Security forces killed more than 90 people across Myanmar on Saturday in one of the bloodiest days of protests since a military coup last month, news reports and witnesses said.
The lethal crackdown came on Armed Forces Day. Senior General 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.
State television had said on Friday that protesters risked being shot “in the head and back”. Despite this, demonstrators against came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns.
“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 deaths on Saturday, one of the bloodiest days since the coup, would take the number of civilians reported killed to well over 400. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in parts of Myanmar on Saturday.
A boy reported by local media to be as young as five was among at least 13 people killed in Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay. The Myanmar Now news portal said 91 people had been killed in total across the country by 2:30pm.
Three people, including a man who plays in a local under-21 football team, were killed in a protest in the Insein district of Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon, a neighbour told Reuters.
“They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes,” said Thu Ya Zaw in the central town of Myingyan, where at least two protesters were killed. “We will keep protesting regardless … We must fight until the junta falls.”
Deaths were reported from the central Sagaing region, Lashio in the east, in the Bago region, near Yangon, and elsewhere. A one-year-old baby was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet.
Meanwhile, one of Myanmar’s two dozen ethnic armed groups, the Karen National Union, said it had overrun an army post near the Thai border, killing 10 people — including a lieutenant colonel — and losing one of its own fighters.
Myanmar’s ethnic armed factions will not stand by and allow more killings, the leader of one of the main armed groups said on Saturday.
A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment on the killings by security forces or the insurgent attack on its post.
After presiding over a military parade in the capital Naypyitaw to mark Armed Forces Day, Senior General Hlaing reiterated a promise to hold elections after overthrowing elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, without giving any time-frame.
“The army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy,” the general said in a live broadcast on state television, adding that authorities also sought to protect the people and restore peace across the country.“Violent acts that affect stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate.”