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Elderly Michaungkan protestor dies after 138-day vigil

Seventy-six-year-old activist Thaung Nyunt had campaigned relentlessly against the confiscation of her land and that of her community, right up until her death on Friday.

She was taking part in a sit-in outside Rangoon City Hall, which was organised by the Michaungkan protestors and had been living in cramped conditions in the protest camp out in the elements, for 138 days.

Her fellow protestors told DVB that after living rough on the pavement for so long, she had gotten ill, but had not told anyone about it as she had not wanted to be sent home.

“It was the 138th day of our sit-in on Friday and during this time she never went home. She must have been putting up with this illness for so long,” said one Michaungkan protestor. “But she started looking visibly ill so we suggested that she go home. We called her family and they came and took her to hospital. But she died at 5:27 in the afternoon.”

Thaung Nyunt and 150 other residents from Michaungkan ward in Rangoon’s suburbs of Thinganyun Township, have been demanding the return of their land, which was allegedly taken from them by the military in 1990.

The group has staged a series of protests including three sit-ins in front of City Hall. They say they will keep demonstrating until their land is given back.

In March, negotiations with the parliamentary Farmland Investigation Commission broke down and the group set up their camp once more. But police dispersed the site a week later. They restarted their current sit-in on 23 March and have been camped there for the past 141 days.

There are 20 people over the age of 70 living in the camp, where the space is cramped and prone to the elements, especially the heavy monsoon rains.

Many are shocked by Thaung Nyunt’s sudden passing.

“It is very sad, very sad indeed. I pray that her next life will be better,” said a fellow protestor and friend.

In a tone of defiance and endurance, the Michaungkan protestors say that nothing will make them leave, not even death.