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NAYPYIDAW, Mar 7 — Hein Yar Zar grimaced as a tattoo artist etched onto his chest the features of his first love, a young protester whose death has become a symbol of resistance against Myanmar’s junta.
Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing was shot in the head during a demonstration in the capital Naypyidaw, becoming one of the coup’s first fatalities on February 19 after 10 days in hospital.
Her image has since become synonymous with the bloody fight to wrest power from the military, which toppled Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and knocked the country off the path for democracy last month.
For 21-year-old Hein Yar Zar, the abrupt end to his girlfriend’s young life has filled him with resolve to keep protesting, even as he grieves.
“We had so many plans for this year. She died when her birthday was so near,” he told AFP.
“I got a tattoo of her portrait as I’m missing her — it’s a memory for us.”
Two days after she was shot, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing turned 20 while unconscious in a hospital bed — an image shared by anti-coup demonstrators as they rallied on the streets.
Days later, a 15-metre-long banner illustrating the moment she was hit was hung off a bridge in commercial hub Yangon, with some protesters describing her as a “martyr”.
Her death brought scathing global condemnation of the junta, with multiple countries imposing targeted sanctions on the generals.
Today, more than 50 people have died during protests as the security forces enforce an increasingly brutal crackdown on demonstrators.
“There was nobody like her,” said Hein Yar Zar.
He showed off an inking he had done years ago on his arm — “Together forever” — a poignant reminder of their youthful optimism.
‘I will keep fighting’
On February 9, the couple were both on the front lines of a massive Naypyidaw demonstration, although separated by the crowd of protesters.
“I sent her a message, ‘Please call me back’, because I had no credit on my phone, but she never did,” said Hein Yar Zar, who heard the news of her shooting from her sister.
“I stayed beside her at the hospital and I prayed every day that she would get better.”
The military initially said it was investigating her death, but state media later reported that an autopsy of her body showed the bullet was not fired by police officers.
Since her death, Hein Yar Zar’s life has been separated into moments filled with grief, anger and resolve.
Showing an earlier tattoo — “17.11.2015”, which commemorates their first date five years ago — he vowed to never forget her.
“She gave her life for this revolution — as her boyfriend, I will keep doing it for her,” he said.
“I will keep fighting for this revolution to win.” — AFP