Myanmar coup: Woman shot during anti-coup protests dies

A 20-year-old woman has become the first protester to die in the anti-coup demonstrations in Myanmar after she was shot in the head.

Flowers lay over the image of Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing
image captionMya Thwe Thwe Khaing had just turned 20

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing was injured last week when police tried to disperse protesters using water cannon, rubber bullets and live rounds. 

Her wound was consistent with one from live ammunition, rights groups said.

Myanmar has seen days of protests following a coup which overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.

The hospital in the capital Nay Pyi Taw confirmed her death at 11:00 local time (04:30 GMT). A funeral service will be held on Sunday, her family said.

“We will look for justice and move forward,” a doctor told AFP news agency, adding that staff had faced immense pressure since she was taken to their intensive care unit. 

Authorities said they would investigate the case.

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, who turned 20 after she was shot, had been on life support since she was taken to hospital on 9 February.

She had taken part in a protest in the south-east Asian nation which saw police use water cannon against protesters who refused to retreat. 

According to BBC Burmese, who spoke to an unnamed medical officer shortly after she was brought to the hospital, she suffered a serious head injury. 

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing’s family are all supporters of Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). Her brother said she voted for the first time in last November’s general election, which the NLD won by a landslide. 

“I want to encourage all the citizens to join the protests until we can get rid of this system,” her sister, Mya Tha Toe Nwe, told reporters shortly after the death was announced on Friday. “That’s all I want to say.”

Why are people protesting in Myanmar?

Myanmar is in a year-long state of emergency after the military seized power. They claim the November election results were fraudulent but have not provided any evidence of that, and demand a rerun of the vote.

Power has been handed to Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing. Ms Suu Kyi is under house arrest, accused of possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law.

Protesters are calling for her release, along with the release of other NLD members. The country is now seeing some of the largest demonstrations since the so-called Saffron Revolution in 2007.

Clashes have taken place between security officers and protesters, and the military has also blocked the internet in a bid to stifle dissent.

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Myanmar – the basics

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, was long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011
  • A gradual liberalisation began in 2010, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, Myanmar’s army responded to attacks on police by Rohingya militants with a deadly crackdown, driving more than half a million Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh in what the UN later called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
  • Aung San Suu Kyi and her government were overthrown in an army coup on 1 February
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What’s the latest on the ground?

Thousands of people gathered in the largest city, Yangon, on Friday for further demonstrations. Many wore uniforms to demonstrate that they were boycotting work.

“Don’t go to the office!” they chanted, according to AFP. “Go strike! Go strike!”

The mass protest marked two straight weeks of unrest in the country, but police have ramped up efforts to block the demonstrations.

Officers sealed off Yangon’s main protest site on Friday, and set-up barricades at an intersection where a major protest was held the previous day.

But hundreds of people gathered at the barricades anyway, a witness told Reuters.

Elsewhere, video footage posted on social media showed clashes between police and protesters in Myitkyina in northern Kachin state.

Map with Mandalay

Myanmar coup: Internet shutdown as crowds protest against military

Myanmar’s military rulers have shut down the country’s internet, according to monitors, as thousands of people protest against this week’s coup.

A near-total internet blackout is in effect, with connectivity falling to 16% of ordinary levels, NetBlocks Internet Observatory said.

The BBC’s Burmese service also confirmed the shutdown.

It comes the country sees the largest rally since the military seized power on Monday. 

“Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win,” the crowd chanted in the main city Yangon.

Police with riot shields have blocked the main roads into the city centre.

Access to Twitter and Instagram has been blocked to stop people mobilising, a day after Facebook was banned.

The military have not commented. They temporarily blocked access to the internet following the coup on 1 February.

On Saturday, protesters including factory workers and students called for the release of those detained by the army, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 

They marched through the streets of Yangon as city buses sounded their horns in support. Bystanders flashed the three-finger Hunger Games salute, which has become a symbol of defiance against authoritarianism in the region.

Demonstrators gave police roses and bottles of drinking water, calling on them to support the people not the new regime.

