The family has been unable to bury Lin Htet because the military has refused to return his body
“Son, don’t go. So many people are dying.” Those were among the last words that Zaw Lin shared with his 19-year-old child on Thursday. Hours later Lin Htet, a student of geology at Yadanabon University, was killed by the coup regime’s forces.
Lin Htet left his home in Mandalay early that morning to join the Mya Taung protest group, a hard core of frontline protesters who have taken to defending their comrades from rubber bullets and tear gas using shields and wet rags.
“He said he would just be picking up trash,” Zaw Lin told Myanmar Now. “I found out later on that he was on the front line holding a shield. He didn’t want us to worry.”
Lin Htet died when the regime forces attacked his protest column near Koe Lone Tagar pagoda on 90th street.
The exact circumstances of his murder are still unclear; the military took his body and has refused to return it to the family.
A video captured on Thursday shows a man crouching by the body in the street while a soldier coerces him into saying that Lin Htet died by falling and biting his tongue.
After the video of his body went viral on social media, his parents went to the military base at Mandalay palace as well as several other military hospitals to try to retrieve their son. But they were told that the military didn’t have the body.
The family has prepared a funeral for him at their home on 9th street. “I just want to see my son’s face. I just want to give him a burial,” Zaw Lin said.
“I don’t feel sad for my son. I’ll be proud of him forever,” he added.
The identity of the man being coerced in the viral video has not been confirmed and he was not seen at the protest, said Min Kyaw Htet, friend of Lin Htet who had been marching with in the Mya Taung column almost every day.
“There’s no way he died from biting his tongue. I think he died because he was hit in the head. And I don’t know the guy in the video, I didn’t see him in the protest. We can’t trace him,” he said.
“You can see he was beaten up,” he said of the unidentified man. “Maybe he was just scared and had to go along with them. I don’t think it’s their guy. Maybe he was forcefully brought there.”
During Thursday’s attack police beat Min Kyaw Htet with batons as he tried to escape. “They hit my leg while I was on the ground after I fell. I can’t even stand straight now. My bone and flesh are crushed,” he said.
He was separated from his friend, and found out about his death when he saw the viral video while receiving treatment for his injuries in a home where he was hiding.
Min Kyaw Htet said he will continue to fight despite the military council’s violent crackdowns.
“You die twice if you’re scared. It’s a disservice to the dead if we stop now out of fear. We will win this fight. We’ll keep fighting,” he said.