Two Kids Were Playing on a City Street in Myanmar. One Was Shot Dead.

Myanmar security forces have killed hundreds of people since the coup, including dozens of minors.
March 29, 2021, 10:22am
Myanmar children killed
Thar Pu, 10, looks at the dead body of his friend, Sai Wai Yan, at his funeral in Yangon on March 28, 2021. Photo: VICE World News

At 10 years old, Thar Pu was not tall enough to see inside the casket for a final look at his 13-year-old friend Sai Wai Yan, who was shot dead by Myanmar security forces on Saturday.

But when lifted up to glimpse the still face of his friend nestled in a bed of flowers, he started sobbing.

The funeral in Yangon was one of many scenes of grief that played out in homes and cemeteries across Myanmar on Sunday, a day after security forces killed at least 100 people in the worst bloodshed since a military coup two months ago.

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Mourners gather around the casket of 13-year-old Sai Wai Yan at his funeral in Yangon on March 28, 2021. Photo: VICE World News

Out of more than 450 victims of the junta’s lethal crackdown, 38 have been under 18, according to monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which also verified the death of a 7-year-old.

Myanmar historian Thant Myint-U tweeted a Hello Kitty drawing made by an 11-year-old who was buried with her toys and books after being killed over the weekend. The charity Save the Children said that kids are “no longer safe in Myanmar.”

On Saturday, Thar Pu and Sai Wai Yan were playing cards in their neighborhood near downtown, which was relatively quiet compared to other parts of the city.

But tensions were high. It was Armed Forces Day, an annual pro-military event of parades and speeches hundreds of miles away in the capital, where lavish celebrations drew outrage when contrasted with the horrific violence unfolding throughout Myanmar.

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Protesters called it “Spring Revolution Day,” carrying on with a crippling boycott and nationwide demonstrations.

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Sai Wai Yan's grandmother, Daw Khin Shwe, is helped by mourners at the funeral. Photo: VICE World News

Thar Pu and Sai Wai Yan were whiling away the time like any kid their age on any peaceful street.

“We were just playing there. There was no protest near us when they arrived,” Thar Pu recalled, standing alongside his mother as mourners cried and flashed the three-finger salute from the “Hunger Games” movies, which has become a symbol of defiance.

Their idle day was shattered as a military truck carrying soldiers pulled up and security forces fired into the air. Thar Pu and Sai Wai Yan started running away. They held hands to try and stay together. But Sai Wai Yan was struck in the back of the head and fell to the ground, eyewitnesses said. Thar Pu kept running and hid. 

Sai Wai Yan didn’t come home. On Saturday evening, the local police station informed his family that the body was being kept at a military hospital in a township on the outskirts of the city. But they could not retrieve it until the next day. 

“We couldn’t take or even look at the body,” his grandmother, Daw Khin Shwe, said.

According to the death certificate, he was shot in the back of the head. It could not be independently confirmed whether it was a rubber bullet or a live round.

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Family of Sai Wai Yan, led by his father (center right) transport the casket during the funeral. Photo: VICE World News

After his family picked up the body on Sunday, they quickly cleaned and prepared it for the funeral. Some 100 people, including local activists, attended. The casket was draped in a red flag with a peacock emblem long used by pro-democracy supporters in Myanmar.

Thar Pu was one of the youngest there, and as he waited for his friend’s casket, he said aloud: “We will meet again in the next life.”

Sai Wai Yan’s mother, Khin Su Hlaing, told journalists at the end of the ceremony that she will never forgive the military. But she is only asking that the regime crumbles.

“I want nothing else, I will be satisfied only if we defeat them,” she said between tears.