- Title: MYANMAR: Girl's death 24 years ago haunts quest for justice in reformist Myanmar
- Date: 20th September 2012
- Summary: DAW NI WEARING T-SHIRT WITH WIN MAW OO'S PHOTO YANGON, MYANMAR (SEPTEMBER 17,2012) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF WIN MAW OO'S FAMILY HOUSE
- Embargoed: 5th October 2012 13:00
- Location: Myanmar
- Country: Myanmar
- Topics: Crime,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA8RABYLF4S4R6ULDDLPH6I7U91
- Story Text: In a temple in Yangon, the family of schoolgirl Win Maw Oo prepared on Wednesday (September 19) for the annual remembrance ceremony to mark her death 24 years ago.
She was shot by soldiers during Myanmar's military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1988.
Her family have held the ceremony every September, despite intimidation by the authorities. This year, for the first time, the family will hold a public ceremony in a temple. Permission was granted by the local authorities on condition that no more than 200 people attend.
It torments her family that they have yet to perform the Buddhist rites to release her soul into the afterlife. But this won't happen until Myanmar is a democratic country, says her father.
Political reform in Myanmar is fostering greater openness about past atrocities but little accountability, especially when the country's still-powerful military is involved. Today, Win Maw Oo's impoverished and long-suffering family remains under police surveillance.
Her grandmother Daw Ni was unsure if the recent moves towards democracy would stick.
"I still have doubt in my mind (about democracy in Myanmar). I think it is not permanent yet. I still have doubt about them (the government). I think the situation is still in their hands and it can be changed at anytime," she said.
Hers is one of many families now demanding recognition for abuses suffered by loved ones under decades of dictatorship. Their struggle for justice could test both the sincerity of President Thein Sein's reforms and the patience of Myanmar's untouchable and seemingly remorseless military.
One political activist at the ceremony said in a true democracy they would be allowed free speech.
"We won't need permission from anyone (to hold activities) if our country is a democratic country, unlike what president U Thein has described. They (authority) have no right to stop us commemorating in the way it should be. We want to use speakers and will give speeches as we choose. We must have the right to talk about our activities. We do not have real democracy if we still need to get permission to hold this ceremony in the way that we want to," said Myo Aung Naing, a member of 1988 pro-democracy student group.
Win Maw Oo's family have turned their one-room shack on a swamp in Yangon's northern suburbs into a shrine for her.
Its thin bamboo walls are decorated with a harrowing image of the schoolgirl taken by an American photographer just moments after she was shot.
Her father, Win Kyu, recalls the day she died.
She was marching with fellow protesters towards the U.S. embassy when the troops opened fire. Everyone scattered, recalls Steve Lehman, who photographed two medics carrying Win Maw Oo's bloodied body to a nearby ambulance.
The surgeon who operated on Win Maw Oo didn't save her life. But he did buy her time. Her father struggled to reach the hospital through streets patrolled by trigger-happy soldiers. He arrived to hear her last words.
"Can you promise me something?" she asked. Then she made her father swear not to perform the last rites for her "until you get the democracy we asked for". Then she died.
He is sticking to his word.
"I won't perform the last rite for her at the anniversary because we don't yet have real democracy," he said, adding he hoped to hold the complete rite for her by 2015 when Myanmar holds a general election.
Win Kyu said Myanmar's democratic progress "has nothing to do with" the military. He attributes it to the sacrifices of ordinary people such as his daughter, as well as to Buddhist monks who led the 2007 Saffron Revolution -- another democracy uprising bloodily suppressed by the military.
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