protest in Naypyitaw on Tuesday, was pronounced brain dead that night.

Video footage that has gone viral on Facebook shows that she made no attempt to get past the police barricades at the scene. She collapsed abruptly after being struck in the head by a bullet while taking cover from water cannons under a bus-stop shelter.

A composite of screenshots from video footage that captured the shooting of Ma Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing

The bullet that struck her was a live round, not a rubber bullet, a doctor from a medical team in Naypyitaw who requested anonymity told The Irrawaddy, adding that the bullet pierced the motorcycle helmet she was wearing and lodged in her head.

“She is brain dead. The bullet that lodged in her head is still there; it can’t be removed,” the doctor said. He added that Ma Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing had no chance of recovery because she is being kept alive by artificial life support. She is currently in the intensive care unit at Naypyitaw 1,000-Bed Hospital.

Police shoot at unarmed protesters who made no attempt to cross a security perimeter. / Facebook

The military reportedly requested that Ma Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing be transferred to their facility but doctors at the Naypyitaw hospital refused and kept the patient under their care.

The youth protester cast her first vote in the 2020 general election, the results of which were rejected by the military. It is widely believed that she was targeted among the crowd as she was wearing a red shirt. Red is the color of the National League for Democracy, the ousted ruling party led by detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ma Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing / Facebook

One of her close friends told The Irrawaddy that before she was shot, they were planning celebrations for her 21st birthday on Thursday. She was also preparing to retake her matriculation exam once her school, which is currently closed due to COVID-19, reopened.

The shooting has been widely denounced as an atrocity, as police reportedly deliberately took aim and fired lethal weapons not designed for riot control at protesters who were unarmed and who were not attempting to cross security perimeters established by the authorities. A picture has spread widely on social media showing a deputy police chief overseeing security forces in Naypyitaw’s Thapyaygone aiming a gun at protesters as they were being violently dispersed.

A poster depicting a blood-soaked Ma Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing hangs from a flyover in Hledan, Yangon, as demonstrators continued their protest on Wednesday. / Zaw Zaw Htwe / The Irrawaddy

Another demonstrator who was shot into the chest was also hospitalized. At least four others were also injured by gunshots during the crackdown.

Following Tuesday’s violent police crackdown on demonstrators in Naypyitaw, Mandalay and other cities, the UN office in Myanmar and the US government expressed concern about the military regime’s treatment of peaceful protesters, denouncing the use of disproportionate force against demonstrators as “unacceptable”.

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