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'Better that I die instead of lots of people'

Iconic images emerge from Myanmar as nun blocks police from shooting protesters

Pictures of Sister Ann Roza Nu Tawng kneeling in front of riot police and tearfully pleading with them not to open fire compared to images of Tiananmen Square tank man

A nun in Myanmar pleads with police not to open fire on protesters (Myitkyiana News Journal)
A nun in Myanmar pleads with police not to open fire on protesters (Myitkyiana News Journal)

Footage has emerged from Myanmar of a nun standing and blocking soldiers from opening fire on protesters with her body, in images likened to the iconic picture of the Tiananmen Square tank man.

Myanmar has been rocked by unrest since a February 1 coup ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power and triggered a mass uprising of people opposed to the new military junta.

In the incident that occurred on February 28 in the city of Myitkyina in northern Myanmar, Sister Ann Roza Nu Tawng can be seen kneeling before a group of armed riot police with her hands up in the air.

She then gets up in tears, appealing to the forces not to shoot.

A nun in Myanmar pleads with police not to open fire on protesters (Myitkyiana News Journal)

Sister Ann Roza told the UK’s Sky News that she was working at a clinic when she heard shots being fired at the protesters.

“I was running towards where they were beating the protesters. It was happening in front of this clinic. It was like a war,” she said. “I thought it would be better that I die instead of lots of people.”

“I was crying out loud. My throat was in pain, too. My intention was to help people escape and be free to protest and to stop the security forces,” the Catholic nun explained.

“I asked them not to continue arresting the people. I was begging them. At that time I was not afraid,” she said.

Sister Ann Roza said the people were defenseless in the face of the military.

“They are supposed to protect us but our people have to defend themselves. It’s not safe. They (the security forces) arrest and beat those who they don’t like. They kill them,” she said. “There’s no one to protect Myanmar people. People have to defend themselves and help each other.”

The image of her standing in front of police was widely compared to the iconic image from China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown of a man stopping a column of tanks with his body.

In this June 5, 1989 file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing’s Changan Blvd. in Tiananmen Square (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File )

At least 18 protesters were shot and killed on Feb. 28, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

Recent days have seen increased violence.

Thousands of Myanmar anti-coup demonstrators defied an ongoing military crackdown Sunday, following overnight raids in Yangon in which an official from  Suu Kyi’s party was beaten to death and several others were detained.

Wednesday was the deadliest day so far, with the United Nations saying at least 38 people were killed when security forces fired into crowds, shooting some protesters in the head.

The UN rights office also said it has verified at least 54 deaths since the coup — though the actual number could be far higher — and more than 1,700 people have been detained.

Protesters take positions behind a barricades as police gather in Yangon, Myanmar, Sunday, March 7, 2021. The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is raising pressure for more sanctions against the junta, even as countries struggle over how to best sway military leaders inured to global condemnation. (AP Photo)

Sunday saw rallies across Myanmar against the military, with more than seven separate demonstrations in Yangon and at least five in other cities and regional towns, according to Facebook live feeds.

The coup and brutal military crackdown has drawn widespread international condemnation as well as sanctions against key military personnel.

The escalation of violence has put pressure on the global community to act to restrain the junta. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions.

Suu Kyi’s party led a return to civilian rule with a landslide election victory in 2015, and with an even greater margin of votes last year. It would have been installed for a second five-year term last month, but instead Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and other members of the government were placed in military detention.

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