Myanmar: The Woman Who Jumped To Her Death While Fleeing Police


By Jonathan Head
South East Asia correspondent

image sourceSoe Myat Thu

image captionWai Wai Myint was one of two people who died in Tuesday’s incident

Even after six months of horrifying news from Myanmar, it is an incident that’s shocked the country – five people who chose to jump from a building they were hiding in, some to their deaths, rather than face arrest.

The police have condemned the group as terrorists, but the husband of one victim tells the BBC she was a compassionate wife and mother who felt she was working to alleviate the people’s suffering.

This is the tale of her untimely death.

It was on Tuesday afternoon that eight young activists found themselves trapped by a police raid.

The military had seized power months earlier in February, throwing the country into turmoil as millions protested against the coup.

At least 900 people have been killed by the military’s violent response, and thousands more arrested.

Wai Wai Myint was one of those caught up in the movement opposing the military junta.

She was one of the five who jumped off a commercial building in downtown Yangon as the police charged in, falling onto a concrete pavement. She and at least one other person died at the scene.

The other three have been taken to a military-run hospital.

In the first photograph of Wai Wai Myint that began circulating on social media after news of her death, she stands ramrod straight, looking defiantly at the camera. Her fingers are raised in the three-finger Hunger Games salute that has become the trademark gesture used by young dissidents in South East Asia.

image sourceGetty Images

image captionThe three-finger salute has been used widely as a symbol of resistance

The military authorities have described the group she was with as terrorists who were planning to plant bombs.

They have published confessions by two of the activists who did not jump and were arrested there, and photographs of what they say were ingredients for explosives.

But that is not the image painted by her husband, Soe Myat Thu.

He had to say goodbye to Apple, as he calls her, at a military-organised mass cremation for her and four other people, including the young man who died with her when they jumped.

No photographs were allowed, and the families were not permitted to take away the ashes.

The military junta in Myanmar has been trying to restrict the funerals of those killed in the uprising against the coup, as they often turn into anti-military demonstrations – sometimes cremating bodies in secret rather than returning them to their relatives.

Soe Myat Thu held up a flower for her, and took that back home in place of her remains.

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Written by Alan