Myanmar junta leader pledges democracy at Army Day parade

Myanmar junta leader pledges democracy at Army Day parade”

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said during a parade to mark Armed Forces Day that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy.

Myanmar Now said a total of at least 50 people were killed on Saturday.

A barricade, set up by protesters demonstrating against the military coup, burning in Mandalay.

Myanmar military forces also on Saturday engaged in combat with guerrillas of the Karen ethnic minority near the country's eastern border with Thailand.

"They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes", said Thu Ya Zaw, a resident of the central town of Myingyan, where at least two protesters were reportedly killed.

The five-year-old boy was reportedly among 29 killed in Myanmar's second city Mandalay.

The deaths on Saturday, one of the bloodiest days since the coup, would take the number of civilians reported killed to almost 400. There have been calls for them to band together and lend support to the fight against the country's new ruling junta.

Among the victims were a 13-year-old girl who was shot in her house in the city of Meikhtila after armed forces opened fire on rallies in residential areas.

In reaction to Saturday's reported killings, the spokesperson for the secretary-general of the United Nations said in a statement that Antonio Guterres "condemns in the strongest terms the killing of dozens of civilians, including children and young people, by security forces in Myanmar" and urged the military to refrain from violence and repression.

A baby playing on the street in a northern Yangon township was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet when police unleashed gunfire at nearby protesters.

Armed Forces Day commemorates the start of local resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II, and usually accompanies a military parade attended by foreign officers and diplomats.

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"This 76th Myanmar Armed Forces Day will forever stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonor", the statement said.

A military spokesman did not respond to calls from Reuters seeking comment on the killings by security forces, the air strikes or the insurgent attack on its post.

In his speech Saturday, Min Aung Hlaing used the occasion to try to justify the overthrow of Suu Kyi's government, accusing it of failing to investigate irregularities in last November's general election, and repeating that his government would hold "a free and fair election" and hand over power afterward.

"You should learn from the tragedy of earlier ugly deaths that you can be in danger of getting shot in the head and back". "Violent acts that affect stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate". The warning did not specifically say that security forces had been given shoot-to-kill orders but the junta has previously tried to suggest that some fatal shootings have come from within the crowds.

U.S. Ambassador Thomas Vajda said on social media: "This bloodshed is horrifying", adding "Myanmar's people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule".

In a week that saw global pressure on the junta ramped up with new U.S. and European sanctions, Russia's deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin attended the parade in Naypyitaw, having met senior junta leaders a day earlier.

"Russia is a true friend", Min Aung Hlaing said.

Support from Russian Federation and China, which has also refrained from criticism, is important for the junta as those two countries are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and can block potential U.N. actions.

But he also issued another threat to the anti-coup movement that has gripped the country since he took charge, warning that acts of "terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquility and security" were unacceptable.

The deaths of 114 protesters on Saturday comes in addition to the 328 killed by the junta since the coup, according to figures released Friday by theactivist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The United States has designated two entities linked to the coup leaders, Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC). "If they continue to shoot at protesters and bully the people, I think all the ethnic groups would not just stand by and do nothing".

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