Riot police block a road in Yangon
image captionPolice in riot gear have blocked roads in Yangon

Myanmar – also known as Burma – has remained mostly calm in the aftermath of the coup, although some demonstrations have been held in different parts of the country.

The BBC’s Nyein Chan in Yangon says the Burmese know very well the violent crackdowns that the military is capable of. The country was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011.

But now that people have had time to digest what is happening, they are finding different ways to get their voices heard, our correspondent says.

Ms Suu Kyi is under house arrest, according to her lawyer. Police documents show she is accused of illegally importing and using communications equipment – walkie-talkies – at her home in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

The coup took place as a new session of parliament was set to open, following November’s landslide election win by Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Many Burmese watched the events unfold in real time on Facebook, which is the country’s primary source of information and news. But three days later, internet providers were ordered to block the platform for stability reasons.

Following the ban, thousands of users were active on Twitter and Instagram using hashtags to express their opposition to the takeover. By 22:00 local time (15:30 GMT) on Friday access to those platforms had also been denied.

There was no official word from the coup leaders but the AFP news agency said it had seen an unverified ministry document that said the two social media sites were being used to “cause misunderstanding among the public”.

A spokeswoman for Twitter said the ban undermined “the public conversation and the rights of people to make their voices heard”. Facebook, which owns Instagram, called on the authorities to “restore connectivity”.

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Myanmar at a glance

Myanmar is a country of 54 million people in South East Asia which shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos.

It was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011, leading to international condemnation and sanctions.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent years campaigning for democratic reforms. A gradual liberalisation began in 2010, though the military still retained considerable influence.

A government led by Ms Suu Kyi came to power after free elections in 2015. But a deadly military crackdown two years later on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh.

It triggered a rift between Ms Suu Kyi and the international community after she refused to condemn the crackdown or describe it as ethnic cleansing.

She has remained popular at home and her party won again by a landslide in the November 2020 election. But the military have now stepped in to take control once more.

Map of Myanmar

Navalny: Thousands join fresh protests across Russia

Thousands of Russians have been taking part in unauthorised protests to demand the release of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

More than 5,000 people have been detained, a monitoring group says. In Moscow police closed metro stations and blocked off the city centre.

Mr Navalny was jailed on his return to Russia after recovering from an attempt to kill him with a nerve agent.

He blames the security services for the attack but the Kremlin denies this.

The opposition figure was arrested after arriving in Moscow from Germany, where he spent months recovering from the near-fatal incident.

Russian authorities say Mr Navalny was supposed to report to police regularly because of a suspended sentence for embezzlement.

Mr Navalny has denounced his detention as “blatantly illegal”, saying the authorities had allowed him to travel to Berlin for treatment for the Novichok poisoning, which happened in Russia last August.

protest in Moscow
image captionPolice have restricted movement in central Moscow

Mr Navalny has blamed state security agents under Mr Putin’s orders for the attempt on his life and investigative journalists have named Russian FSB agents suspected of the poisoning. But the Kremlin denies involvement and disputes the conclusion, by Western weapons experts, that Novichok was used.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied reports he is the owner of a vast palace on the Black Sea, as alleged by Mr Navalny in a video that has gone viral in Russia and has been watched more than 100m times.

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Desire for change as Putin retains support

Analysis box by Sarah Rainsford, Moscow correspondent

It’s risky protesting in Russia. Even if you escape the police batons you can be fired, face a hefty fine or criminal prosecution.

So the fact that people turned out for a second weekend, right across Russia, is significant – the fact that there were fewer than last week, unsurprising.

By blocking off central Moscow, the authorities were trying to prevent a large crowd gathering in one place and so play down the scale of dissent. Instead, they got protesters marching along main city streets to the hoots of passing cars whose passengers waved victory signs in support.

Shopkeepers were drawn to their windows to watch and, in one beauty salon, women in hairnets stood filming on their phones as the crowd filed past.

Most protesters I spoke to said they weren’t fans or followers of Alexei Navalny in particular, but they are shocked at how he’s been treated. They described him as a symbol of resistance and talked of their own desire for change.

