Myanmar activists fall to their deaths from apartment building during junta raid

Five young people involved in the anti-coup movement fell from the roof of a three-storey apartment building in downtown Yangon’s Botahtaung Township on Tuesday afternoon, with two confirmed dead on Wednesday. They were attempting to escape a military raid and allegedly jumped from the building, according to eyewitnesses.

Around 20 junta personnel, including police officers and both uniformed and plainclothes soldiers, stormed an apartment on the lower block of 44th Street, while the people in question—one woman and four men—were inside. 

“They ran up to the roof to escape… I think they decided that there was no other way out and jumped into the back alley behind the building,” said a resident who witnessed the incident and spoke to Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity.

The eyewitness estimated that the building from which they are believed to have jumped was more than 50 feet tall. 

He said that at least two people initially survived the fall and were conscious, moaning in pain and asking for water. No one was able to help them, he explained, since the soldiers at the scene threatened to shoot anyone who approached. Eventually, the two individuals stopped moving, he said. 

“The injured ones couldn’t even get up anymore,” the resident said, adding that the ambulances that came to pick them up took more than two hours to arrive. 

“I saw them carrying three bodies in body bags. The other two were not completely disfigured but they didn’t look very well either,” another resident on the street said.

The victims are seen from above after falling from the 44th Street apartment building during a military raid (Supplied) 

A source close to the staff of the 1,000-bed military hospital in Yangon said that three of the young people were brought there on Tuesday evening. The individual confirmed to Myanmar Now that two were pronounced dead upon arrival, and said one was in critical condition.  

The two people confirmed dead were Wai Phyo Zaw, about whom further information was not available, and 29-year-old Wai Wai Myint.

Wai Wai Myint’s husband Soe Myat Thu told Myanmar Now that he recognised his wife in photos of the scene on 44th Street that circulated on social media. 

He said that she was only visiting the apartment on 44th Street, and was not a member of any group that the others may have been part of. 

Soe Myat Thu said he claimed his wife’s body from the military hospital on Wednesday afternoon. She was cremated at Kyu Chaung cemetery in Yangon’s Shwepyithar Township later that evening. 

There was one body sent for cremation before Wai Wai Myint, and two after, Soe Myat Thu said, noting that they were accompanied by military and police. He was not allowed to see who they belonged to. 

“Their bodies were covered. [The authorities] only allowed me to look at my wife’s face because I was the only family member there. The area around her jaw bone was terribly swollen, and there were stitches. I couldn’t look at the rest of her body because she was wrapped up tightly,” he told Myanmar Now.

She was a jewelry seller, and leaves behind a five-year-old daughter. 

Twenty-seven-year-old Ye Min Oo was the activist reported to be in critical condition after the fall, and was undergoing surgery for a head injury at the time of reporting, according to the source close to the 1,000-bed military hospital. He added that Ye Min Oo was being guarded by two policemen at the hospital.

His father, Tin Zaw, said in a Burmese language interview with Radio Free Asia that his son had been arrested briefly once by junta’s forces in February. His interest in politics started after the February 1 military coup, and he had been active in the anti-dictatorship movement ever since.

The two other activists were sent to the 500-bed military Orthopaedic Hospital in Yangon, according to Tin Zaw. 

“[The junta authorities] won’t tell me their names but they said that the others are there. We can’t go see them either. They said they will treat them there and send them to interrogation after they recover,” he said.

Art created by a netizen in tribute to the five activists 

The news about the incident spread quickly online, with netizens mourning the reported deaths, creating art in tribute, and vowing to avenge them. 

“It is only two feet to kneel down, but they chose a height of 50 feet,” one Facebook user wrote, describing the alleged decision to jump rather than submit to military rule. 

Well-known Burmese artist Htein Lin posted on his personal Facebook page on Wednesday, “Oh 44th Street! We are shocked. Our hearts are broken. And we salute you all.” 

The incident has been compared to another case on March 21, when an ethnic Chin woman fell to her death from a sixth floor apartment on 91st Street, in Yangon’s Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township during a military raid. 

Shots fired and arrests

At the time of the raid, residents in the area said that they saw security forces surround the building, fire gunshots, and take those who remained inside the apartment into junta custody.

“A group of [soldiers] ran up the building’s stairs and the other group ran into the alley behind the building. Then, we heard four or five gunshots,” the second eyewitness said. 

The junta’s forces arrested two other people who were allegedly in the apartment—one woman and one man—a source close to the detainees told Myanmar Now. 

One of the eyewitnesses claimed that weapons appeared to have been confiscated during the raid, but Myanmar Now was unable to verify the information at the time of reporting. 

On Tuesday evening, a sound file believed to be communications recorded between the police and soldiers who carried out the raid went viral on Facebook. In the clip, they said that five people jumped out of the building’s back door, and that one more person was arrested in the apartment.

Myanmar Now tried to contact the Botahtaung police station to confirm the number of people who had been arrested and seek further information about their condition, but all calls went unanswered.

Citing the military’s information team, the pro-military People Media reported on Wednesday afternoon that four men and one woman had “jumped out” of a Yangon apartment window after refusing to cooperate with the authorities who had reportedly come to carry out an “inspection.”

The outlet reported that one man and one woman died and three other people were injured in the incident; three were also reportedly arrested at the apartment with explosives, the military claimed. 

Another man in the apartment during the raid, Kaung Min Thant—also known as Flex—was shot by the junta troops, other local media outlets reported. His condition was not known, and he was not mentioned in the information released by the military’s information team. 

Troops carried out the raid after at least five bomb blasts targeted several downtown Yangon locations, including the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) on Tuesday afternoon.

It is not known whether there was a connection between the raid on 44th Street and the explosions in the city.

In response to the junta’s violent crackdowns and murders of civilians, a number of resistance groups comprised largely of youth have taken up arms against the military. They have carried out surprise attacks and targeted assassinations of both members of the junta and those believed to be civilian collaborators. 

Many of these resistance fighters are believed to have undergone crash courses in military training from ethnic armed organisations in recent months.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include further information about two of the victims, Wai Wai Myint and Ye Min Oo. 

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