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Armed Forces Day: junta kills over 90 protesters in Myanmar, sparks outrage

Armed Forces Day: junta kills over 90 protesters in Myanmar, sparks outrage

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Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: Twenty-six days after a military coup ousted an elected government, Myanmar’s security forces shot and killed at least 90 people, including a five-year-old boy, in separate incidents in the country, sparking global outrage over brutal suppression of popular protest against the junta on Saturday, the Armed Forces Day.

With these deaths, on one of the bloodiest days since the coup, nearly 450 civilian pro-democracy activists have so far been killed after the February 1 coup, media reported, adding the country appeared to be heading towards a civil war as angry mobs were seen attacking the army at some places.

The armed forces, themselves divided along ethnic lines, opened indiscriminate fire on thousands of demonstrators. These deaths were reported from different towns and cities of the southeast Asian nation. And military factions along ethnic groups, are bracing for a civil war-like situation.

A military junta spokesman claimed that the security forces would protect the people and strive to bring back democracy.

Since the coup, protesters across Myanmar have been staging demonstrations daily, demanding restoration of democracy. On Saturday also, they came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns, defying a warning that they could be shot “in the head and back”, while the country’s generals celebrated Armed Forces Day.

“Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,” Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for CRPH, an anti-junta group set up by deposed lawmakers, told an online forum.

“They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes,” said Thu Ya Zaw in the central town of Myingyan, where at least two protesters were killed. “We will keep protesting regardless… We must fight until the junta falls,” according to media reports.

One of Myanmar’s two dozen ethnic armed groups, 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.

Myanmar’s ethnic armed factions will not stand by and allow more killings, reports quoting ethnic armed groups said.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who presided over a military parade in the national capital Naypyitaw to mark the Armed Forces Day, reiterated a promise to hold elections after overthrowing elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, without giving any time-frame.

“The army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy,” the General said in a live broadcast on state television, adding that authorities also sought to protect the people and restore peace across.

Earlier, on Friday evening, state television had warned the protesters that they were “in danger of getting shot to the head and back”. It did not specifically say the security forces had been given shoot-to-kill orders.

Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day commemorates the start of the resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945 towards the end of the Second World War. The resistance was orchestrated by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, the founder of the military. But Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most popular civilian politician, remains in detention at an undisclosed location. Many other figures in her party are also being held in custody.

Amid international pressure on the junta due to fresh sanctions from the U.S. and European nations, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin met the junta generals on Friday and attended the military parade in Naypyitaw, on Saturday.

Diplomats from other countries, however, kept away from the parade, which is usually attended by scores of officials from foreign nations.

Support from Russia and China, which has also refrained from criticism, is important for the junta.  Both Moscow and Beijing are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and can block potential U.N. actions.

 

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