At least 90 people were killed Saturday in Myanmar as the junta continues a brutal, countrywide crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that coincided with a military parade, according to witnesses and multiple news reports. It was one of the deadliest days of protests in the country since the February 1 military coup.
The Myanmar Now news site reports at least 29 people were killed in the city of Mandalay, including a boy as young as 5 years old, and at least 24 protesters died in violent night clashes with police in Yangon.
Security forces also reportedly killed civilians in the central Sagaing region, the eastern town of Lashio, the southcentral region of Bago, near Yangon, and in other parts of the country.
“They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes,” said Thu Ya Zaw, a resident of the central town of Myingyan, where at least two protesters were reportedly killed. “We will keep protesting regardless. We must fight until the junta falls.”
In a show of force, the military regime held a massive parade in the capital, Naypyidaw, to mark Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the start of local resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II.
As troops marched alongside army vehicles, junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing defended the coup again and pledged to relinquish power after new elections, without specifying any date. Min Aung Hlaing seized power in a February 1 coup.
Myanmar’s military government has not responded to requests for comment on the killings.
Junta leaders have justified the coup by saying the November 8 general election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was fraudulent — an accusation the electoral commission rejected. Ongoing protests have spread nationwide since the coup, often followed by a heavy-handed security crackdown against protesters.
Myanmar’s military government had warned protesters they could risk being shot in the head during anti-coup demonstrations Saturday as the country observed Armed Forces Day, according to state media.
The junta’s warning came one day after nine people were killed in Myanmar, according to the daily report of the activist group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
In reaction to Saturday’s reported killings, the United Nations said in a statement it is “horrified by the needless loss of life” and denounced the violence as “completely unacceptable,” while calling for it to “stop immediately.”
The U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, Thomas Vajda, released a strongly worded statement, asserting that the country’s security forces are “murdering unarmed civilians, including children, the very people they swore to protect.”
“This bloodshed is horrifying,” Vajda added. “We call for an immediate end to the violence and the restoration of the democratically elected government.”
An injured anti-coup protester is brought to a hospital for medical treatment, in Yangon, Myanmar, March 27, 2021.
The 27-nation European Union said in a statement the killings will be recorded in the annals of the history of the Southeast Asian country.
“This 76th Myanmar Armed Forces Day will forever stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonor,” the statement said. “The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, are indefensible acts.”
The EU also called for an immediate end to the violence and “the restoration of democracy.”
Britain’s ambassador to Myanmar, Dan Chugg, said security forces “have disgraced themselves by shooting unarmed civilians.”
“At a time of economic crisis, COVID, and a worsening humanitarian situation, today’s military parade and extra-judicial killings speak volumes for the priorities of the military junta, Chugg added.”
Before Saturday, military forces had killed at least 320 people during the crackdown and more than 2,900 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced since the crackdown began, the AAPP said in a report.
The United States and Britain imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s ruling junta on Thursday, blacklisting military-controlled businesses.
“Today the United States is taking its most significant action to date to impose costs on the military regime,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in a statement Thursday.
The United States has designated two entities linked to the coup leaders, Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC). “MEHL and MEC are the two largest military holding companies in Burma, and all shares in them are held and managed by current or former Burmese military officers, regiments, and units, and organizations led by former service members,” the statement said.