50 killed as junta puts on show of force for Armed Forces Day

NAYPYIDAW (CNA) – Myanmar’s security forces shot and killed at least 50 protesters yesterday, according to news reports and witnesses, as the leader of the ruling junta said the military will protect the people and strive for democracy.

Protesters against the February 1 military coup 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.

“The military generals are celebrating Armed Forces Day after they just killed more than 300 innocent civilians,” he said, giving an estimate of the toll since protests first erupted weeks ago.

At least four people were killed when security forces opened fire at a crowd protesting outside a police station in Yangon’s Dala suburb in the early hours of Saturday, Myanmar Now reported.

At least 10 people were wounded, the news portal said.

Military personnel participate in a parade during the national Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.
PHOTO: AP

Three people, including a young man who plays in a local under-21 football team, were shot and killed in a protest in the Insein district of the city, a neighbour told Reuters.

Thirteen people were killed in various incidents in Mandalay, Myanmar Now said.

Deaths were also reported from the Sagaing region near Mandalay, Lashio town in the east, in the Bago region, near Yangon, and elsewhere, it said.

Myanmar Now said a total of at least 50 people were killed on yesterday.

A news agency could not independently verify the numbers killed.

A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The country has been in turmoil since the generals ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February, triggering a major uprising demanding a return to democracy.

Violent morning crackdowns by security forces thwarted some plans for fresh protests that had been called in some cities to coincide with the parade in the capital Naypyidaw.

As troops carried torches and flags while marching alongside army vehicles, junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing again defended the coup and pledged to yield power after new elections.

But he also issued another threat to the anti-coup movement that has gripped the country since he took charge, warning that acts of “terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquillity and security” were unacceptable.