RFA – Radio Free Asia (Author)
Myanmar security forces have killed more than 100 teenagers following the Feb. 1 military coup that overthrew the country’s democratically elected civilian government, according to figures tallied by a human rights monitor group.
Some were killed while troops suppressed protests, but others fell in random and unprovoked shootings, among them a 17-year-old medical student and another 17-year-old shot dead while riding his motorbike, family members told RFA in interviews, saying they still mourn their loved ones’ loss.
Khant Nyar Hein, then in his first year of medical school, was shot in the head and killed on March 14 during protests in front of a police station in Tarmwe, his father said, adding that his son had hoped someday to build hospitals and other medical facilities to provide treatment to rural people in remote parts of the country.
“He had high ambitions, and pledged with his friends that when they graduated from medical school they would establish a small hospital together somewhere in the country,” the young man’s father said. “They were planning to carry out their dreams, but now all those hopes are gone because of what happened to them.”
As of Monday, Myanmar military and police forces had killed 934 people in crackdowns on anti-coup protesters, according to figures provided by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
On the AAPP’s list of civilian deaths killed by military forces since Feb. 1, 107 were aged from 10-19 years. An AAPP spokesman told RFA that the number could be higher, citing the challenge of age verification amid a brutal crackdown.
Among them, 17-year-old Kyaw Min Latt, a resident of Dawei city in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region, was shot and killed by military forces for no reason on March 27 while riding his motorbike with friends, his parents said.
“There are so many stories I could share about him,” Kyaw Min Latt’s father Soe Latt said. “We’re in so much pain. We miss him every day.”
Kyaw Min Latt had quit classes in elementary school because of his family’s financial problems and had taken up masonry work and furniture making in order to support his parents, Soe Latt said, adding that his son was quick to learn new things and had hoped someday to be made a foreman at his job.
“On the day he died, he was just coming back from a trip for his work,” he said.
CCTV footage recorded at the time of Kyaw Min Latt’s death, and later broadcast by local and international media, show Kyaw Min Latt and two friends shot at close range for no apparent reason while riding on their motorbikes after encountering a military truck.
'Now he is gone'
Of the more than 160 people killed by security forces on March 27, 18 were teenagers coming from Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, Irrawaddy, Tanintharyi, and Kachin and Mon states. One, 12-year-old Htoo Myat Win from No. 2 Ward of Shwe Bo in Sagaing, was hit and killed by a stray bullet that struck him in the belly, his mother said.
“I still grieve so much for the loss my son,” his mother said. “He was just a child who liked to play. Education came second for him. He played a lot of soccer, and wanted to be a soccer player when he grew up. He also got awards for other sports like track.”
“He was always talking about what he wanted to do before he died. But now he is gone,” she said.
Htoo Myat Win’s parents had planned to hold a Shinbyu ceremony for him marking his temporary novitiate as a Buddhist monk, an important occasion in Myanmar’s Buddhist tradition for boys entering adulthood, but the paper fans made for distribution as gifts at that ceremony were later used at his funeral instead.
Nan Linn, a member of a Student Union alumni group, said that the military takeover of Myanmar’s civilian government has now left young people in the country without any rights.
“The contributions of these teenagers would have shaped the future of our country, but unfortunately the members of that generation have now lost all their opportunities and rights to education, health, and innovations in technology.”
“This is a great loss to the country, as almost an entire generation is losing their opportunity to make changes,” he said.
“Only when the [ruling] Military Council and this fascist army back off will the coming generations regain their rights. This is what we are trying to make happen.”
“Teenagers and young adults are the future of our country,” added a member of AAPP, speaking on condition of anonymity for reasons of security. “We are old now and won’t live very far into the future, so we were trying to give those in the younger generation better opportunities [to move forward].
“But now their futures have been lost under this regime, and this means the country’s future has been ruined,” he said. “The damage is immeasurable.”
CORRECTION: Corrects sourcing of information that 110 teenagers have been killed since the coup. The information is from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, not UNICEF as originally stated.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Richard Finney.
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