Myanmar: Deadly protests erupt as coup leaders mark Armed Forces Day

3 weeks ago
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Protesters in Yangon

Reuters

Myanmar’s security forces have opened fire on protesters as the leaders of its coup marked Armed Forces Day.

Protesters took to the streets of Yangon and other cities. Some reports say 50 have been shot dead.

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing said in a national TV address on Saturday that he would “safeguard democracy”, promising elections but giving no timetable.

More than 320 people have been killed in the suppression of protests since the military seized power in February.

State TV warned in a separate broadcast on Friday that people “should learn from the tragedy of earlier ugly deaths that you can be in danger of getting shot to the head and back”.

What is happening on the streets?

Anti-coup activists had called for major demonstrations on Saturday, despite the military’s threat to use deadly force against them.

Security forces were out in strength, trying to prevent rallies, particularly in Yangon.

Security forces clash with protesters in Yangon

Reuters

The number of deaths is difficult to confirm. News site The Irrawaddy said that 59 people, including three children, had been killed in 28 locations.

Myanmar Now said at least 50 people had been killed, including four outside a police station in the Dala suburb of Yangon.

Deaths were also reported on the streets of the second-largest city Mandalay, as protesters carried the flag of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Myanmar’s detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and gave their now traditional anti-authoritarian three-finger salute.

One journalist told AFP news agency police had used live ammunition against protesters in the north-eastern city of Lashio.

Dr Sasa, a spokesman for anti-junta group CRPH, told Reuters: “Today is a day of shame for the armed forces, The military generals are celebrating Armed Forces Day after they just killed more than 300 innocent civilians.”

What did the coup leader say?

“The army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy,” Min Aung Hlaing said in his live broadcast on Saturday.

“Violent acts that affect stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate.”

He added that the army had to seize power because of “unlawful acts” by democratically-elected leader Ms Suu Kyi and her party.

Min Aung Hlaing

Getty Images

However, he did not specifically say that the military had been given shoot-to-kill orders. The junta has previously tried to claim that shootings have come from among the protesters.

Armed Forces Day commemorates the start of Myanmar’s military resistance against Japanese occupation in 1945.

The parade is usually attended by officials from other nations. However, it appeared that Russian deputy defence minister Alexander Formin was the only foreign official there.

“Russia is a true friend,” Min Aung Hlaing added.

The US, UK and EU have all imposed sanctions in response to the military coup. Myanmar and Russia’s defence ties have grown in recent years. In that time Moscow has provided training to thousands of soldiers, and has sold arms to the military.

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Myanmar profile

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history, it has been under military rule
  • Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government headed by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, Myanmar’s army responded to attacks on police by Rohingya militants with a deadly crackdown, driving more than half a million Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh in what the UN later called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
  • Country profile

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Map of Myanmar showing Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon

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