‘Shoot me not the children’: nun becomes new symbol of Burmese resistance

Quite something, especially the images. Full article post from the times paper below…

Kneeling in the street, her arms spread wide, Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng pleaded with armed police in Burma, begging them “not to shoot . . . the children” and offering her life in their place.

The image of the Catholic nun, in her plain white habit, begging the security forces to kill her if they would spare the lives of protesters, has been hailed across the country, as a brutal crackdown continues by Burma’s new military junta, following last month’s coup.

“I knelt down . . . begging them not to shoot and torture the children, but to shoot me and kill me instead,” she said. Although some officers knelt respectfully to talk to Sister Ann, her pleas were ignored. Moments after the photograph was taken, officers began firing into the crowds behind her, killing at least two.

The incident happened in the northern city of Myitkyina on Monday, as civilian protests continued throughout Burma, demanding the return of democracy, in defiance of a crackdown that has left more than 60 people dead.

When armed police confronted the demonstrators in Myitkyina, Sister Ann and two fellow nuns stepped forward from the crowd, into the line of fire, pleading with officers to spare civilian lives.

“The police were chasing to arrest them and I was worried for the children. The children panicked and ran to the front. I couldn’t do anything but I was praying for God to save and help the children,” she told AFP yesterday. “I felt like the world was crashing.”

Burma’s new military rulers have ignored calls for restraint, however, stepping up their use of force in recent days in an attempt to crush the protests. Scores of people have been killed by live rounds in the past week. Despite the spiralling death toll, however, demonstrators have returned to the streets day after day.

Sister Ann said she tried to carry some of the victims in Myitkyina to hospital, but was blinded by tear gas raining down from police lines. “Our clinic floor became a sea of blood,” she told Reuters. “We need to value life. It made me feel so sad.”

Security forces continued their crackdown on protesters today and surrounded the staff compound of striking railway workers in Rangoon, the largest city. The railway staff are part of a civil disobedience movement that has crippled government business, including strikes at banks, hospitals, factories and shops.

Police also acted against independent media yesterday, raiding the offices of two news outlets and detaining journalists. At least 35 journalists have been arrested since the start of the coup.

Yesterday, Zaw Myat Linn, an official from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), became the second party figure to die in custody in two days. “He’s been participating continuously in the protests,” said Ba Myo Thein, a member of the dissolved upper house of parliament. The cause of death is not known.

In a symbolic gesture, the NLD announced that its ousted politicians had appointed Mahn Win Khaing Than, who was the upper house Speaker, as acting vice-president to perform the duties of the arrested president, Win Myint and the leader, Suu Kyi.

Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department, said that Washington was “repulsed” by the junta’s continued use of lethal force and urged the military to exercise “maximum restraint”.

In an attempt to placate international governments, the military junta has hired an Israeli-Canadian lobbyist to “assist in explaining the real situation” in the country.

Ari Ben-Menashe and his firm Dickens & Madson Canada, will be paid $2 million to represent the junta in Washington, as well as in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Russia and at international bodies including the United Nations.

According to an agreement submitted to the Justice Department on Monday, the firm will “assist the devising and execution of policies for the beneficial development of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar”.

Separately, the United Nations security council failed to agree on a statement yesterday that would have condemned the coup, called for restraint by the military and threatened to consider “further measures”.

During a final attempt to finalise the statement, China, Russia, India and Vietnam suggested amendments, including the removal of the reference to a coup and the threat to consider further action.