Anti-coup protester dies as pressure on Myanmar junta mounts

The 20-year-old woman was shot during a demonstration more than a week ago

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A young protester died on Friday, more than a week after being shot during anti-coup demonstrations in Myanmar.

The incident sparked further anger in the country as international pressure mounts on the generals who seized power.

Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing had been on life support since being taken to hospital on February 9. She turned 20 while in hospital. She was shot in the head with what doctors said was a live bullet at a protest in the capital, Naypyidaw.

"I feel really sad and have nothing to say," her brother, Ye Htut Aung, told Reuters.

Her death is likely to become a rallying cry for protesters who took to the streets again on Friday.

"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, said at a rally in the city of Yangon.

A memorial for Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, a teenager who was shot in the head when police cracked down on a protest against the military coup in Naypyitaw is seen in Yangon, Myanmar, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
A memorial for Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who died after being shot in the head by police during an anti-coup protest in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw. Reuters

Friday marks two straight weeks of daily demonstrations against the coup and the arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The protests in towns and cities across the ethnically diverse country were more peaceful than the bloodily suppressed demonstrations held during nearly 50 years of military rule up to 2011.

But police fired rubber bullets several times to break up crowds. The army said one policeman died of injuries sustained at a protest.

As well as the daily demonstrations, a civil disobedience campaign paralysed 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 gathered this week.

Hundreds of people gathered at the barricades anyway, a witness said, while a procession of several thousand formed at another popular protest site near the university.

In the northern city of Myitkyina, video showed baton-wielding police and soldiers sending protesters scattering after young people with signs and flags drove around on motorbikes and confronted police blocking roads.

Clashes occurred in the town, the capital of Kachin State, over the past two weeks with police using rubber bullets and catapults to disperse crowds.

Britain and Canada announced new sanctions on generals in Myanmar on Thursday and Japan said it agreed with India, the US 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.

'Symbolic' sanctions

Myanmar's junta has not reacted to the new sanctions. On Tuesday, an army spokesman said the measures had been expected.

There is little history of Myanmar's generals giving in to foreign pressure and they have closer ties to China and Russia, which have taken a softer approach than long-critical western countries.

Junta leader Gen Min Aung Hlaing already faced sanctions from western countries after the 2017 campaign against Myanmar's 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 Burma Campaign UK.

Nevertheless, youth leader and activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi welcomed Britain's decision to freeze assets and impose travel bans on three generals. The UK will also take steps to stop aid from helping the military and will prevent British businesses from working with the army.

Canada said it would take action against nine military officials.

"We urge other nations to have such co-ordinated and united response. We will be waiting for EU sanctions announcement on 22nd, Ms Yi said, calling for sanctions to include measures against military businesses.

After decades of military rule, businesses linked to the army have a significant stake in the economy in the country of 53 million people, with interests such as banking, beer, telecoms and transport.