Myanmar newlywed travelling home shot by military as junta seeks to crush opposition

Nandi Theint
·5 min read
People, with their masks, stage a demonstration to protest against military coup in Yangon, Myanmar  - Anadolu
People, with their masks, stage a demonstration to protest against military coup in Yangon, Myanmar - Anadolu

Among the daily stream of photos revealing the cruelty of Myanmar’s junta, blurred stills of the last moments of a young lady in pink, left to die on a deserted, dark street in Mandalay, paint a picture of abject horror.

In one of the two photos, taken from a distance and shared widely on social media on Sunday night, the grievously injured woman lies motionless in sleeveless pale pink overalls, soiled by dirt and perhaps her own blood, one arm outstretched.

In the second, she is seen face down, arms pointing towards the side of the main road, as if trying to crawl towards it in a desperate last bid to survive.

Htet Htet Win was a 19-year-old newlywed and a jade broker who was gunned down by the military while coming home after the evening curfew - Twitter
Htet Htet Win was a 19-year-old newlywed and a jade broker who was gunned down by the military while coming home after the evening curfew - Twitter

Her name was Htet Htet Win, and she was a 19-year-old newlywed and a jade broker, gunned down by the military while riding pillion with her husband after the evening curfew. Medics say they were called to the scene but were prevented from reaching her by armed soldiers. She died alone.

Htet Htet Win is the latest victim of the Myanmar’s security forces’ spree of torture, shootings and summary executions on the nation’s streets, carried out with impunity and designed to intimidate opponents of the February 1 coup.

According to the most recent tally on Wednesday by the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), 581 civilians have been killed by the junta as it seeks to terrorise the nation into submission. Nearly 50 were children.

Protesters at rallies have been shot in the head by snipers. Children have been slaughtered in what should have been the safety of their gardens and homes. Villagers in southern Karen State have been blown apart by indiscriminate air strikes.

Htet Htet Win had simply been trying to get home to the comfort of her own bed, her husband Bo Bo, 30, also a jade trader, told the Telegraph.

He explained that on Sunday morning he went to a friend’s house to do a business deal, and was later joined by his wife for dinner. "I knew it might be risky to go back home during the curfew time, but we wanted to go home, so we left about 9pm,” he said.

“On the way, I saw five soldiers on the street and they just shot at me. They didn't say anything. I was a little bit drunk and I didn't know what to do when I saw them,” Bo Bo added.

“The bullet passed through my abdomen and then hit my wife, who was on the back of the motorcycle, and she fell down onto the street.”'

Panicked and seriously injured, Bo Bo fled home and called an emergency medical team. Two medics arrived to treat him, and six rushed to help his wife.

Ko Naing Lin, one of the six, said they parked the ambulance in a dark spot, fearful that the troops would open fire on them.

“We couldn't pick up her body because five soldiers with guns were nearby. We had to wait about 10 minutes, then we crawled towards her, took her to the ambulance, and then back home.”

Htet Htet Win was buried quickly on Monday, the bullet still inside her abdomen, to prevent the military from trying to take her body.

There are growing reports across the country of bodies being snatched by soldiers attempting to destroy evidence of their crimes before families can even identify their loved ones or perform religious rites.

An anti-coup protester shows a three-fingered salute, hand painted red in memory of those killed - AP
An anti-coup protester shows a three-fingered salute, hand painted red in memory of those killed - AP

Bo Bo said he now lives in fear of arrest at any time, for no reason. “We married recently and we were planning a family. But now she is gone and I feel survivor’s guilt,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) – a group of MPs from detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party – said it had gathered 180,000 pieces of evidence showing rights abuses by the junta including torture and extrajudicial killings.

The CRPH, which claims the right to speak for the country instead of the junta, said its lawyers are to meet the UN's Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar on Wednesday.

It said its evidence includes more than 540 extrajudicial executions, 10 deaths of prisoners in custody, torture, illegal detentions and disproportionate use of force against peaceful protests.

Although international governments have protested the junta’s brutality, with some imposing targeted sanctions on coup leaders, the UN Security Council has stopped short of taking meaningful action.

China and Russia both oppose sanctions, saying they risk escalating the crisis.

A protester makes the three-finger salute as other make noise by hitting metal objects and singing revolutionary songs during a demonstration - AFP
A protester makes the three-finger salute as other make noise by hitting metal objects and singing revolutionary songs during a demonstration - AFP

Amid international indecision, Myanmar’s citizens are left largely alone to face the regime’s cruelty.

One 24-year-old, who did not wish to be named, described how he was ambushed and beaten at gunpoint by four soldiers on the corner of his street.

When the soldiers spotted a 6-inch tattoo of Aung San Suu Kyi’s face on his arm, they were infuriated.

“They set fire to a car tire on the street and put my arm close to it. It was terribly painful, but I didn't scream at all because I didn’t want them to know that I was in pain and in fear, even though the pain was like hell,” he said.

“It took about 30 minutes to burn my tattoo, then they kicked my face and back and hit my head with the butt of gun.”

But he vowed to replace it once the wound had healed.

“This tattoo is the only one tattoo of my life. I decided to have it because I feel so angry about coup and I want to make a historical memory on my body. I will never give up. I will keep fighting until I die or until we win,” he said.