Video shows a protester being fatally shot in Myanmar

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing shortly after being shot on February 9, 2021 in Naypyidaw.
Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing shortly after being shot on February 9, 2021 in Naypyidaw. © Facebook

A video filmed by an eyewitness shows a young woman being shot in the head during a police crackdown on a protest on February 9 against the military coup in Myanmar in the capital city of Naypyidaw. The woman, who was taken to intensive care, died there seven days later. 

Advertising

On February 8, thousands of people took to the streets in more than 300 different locations to protest the recent military coup that overturned the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. In response, the military, which took power just over a week before, imposed a curfew and banned people from gathering. Despite the ban, daily protests have continued ever since. 

Videos filmed by a drone and broadcast by a media outlet called Frontier Myanmar show a group made up of several hundred people gathering around a roundabout. You can’t tell which figures represent the dozens of riot police at the scene but you can see their water canons.
Videos filmed by a drone and broadcast by a media outlet called Frontier Myanmar show a group made up of several hundred people gathering around a roundabout. You can’t tell which figures represent the dozens of riot police at the scene but you can see their water canons. © Frontier Myanmar

On the morning of February 9, protesters gathered at the Thapyaygone roundabout in Naypyidaw to protest the military coup.

In a video posted the same day on Facebook, you can see a woman in a red T-shirt standing on the side of the road and watching the police as they advance. Police start to fire a water cannon at the protesters and the woman joins a group of people taking shelter behind a bus station. 

You can hear at least two gunshots being fired before the young woman collapses and lies on the ground, motionless. 

Several people attempt to move the woman while the police continue to advance and fire the water cannon in their direction. One group tries to get her up again, but aren’t successful. They end up carrying her away from the police.  

The young woman remains motionless. 

The image on the left is a screengrab of the video filmed by a drone. The image on the right shows the area around the Thapyaygone roundabount (coordinates: 19.746822, 96.117287).
The image on the left is a screengrab of the video filmed by a drone. The image on the right shows the area around the Thapyaygone roundabount (coordinates: 19.746822, 96.117287). © Facebook/Google Earth

The young woman’s name is Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing and she was shot in the head, according to the BBC and Human Rights Watch, who both investigated the incident. 

A police officer raises his weapon as if to fire in Naypyidaw on February 9, 2021, around 1pm.
A police officer raises his weapon as if to fire in Naypyidaw on February 9, 2021, around 1pm. AFP - STR

A number of social media users circulated a photo, which was initially posted by French press agency AFP, showing a police officer at the protest carrying a Myanmar-made BA-94 or BA-93 Uzi clone, a submachine gun.  

The image shows the officer aiming his weapon at the height of a human, though it is impossible to tell if he was targeting protesters when the image was taken. According to this image’s metadata, the photo was taken at 1:02pm.

This image stands in stark contrast to the information provided by the Army’s press wing, the “True News” information unit, which claimed that the police had only used non-lethal weapons during protests, according to Amnesty International

"I heard guns being fired by the police”

Doctor Khemar M. lives and works in Naypyidaw. He joined the protest movement after the coup and regularly works in medical centres set up to care for protestors. On February 9, he joined in with the protest. 

The protesters were calm and peaceful. In fact, a large number of them were just sitting down in front of the police. Around noon, the police asked the protesters to disperse, which they refused to do. So the police started firing water cannons at the protesters. One protester got angry and threw an empty water bottle towards one of the water cannons. 

That’s when the situation spiralled out of control. The police charged at the protesters and started using the water cannons on a larger scale. Some of the protesters responded by throwing food wrappers or empty bottles that had been handed out earlier. 

At that moment, I heard bursts of fire from the police, without really knowing if they were firing rubber bullets or real ones. 

I was really close to the place where Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing was shot. In the moment, I didn’t really understand what was happening but I do remember seeing a crowd there. When I think back on it, I’m really disturbed. She was trying to hide, as I was at that point. She wasn’t any kind of threat, she wasn’t preventing the police from advancing. But they still aimed at her and fired at her. 

I spoke with my colleagues who were at the medical centre that day. They saw 12 protesters with serious wounds from bullets— some rubber, but at least two of them were hit with real bullets. There were 50 other people with other injuries, some of them from the water cannons. They confirmed to me that the bullet that was lodged in Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing’s head was the kind that would have been in the BA-94 guns that several police officers were carrying that day. 

"Stop Crime Against Humanity" "Support US" "Send Us Humanitarian aid" Ma Myat Thet Thet Khaing (19-years) has been...

Publiée par Phyo M Yin sur Mardi 9 février 2021

These images show, according to social media users, X-rays of Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing’s head and the bullet that was lodged there. Our Observer confirmed the authenticity of the scans. 

We haven’t had any news of the other person with a gunshot wound, except that they were transferred to the hospital. We believe that the junta is closely monitoring all of the information about it, considering the scandal already caused by what happened to Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing.

 

The United Nations condemned what it called a “disproportionate” and “unacceptable” use of force by the army. 

“A number of protesters were injured, some seriously,” said Ola Almgren, the UN resident coordinator in Myanmar, who received reports from several different cities across the country.

The coup on February 1 ended the country’s brief period of democratic rule, which started in 2010. 

 

Correction:

In the first version of this article, we indicated that Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing had died on February 12, according to the local press, after several days spent in a state of "brain death." The officials of the hospital where she was treated finally announced that she lost her life seven days later, on February 19, 2021.