At least 114 killed in Myanmar in deadliest day since start of protests

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Family members cry in front of a man after he was shot dead during an anti-coup protesters crackdown in Yangon, Myanmar, March 27, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

 

At least 114 civilians were killed across Myanmar on Saturday, according to a tally by the independent Myanmar Now news outlet, as the military junta continued to crack down on peaceful protests.

The killings in 44 towns and cities across the country would represent the bloodiest day of protests since a military coup last month.

Among those killed is reportedly a 13-year-old girl, who was shot in her house after the junta’s armed forces opened fire in residential areas of Meikhtila, in Mandalay region, according to Myanmar Now. She is among 20 minors killed since the start of the protests, Myanmar Now reported.

The lethal crackdown came on the country’s Armed Forces Day. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said during a parade in the capital Naypyitaw to mark the event that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy, Reuters reported.

State television had said on Friday that protesters risked being shot “in the head and back.” Despite this, demonstrators against the February 1 coup came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns.

The United Nations secretary-general and the UN office in Myanmar spoke out against the violence Saturday.

“The continuing military crackdown, which today resulted in the highest daily death toll since demonstrations against the coup began last month, is unacceptable and demands a firm, unified and resolute international response. It is critical to find an urgent solution to this crisis,” said a statement issued by Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general. “The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the killing of dozens of civilians.”

The UN office in Myanmar said it “is horrified by the needless loss of life today with reports of dozens of people shot dead by the military across the country, in the bloodiest day since the coup.”

“The violence is completely unacceptable and must stop immediately. Those responsible must be held to account,” the UN office added. “As the Special Envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener has said, ensuring peace and defending the people should be the responsibility of any military, but the Tatmadaw has turned against its own people.”

According to the latest tally by the nonprofit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 328 people have been killed in Myanmar since the military coup on February 1.

Saturday’s deaths would bring the total number of civilians killed to more than 400, but the exact number remains unclear. Aid groups fear the number may be higher.

The US Embassy in Myanmar joined the European Union and United Kingdom embassies in condemning killings by security forces in Myanmar on Saturday and calling for an end to the violence.

“On Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day, security forces are murdering unarmed civilians, including children, the very people they swore to protect. This bloodshed is horrifying,” Thomas Vajda, US Ambassador to Myanmar, said in a statement.

“These are not the actions of a professional military or police force. Myanmar’s people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule,” he added.

“This 76th Myanmar armed forces day will stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonor,” the EU delegation to Myanmar said. “The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, are indefensible acts”.

The military has said it took power because November elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party were fraudulent, an assertion dismissed by the country’s election commission.

Suu Kyi, the elected leader and the country’s most popular civilian politician, remains in detention at an undisclosed location. Many other figures in her party are also being held in custody.