None of this means that Vladimir Putin is about to be ousted – he still has significant support. But after two decades in power, the shine has begun to rub off his presidency.

Where were the protests?

In Moscow the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford says protesters played cat-and-mouse with police, getting up close to officers before retreating to safety. Police snatch squads pulled some protesters through the lines of riot shields. Footage showed a stream of people being escorted on to buses by riot police.

Protesters then attempted to reach the Matrosskaya Tishina prison where Mr Navalny is being held.

Mr Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, was among those detained at Sunday’s protest. She was later released.

Ahead of the protests she posted on Instagram: “If we stay quiet, then they could come for any of us tomorrow.”

Police said the protests were illegal and Russian authorities warned that the gatherings could spread the coronavirus.

A 40-year-old protester in Moscow told Reuters: “I understand that I live in a totally lawless state. In a police state, with no independent courts. In a country ruled by corruption. I would like to live differently,” she said.

In St Petersburg, Mr Putin’s home city, a crowd gathered in a central square and chanted: “Down with the Tsar.”

St Petersburg rally
image captionCrowds in St Petersburg chanted: “Down with the Tsar”

Rallies in support of Mr Navalny also took place in eastern Russia. In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, at least 2,000 people marched through the city chanting “Freedom” and “Putin is a thief”.

In Yakutsk, where temperatures fell to -40C, a protester named Ivan said it was the first rally he had attended.

“I am tired of the despotism and lawlessness of the authorities. No questions have been answered. I want clarity, openness, and change. This is what made me come here,” he said.

Protesters gather in Ordzhonikidze Square in the city of Yakutsk. 31 Jan 2021
image captionDozens of people in Yakutsk braved the extreme cold to protest against the government

Further rallies saw about 1,000 people demonstrate in Omsk, also in Siberia, and about 7,000 people protest in Yekaterinburg in the Ural region, according to local media reports.

The OVD-Info monitoring group said police had detained more than 5,000 people at protests in 86 cities across the country. They included 1,608 held in Moscow and 1,122 in St Petersburg.

Later on Sunday, Mr Navalny’s Moscow campaign headquarters announced the end of the day’s protests and called on supporters to attend a rally on Tuesday at a Moscow court where a ruling will be made on Mr Navalny’s detention.

protester in vladivostok
image captionA protester in Vladivostok wears a mask that says: “Putin must resign”

A number of close associates of Mr Navalny have been detained since last week and others, including his brother and Pussy Riot activist Maria Alyokhina, have been put under house arrest.

The chief editor of a Russian website specialising in human rights, Sergei Smirnov, was also arrested outside his home on Saturday. News of his detention, apparently over allegations he participated in last week’s protests, has been condemned by other journalists.

In Moscow, police have reportedly been struggling to find space in jail for supporters of the opposition leader.

What reaction has there been?

In a tweet, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said he deplored the “widespread detentions and disproportionate use of force”. View original tweet on Twitter

The new US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, condemned “the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists”. 

He called for Mr Navalny and other opposition supporters to be released.

In response, the Russian foreign ministry accused the US of “gross interference” in its internal affairs and of using “online platforms” to promote the protests.

Russia braces for latest Navalny protests

Russian authorities have closed metro stations and are restricting movement in Moscow ahead of planned rallies in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Many restaurants and shops in the city centre will be closed and overground transport will be diverted.

More than 4,000 people were arrested across Russia during rallies last week.

Mr Navalny was jailed on his return to Russia after recovering from an attempt to kill him with a nerve agent.

The opposition figure was arrested on 17 January for not complying with a suspended sentence. He had only just arrived from Berlin, where he spent months recovering from the near-fatal attack.

Russian authorities say he was supposed to report to police regularly because of a suspended sentence for embezzlement.

Mr Navalny has denounced his detention as “blatantly illegal”, saying the authorities knew he was being treated in Berlin for the Novichok poisoning, which happened in Russia last August.

protester in vladivostok
image captionA protester in Vladivostok wears a mask that says: “Putin must resign”

What’s the latest?

