As Myanmar’s military celebrated the country’s annual “Armed Forces Day” with a parade in the capital Naypyitaw, police and soldiers opened fire on anti-coup protesters in more than 40 cities across the country, killing a reported 114 people, including children.
It was the bloodiest day amid ongoing demonstrations against the military junta, which ousted the democratically-elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1.
At least 328 people had been killed in the post-coup crackdown through Friday, according to the Association of Political Prisoners
At the parade, junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing spoke before thousands of soldiers and dignitaries from multiple countries, including Russia. He pledged that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy.
The celebration marked the 76th anniversary of the Burmese revolt against Japanese occupation during World War II.
Demonstrators who filled the streets of multiple cities to protest the coup referred to the holiday using its original name, “Resistance Day.”
The brutal crackdown came one day after the junta threatened on state-run TV to “shoot protesters in the head or back,” the Myanmar Now news site reported. Protesters ignored the threats to take to the streets and again demand the return of democracy.
The wounded included a 1-year-old baby in the Yangon region, where at least 27 people were killed. A 13-year-old girl was among the 40 people killed in a town in the Mandalay region. Another 13-year-old was killed in the Sagaing region. They are among 22 children killed since the protest movement began.
“Dear world, we don’t need Nobel or anything. Just protect our young people and children,” said a tweet from Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement, which has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The words were repeated by thousands of supporters sharing the news of the bloody crackdowns throughout Saturday.
“Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,” Salai Maung Taing San, a spokesman known as “Dr. Sasa” from CRPH, an anti-junta group set up by deposed lawmakers.
In a separate action, military jets also launched air strikes on a village in territory controlled by an armed group from the Karen ethnic minority and at least two people were killed. Earlier, the Karen National Union said it had overrun an army post near the Thai border, killing 10 people – including a lieutenant colonel – and losing one of its own fighters. The incident reflected an escalation of tension with the military after years of relative peace.
The killings quickly drew international condemnation.
U.S. Ambassador Thomas Vajda in a statement said, “security forces are murdering unarmed civilians.”
“These are not the actions of a professional military or police force,” he wrote. “Myanmar’s people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule.”
A joint statement issued by ambassadors from U.S., European Union, Canada, U.K. and other countries said, “We call on security forces to refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians, who are protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government.
“We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace and prosperity,” the statement concluded. “The world is watching.”
With Post Wires