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Myanmar protester shot by police turned 20 in intensive care, then died

YANGON, MYANMAR - FEBRUARY 09: Protesters cover themselves with large plastic sheets to protect themselves from possible water canon use against them on February 09, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar. Myanmar declared martial law in parts of the country, including its two largest cities, as massive protests continued to draw people to the streets a week after the country's military junta staged a coup against the elected National League For Democracy (NLD) government and detained de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon to disperse protesters at demonstrations across the country, and at least two people were in critical condition from the injuries sustained. (Photo by Hkun Lat/Getty Images)

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing became a rallying point for hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in towns and cities across Myanmar when video went viral of her being shot in the head by security forces while protesting against a military coup.

Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing died on Friday while in intensive care at a hospital in the capital Naypyitaw, where she had been on life support for 10 days since she was shot by police cracking down on demonstrators.

The first known serious casualty of Myanmar‘s biggest protests in over a decade had stirred anger across the country, adding to the growing fury over the military’s Feb 1 overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, three months after her party won a second successive election in a landslide.

“I feel really sad about her. I am more determined to come out on street,” said 24-year-old Nay Lin Htet at a protest in the commercial hub Yangon.

“I feel proud of her and I will come to the streets until we achieve our goal for her. I have no concern for my security.”

Many members of the anti-coup movement that has rallied for two weeks across Myanmar are of the same Generation Z as Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, a grocery store worker who was a teenager when she was shot, and turned 20 while in intensive care.

The shooting triggered memories of the bloody suppression of uprisings against a half-century of brutal military rule, in which thousands were killed and many more thrown in jail for years.

She is one of two reported deaths associated with the protest movement, the other a policeman who the military said died of injuries sustained on Monday.

Within hours of her shooting, videos and images went viral on social media of the moment Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, wearing a motorcycle helmet and red T-shirt, slumped to the ground with her back turned to the police, who doused crowds with water cannon.

In the days that followed, protesters marched holding aloft pictures of her, with placards calling for an end to dictatorship.

The day after her shooting, they hung the first of several huge portraits of her from a bridge in downtown Yangon, with a banner that read: “Lets together oppose the dictator who kills the people”.

“Shooting at a peaceful protester with real bullets is such an unforgivable thing in our society,” said a doctor who was part of the team that gave her initial treatment, responding to her death.

The doctor, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety fears, said Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing’s story had given impetus to a civil disobedience movement in Myanmar, which medical personnel have been a central part of.

Her brother Ye Htut Aung had last week recounted how his sister, who voted for the first time in the November election, had been determined to go to the capital to join the demonstration, and knew police were carrying guns.

He confirmed she had passed away around 11 a.m. local time on Friday while on life support.

“I feel really sad and have nothing to say,” he said.

“I am thankful for all of those who have been praying for her.” (Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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