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Myanmar Poet Dies in Military Detention, Family Says

Anti-coup protesters flash the three-finger salute of defiance during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar on Tuesday April 27, 2021. Demonstrations have continued in many parts of the country since Saturday's meeting of leaders from the Association…

A Myanmar poet whose work promoted resistance against the military junta has died, his family said Sunday.

Khet Thi and his wife, Chaw Su, were both taken in for questioning on Saturday in the town of Shwebo in the Sagaing region, family members said. Chaw Su was released but Khet Thi was not.

"They called me in the morning and told me to meet him at the hospital in Monywa,” Chaw Su told BBC Burmese language news. “I thought it was just for a broken arm or something. ... But when I arrived here, he was at the morgue and his internal organs were taken out."

Family members told reporters that his body was missing some organs and showed signs of torture when they went to identify him at the morgue. The army released the body to the family, Reuters reported.

Khet Thi, who penned the line, “They shoot in the head, but they don't know the revolution is in the heart,” was in his 40s, according to his Facebook page.

The military junta, which seized power in a coup in February, has not publicly commented on the poet’s detention or death. Calls to a spokesman for the junta seeking comment were not answered, Reuters reported.

Khet Thi is at least the third poet to die since the coup, according to Reuters. Khet Thi had been friends with K Za Win, 39, a poet who was shot during a protest in March.

With the coup approaching its 100th day, protests have continued, aided by strikes by students and civil servants throughout the country. The military, known as the Tatmadaw, has killed 780 demonstrators since February, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-profit human rights group based in Thailand.

The Tatmadaw has justified the coup by claiming, without evidence, that the 2020 general elections that delivered the ruling National League for Democracy a second term were riddled with fraud. It has promised to hold new elections sometime after a one-year state of emergency, though many expect it to delay and to disqualify the widely popular NLD from running candidates.

Many top NLD leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi, have remained in custody since their arrests on the morning of the coup, while others are in hiding. Fighting between the Tatmadaw and some ethnic armed groups has also increased.

Cultural figures, such as Khet Thi, and celebrities have been vocal supporters of the protests.

An engineer until 2012, Khet Thi quit his job to focus on poetry and sell cakes and ice cream, Reuters reported. He expressed his frustration recently, saying he didn’t want to be a “hero,” a “martyr,” “a weakling” or a “fool.”

"My people are being shot and I can only throw back poems," he wrote. "But when you are sure your voice is not enough, then you need to choose a gun carefully. I will shoot."

Esha Sarai contributed to this report.