Teenagers among dead as Myanmar army opens fire on peaceful protests

Nicola Smith
·4-min read
Deng Jia Xi, a 19-year-old shot dead during protests in Myanmar - Facebook
Deng Jia Xi, a 19-year-old shot dead during protests in Myanmar - Facebook

In one photo, the young woman crouches among fellow anti-coup protesters looking defiantly towards Myanmar's security forces, wearing a black T-shirt that says ‘everything will be ok'.

Minutes later, she was dead - another young life suddenly snuffed out simply for demanding democracy.

A second photo of her lifeless body, stretched out on a gurney with blood oozing from her head, joined many other horrific images flooding out of Myanmar on Wednesday, documenting dozens more victims of violent military crackdowns on peaceful rallies across the Southeast Asian nation.

Christine Schraner Burgener, the United Nations special envoy on Myanmar, said 38 people had been killed, marking the bloodiest day of protests since a February coup.

Myanmar’s security forces are increasingly turning to lethal force, and apparently shooting to kill with impunity, as they try to stem the relentless tide of protests against the Feb. 1 military takeover that ousted and detained the country’s civilian leadership.

Deng Jia Xi, wearing a t-shirt saying 'everything will be ok' was reported to be among the protesters who died on Wednesday
Deng Jia Xi, wearing a t-shirt saying 'everything will be ok' was reported to be among the protesters who died on Wednesday

The young woman was said to be just 19 and named on social media and by local journalists as Deng Jia Xi. In her final Facebook post on Sunday – when at least 18 died in the nation’s bloodiest protests to date – she offered to donate blood to anyone who needed it.

The post gained 127,000 likes within hours as tributes poured in following news of her death in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second biggest city.

Many protesters are now resorting to writing their emergency contact numbers and blood types on their forearms in the event that they are killed or need urgent medical care.

Protesters lie on the ground after police open fire to disperse an anti-coup protest - REUTERS
Protesters lie on the ground after police open fire to disperse an anti-coup protest - REUTERS

According to local media accounts and Reuters, two people were killed in Mandalay and one in the commercial city of Yangon when police opened fire on Wednesday. The Monywa Gazette also reported five people killed in local protests.

Another demonstrator was shot dead in the central town of Myingyan, according to student activist Moe Myint Hein, 25.

“They opened fire on us with live bullets. One was killed, he’s young, a teenage boy, shot in the head,” Moe Myint Hein, who was wounded in the leg, told Reuters by telephone. Graphic images also circulated of his bloodied body next to weeping loved ones.

Additional shocking footage, which could not be independently verified but which spread rapidly on social media, showed medics being beaten by police officers, bodies being dragged by the security forces, and a soldier shooting at residents of a building for filming a patrol.

A protester uses a fire extinguisher as others holding homemade shields run during a demonstration - AFP
A protester uses a fire extinguisher as others holding homemade shields run during a demonstration - AFP

The security forces brutality was meted out a day after a regional diplomatic push to end the month-long crisis made little progress. Myanmar’s Asian neighbours pressed its military regime on Tuesday to release detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and stop violence against opponents of the coup.

Britain has called for the United Nations Security Council to meet on Friday to address the spiralling violence as soldiers and police officers steadily step their use of tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and live rounds.

At London’s proposal, the UNSC meeting would take place behind closed doors on Friday afternoon.

A young girl holds a placard as Chin refugees gather to participate in a protest - Altaf Qadri /AP
A young girl holds a placard as Chin refugees gather to participate in a protest - Altaf Qadri /AP

However, the military regime has so far paid scant attention to repeated strong condemnations by the international community of the coup and demands for a peaceful democratic transition.

While Facebook, one of the most popular social media sites in Myanmar, has banned the military and taken a robust stance against incitement to violence, many soldiers are reportedly turning to TikTok to film threats to protesters.

In a statement to The Telegraph, TikTok said that it is “committed to promoting a safe and welcoming app environment” on its platform.

“We have clear Community Guidelines that state we do not allow content that incites violence or misinformation that causes harm to individuals, our community, or the larger public. TikTok will continue to follow these principles globally, including around issues like election results,” it said.

On Myanmar, TikTok said: “We have been and continue to promptly remove all content that incites violence and spreads misinformation, and are aggressively monitoring to remove any such content that violates our guidelines."