Global condemnation after bloodiest day since Myanmar coup

YANGON (AFP) – Defence chiefs from a dozen countries yesterday jointly condemned the bloodbath in Myanmar a day earlier, when at least 90 people – including several children – were killed after security forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the generals ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering mass protests demanding a return to democracy.

Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing presides an army parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Saturday, March 27, 2021. AP

The junta on Saturday staged a major show of might for its annual Armed Forces Day as the death toll since the February 1 coup climbed to at least 423, according to a local monitoring group.

The defence ministers of 12 countries including the United States (US), Britain, Japan and Australia condemned the Myanmar military’s use of lethal force against civilians. “A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people it serves,” the rare joint statement said.

“We urge the Myanmar Armed Forces to cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions.”

Funerals were held yesterday for some of the victims, after the bloodiest day since the putsch.

In Mandalay, the family of Aye Ko, a father-of-four, commemorated his life at a service after he was killed overnight.

“We are told by the neighbours that Aye Ko was shot and thrown into the fire,” a relative told AFP.

“He was the only one who fed the family, losing him is a great loss for the family.”

Despite the dangers, protesters hit the streets again in the cities of Bago and Monywa, and in the small town of Moe Kaung in Kachin State, according to local media.

A day earlier, violence erupted across the country with the military using live rounds in nine regions, including the largest city Yangon, local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said.

By sunset, AAPP said at least 90 people had been killed. Local media, however, put the death toll higher at 114.

“Junta forces shot machine guns into residential areas, resulting in many civilians, including six children between 10 and 16 years old, killed,” AAPP said.

“The fact the illegitimate military regime is targetting children is a grave act of inhumanity.”

Rebels in eastern Myanmar’s Karen state said they had been targetted in air strikes late Saturday, hours after the ethnic armed group seized a military base.

Hsa Moo, an ethnic Karen and human right activist said three people were killed and at least eight were injured.

It was the first air assault in years in the state, and targeted the Fifth Brigade of the Karen National Union (KNU) – one of the country’s largest armed groups – which says it represents the ethnic Karen people.

The junta did not immediately comment, and there was no official confirmation of any casualties.

There was a grand parade of troops and military vehicles in the capital Naypyidaw on Saturday where junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing defended the coup and pledged to yield power after new elections.