A heartbroken father has spoken of the moment his 10-year-old daughter was shot dead in front of him by an assassin in camouflage.
U Soe Oo had been chopping open coconuts and his excited daughter, Aye Myat Thu, had just run off with a freshly-cut slice dripping in her hands when she suddenly began to stumble. She then fell flat on her stomach and he knew something wasn’t right.
He told New York Times he put his machete down and ran to tell her it was OK and that she could have another slice of coconut if she wanted, but he knelt down next to her and noticed there was blood spilling onto the ground.
He said the bullet hit her at about 5.30pm on March 27 when the sun was coming down on his home town of Mawlamyine, in southeastern Myanmar. By the time the sun set she was gone.
No one in the family saw the killer — who was camouflaged among the trees
However, there was a protest in the town, against the nation’s military takeover in February, just down the road at the time where security force opened fire into a crowd of civilians.
Protesters scattered as two were killed by the army using live rounds. Then, for reasons unknown to Soe Oo, the soldiers wandered into his quiet neighbourhood.
By the time they had left, his daughter had been hit by a bullet was so small that Soe Oo said he couldn’t understand how it had taken the life of his daughter.
“She just fell down,” he said. “And she died.”
There is no doubt in his family’s eyes who is to blame.
“I want to tear off the soldier’s skin as revenge,” U Thein Nyunt, the girl’s uncle, told the Times. “She was just an innocent child with a kind heart. She was our angel.”
In two months of devastation that have rocked Myanmar, at least 43 children have been killed by armed forces, according to rights organisation Save the Children.
The group said the South East Asian country was in a “nightmare situation”, with the youngest known victim just six years old.
Myanmar has been engulfed in violence February’s military coup, when the democratically-elected government was kicked out – leading to sustained protests.
With the violence spiking in recent weeks – and more than 100 people killed last Saturday alone – Save the Children says the death toll of children has more than doubled in the past 12 days.
It said the army is demonstrating the “utter disrespect of armed forces for the lives of children”.
“This is a nightmare scenario unfolding,” the group said. “Innocent children have had their futures brutally and needlessly snatched away from them. Grieving families – among them young children who have seen siblings die – are suffering unimaginable loss and pain.”
The total number of people killed now stands at 564, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Save the Children says the youngest victim was a girl, who was just six years old.
“A total of 15 children under the age of 16 are among the casualties, including children aged 9 and 11,” it said in a statement.
“Among those killed were a 13-year-old boy who was reportedly shot in the head while trying to run away from armed forces, and a 14-year-old Mandalay boy was reportedly shot dead while he was inside or around his home.
“The number of children who have been physically injured as a result of the post-coup violence is unknown, but it is likely to be significant. Among those injured was a one-year-old baby who was reportedly shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.”
The UN’s envoy to Myanmar has warned of the risk of an “imminent bloodbath” as the crackdown against pro-democracy protests in the country intensifies.
The nation has been gripped by turmoil since a February 1 coup ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and derailed the country’s tentative transition to democracy.
This weekend, decorated eggs became the latest emblem of resistance as scores of Myanmar protesters painted political messages on them and left them on neighbours’ doorsteps.
Pictures posted on social media showed eggs adorned with images of Suu Kyi and three-finger salutes — a protest gesture — while others said “save our people” and “democracy”.
“I am Buddhist but I have joined this campaign because it is easy to get a hold of eggs. I spent almost one hour decorating my eggs,” a Yangon-based protester told AFP.
“I am praying for Myanmar’s current situation to get back to democracy.” Delivering his Easter message at the St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, Pope Francis singled out Myanmar youth “committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard peacefully, in the knowledge that hatred can be dispelled only by love”.
Myanmar’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Charles Bo, also shared an Easter message on Twitter: “Jesus has risen: Hallelujah – Myanmar will rise again!”
Protesters also hit the streets again Sunday, some carrying flags and riding motorbikes.
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