The European Union, UK and US on Saturday condemned the repression by Myanmar’s junta as “indefensible” after scores of anti-coup protesters were reportedly killed, as the country marked Armed Forces Day.
The online news site Myanmar Now reported late on Saturday that the death toll had reached 114, the bloodiest day so far since the start of the military coup.
A count issued by an independent researcher in Yangon who has been compiling near-real time death tolls put the total at 107, spread over more than two dozen cities and towns.
The total death toll since the coup by the military junta stood at 328 as of Friday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a group that documents deaths and arrests. It had cautioned however that the actual number of casualties was “likely much higher”.
The United Nations said it had received reports of “scores killed, including children” as well as hundreds of people injured.
It condemned the violence as “shocking” and “compounding the illegitimacy of the coup and the culpability of its leaders”.
In a statement released on Facebook, the EU embassy in Myanmar said that “this 76th Myanmar Armed Forces Day will forever stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonour. The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, are indefensible acts.”
The US embassy wrote on Facebook that “this bloodshed is horrifying.”
“Security forces are murdering unarmed civilians, including children, the very people they swore to protect,” it added. “These are not the actions of a professional military or police force.”
Both called for an “immediate” and “unconditional” end to the violence.
The British ambassador wrote in a statement released on Twitter that “the security forces have disgraced themselves by shooting unarmed civilians.”
“Dozens of innocent people have reportedly been killed, including children,” he added.
‘Shot in the head and back’
Armed Forces Day is a public holiday which marks the beginning of a revolt against Japanese occupation in World War II. This year, protesters referred to it by its original name, Resistance Day, and threatened to double down on their public opposition to the overthrow of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi with more and bigger demonstrations.
The junta had tried to quell turnout for protests with a message broadcast on state television on Friday evening which warned: “You should learn from the tragedy of earlier ugly deaths that you can be in danger of getting shot in the head and back.”
Ei Thinzar Maung, one of the figures in the anti-coup protests, urged people to take to protest on Saturday. “I pray everyone will be safe tomorrow,” she posted on social media. “We will win this!”
“Now is the time to fight against military oppression,” she insisted.
Talking before a military parade in capital Naypyitaw on Saturday, coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing did not directly refer to protesters but referred to “terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquility and social security,” and called it “unacceptable”.
He also doubled down on the junta’s claim that Suu Kyi’s elected government failed to investigate irregularities in the last polls and that “the Tatmadaw (armed forces) unavoidably assumed the state responsibility by lawful means”.
The military has claimed there were irregularities in the voting rolls for last November’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.
Aung Hlaing also repeated that his government will hold “a free and fair election” after “the accomplishment of the State of Emergency provision” but gave no further details.
The junta detained Suu Kyi on the day it took power, and continues to hold her on minor criminal charges while investigating allegations of corruption against her that her supporters dismiss as politically motivated.