YANGON: Like MyanmarThe military celebrated the annual Armed Forces Day with a parade on Saturday in the nation’s capital, soldiers and police are said to have killed dozens elsewhere as they cracked down on protests in the deadliest blood since last month’s coup.
The Myanmar Now online news site reported on Saturday evening that the death toll had reached 114. A tally released by an independent researcher in Yangon who compiled near real-time death figures put the total at 107, spread across over more than two dozen towns and cities.
Both numbers are higher than any estimate from the previous peak on March 14, which ranged from 74 to 90.
The figures collected by the researcher, who asked not to be named for his safety, generally correspond to the tally published at the end of each day by the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, which documents deaths and arrests and is widely regarded as a definitive source. . The Associated Press is unable to independently confirm the death toll.
The killings quickly drew international condemnation, with numerous diplomatic missions in Myanmar issuing statements of the killing of civilians on Saturday, including children.
“This 76th day of the Burmese armed forces will be remembered as a day of terror and dishonor,” the European Union delegation to Myanmar said on Twitter. “The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, is an indefensible act.”
In the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the violence.
“We are horrified by the bloodshed perpetrated by the Burmese security forces, showing that the junta will sacrifice the lives of the people to serve a few,” he said in a tweet. “I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims. The courageous people of Burma reject the army’s reign of terror. ”
Myanmar’s death toll has steadily increased as authorities step up with their crackdown on opposition to the February 1 coup that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government. The coup reversed years of progress towards democracy after five decades of military rule.
As of Friday, the Association of Political Prisoners had verified 328 people killed in the post-coup crackdown.
Junta leader Major General Min Aung Hlaing did not directly refer to the protest movement when he delivered his nationally televised address on Armed Forces Day to thousands of soldiers in Naypyitaw. He referred only to “terrorism which can harm the peace of the state and social security” and called it unacceptable.
This year’s event was seen as a flashpoint of violence, with protesters threatening to double their public opposition to the coup with growing protests. Protesters refer to the holiday by its original name, Resistance Day, which marks the start of a revolt against Japanese occupation during World War II.
On Friday evening, state television MRTV aired an announcement urging young people – who have been at the forefront of the protests and among the victims – to learn from those killed in the protests about the danger of being hit. shot in the head or in the back.
This warning was widely viewed as a threat as a large number of deaths among the protesters were due to a bullet in the head, which suggests that they were the targets of death. The ad suggested that some young people were participating in protests as if it were a game and urged their relatives and friends to dissuade them from participating.
In recent days, the junta has portrayed protesters as those who commit violence for their sporadic use of Molotov cocktails. On Saturday, protesters in Yangon were seen carrying bows and arrows. In contrast, security forces used live ammunition for weeks against still overwhelmingly unarmed and peaceful crowds.
The US embassy said shots were fired at its cultural center in Yangon on Saturday, although no one was injured.
The military government does not publish a regular casualty tally, and when it did release numbers, the totals were a fraction of what independent parties such as the UN reported. He said his use of force was justified to end what he called the riots.