Mass rallies in support of Mr Navalny have begun taking place in Russia, despite fresh police warnings about gatherings, with police detaining more than 250 people, according to the OVD-Info protest monitoring group. Protests in Moscow are due to take place later. 

A number of close associates of Mr Navalny have been detained since last week and others, including his brother and Pussy Riot activist Maria Alyokhina, have been put under house arrest.

View original tweet on Twitter

The chief editor of a Russian website specialising in human rights, Sergei Smirnov, was also arrested outside his home on Saturday. News of his detention, apparently over allegations he participated in last week’s protests, has been condemned by other journalists.

In Moscow, police have reportedly been struggling to find space in jail for supporters of the opposition leader.

Seven metro stations will be closed in Moscow on Sunday and movement of pedestrians will be limited in the city centre, the AFP news agency reports.

Law enforcement officers clash with participants during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow
image captionPolice have reportedly been struggling to find room in jail for the opposition leader’s supporters

Protests are also expected in other areas of the country, despite temperatures dropping to -52C.

In the city of Vladivostok, in Russia’s far east, Mr Navalny’s team say there have been no demonstrations on the scale of last Saturday for over a decade.

View original tweet on Twitter

Mr Navalny blamed state security agents under Mr Putin’s orders for the Novichok attack which nearly killed him. Investigative journalists from the Bellingcat website have named Russian FSB agents suspected of the poisoning.

The Kremlin denies involvement and disputes the conclusion, by Western weapons experts, that Novichok was used.

Nigeria Sars protest: Army chief denies firing live bullets at protesters in Lagos

The Nigerian army has rejected claims it killed unarmed protesters at a rally in Lagos in October, saying its soldiers were firing blank bullets.

Brigadier General Ahmed Taiwo presented video evidence to back up his claims made to a panel of inquiry.

Amnesty International says 12 people were killed when soldiers opened fire on a protest about police brutality in the wealthy Lagos suburb of Lekki.

Multiple eyewitnesses have told the BBC they saw soldiers shoot people.

Some 1,000 protesters had gathered at the Lekki toll gate on 20 October to prevent cars using a major motorway. Soldiers were reportedly seen barricading the protest site moments before the shooting started.

In video footage shared on social media at the time, shots could be heard as protesters sat down, locked arms and sang the national anthem together. Live footage was also streamed from the scene showing protesters tending to the wounded. 

The attack had followed days of protests against the much-hated police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), which had morphed into greater calls for better governance.

Brig Gen Taiwo told the judicial panel investigating alleged historic abuses by Sars there had been “a lot of misinformation” about his troops. Their “only crime was to report for duty to protect us all”.

Brig Gen Ahmed Taiwo attends judiciary panel in Lagos on 14 November 2020
image captionBrig Gen Ahmed Taiwo vigorously defended his troops against accusations they killed unarmed protesters

He pointed to video showing what appeared to be soldiers at the scene. “You can see they are firing in the air, and firing blank ammunitions.”

Responding to a claim that a witness had seen a dead body at the scene, he said “the casualty she saw had been overcome by shock”, AFP news agency reports.

It is not clear if he will respond to the many other accounts from eyewitnesses.

Since the shooting those involved in the protests say they are being targeted by the government, the BBC’s Mayeni Jones reports.

A number of protesters and companies say their bank accounts have been frozen and others have been arrested. The passport of a lawyer who organised legal aid for the protesters was seized as she tried to leave the country, although it has now been returned to her.

Nationwide protests erupted on 8 October calling for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which had been accused of widespread human rights violations, including illegal detention, torture and extrajudicial killings.

President Muhammadu Buhari disbanded the squad a few days later, but the protests continued with demands for more changes in the security forces and reforms to the way the country is run.

Following the 20 October attack, Amnesty International Nigeria said it had evidence from hospital records and witnesses to show that “the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality”.

The Lagos state government said 30 people had been injured with one fatality.

Lagos and other parts of Nigeria have seen buildings torched, shopping centres looted and prisons attacked since the shooting.

Nigeria’s vice-president has promised justice for victims shot during the protests amid widespread condemnation from international leaders.