YANGON, Mar 28, 2021, CNN. Human rights officials are calling on the international community to do more to stop the bloodshed in Myanmar after more than 100 civilians were reportedly killed by the Myanmar military junta that overthrew the country’s elected government, CNN reported.
UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews said it is time for “robust, coordinated action,” as “words are not enough” to protect people’s lives.
“Words of condemnation or concern are frankly ringing hollow to the people of Myanmar while the military junta commits mass murder against them,” he said. “The people of Myanmar need the world’s support.”
At least 114 people were killed Saturday during protests in 44 towns and cities across the country, according to a tally by the independent Myanmar Now news outlet — 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.
CNN has been unable to independently confirm the number of people killed.
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.
According to the latest tally by the nonprofit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 423 people have been killed in Myanmar since the military coup on February 1.
A boy reported by local media to be as young as 5 was among at least 29 people killed in Mandalay. At least 24 people were killed in Yangon, Myanmar Now said, according to Reuters.
“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.
Sasa called his country’s military leaders “murderers” and begged the international community to take “real action” against the military junta.
“They [military] should not have access to the international arms market, to financial institutions nor development assistance. Please, do all in your power to block all funding, business and access to financial markets in your jurisdiction,” he said.
“How many more of us need to die before you turn from your incremental response to real action?”
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, Reuters reported.
A military spokesman did not respond to calls from the news agency seeking comment on the killings by security forces or the insurgent attack on its post.
“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, according to Reuters. “We will keep protesting regardless … We must fight until the junta falls.”
‘Day of terror and dishonor’
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.”
News reports cited by Reuters said there were deaths in the central Sagaing region, Lashio in the east, in the Bago region, near Yangon, and elsewhere. A 1-year-old baby was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet.
In Naypyitaw, Min Aung Hlaing reiterated a promise to hold elections, without giving any time frame, Reuters reported.
“The army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy,” he said in a live broadcast on state television. “Violent acts that affect stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate.”
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.
The defense chiefs from Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the US issued a joint statement condemning “the use of lethal force against unarmed people.”
“A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting — not harming — the people it serves. We urge the Myanmar Armed Forces to cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions,” the statement read.
Russia ‘a true friend’
In its warning on Friday evening, state television said protesters were “in danger of getting shot to the head and back.” It did not specifically say security forces had been given shoot-to-kill orders, and the junta has previously suggested some fatal shootings have come from within the crowds.
International pressure on the junta increased this week with new US and European sanctions. But Russia’s deputy defense minister Alexander Fomin attended the parade in Naypyitaw, having met senior junta leaders a day earlier, Reuters reported.
“Russia is a true friend,” Min Aung Hlaing said.
Diplomats told Reuters that eight countries — Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand — sent representatives, but Russia was the only one to send a minister.
Support from Russia 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 UN actions.
Armed Forces Day commemorates the start of the resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945 that was orchestrated by Suu Kyi’s father, the founder of the military.
Gunshots hit the US cultural center in Yangon on Saturday, Reuters reported, but nobody was hurt and the incident was being investigated, US Embassy spokesperson Aryani Manring said.
Protesters have taken to the streets almost daily since the coup that derailed Myanmar’s slow transition to democracy.
General Yawd Serk, chair of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army – South, one of the ethnic armies in the country, told Reuters in neighboring Thailand: “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.”
Author and historian Thant Myint-U wrote on Twitter: “A failed state in Myanmar has the potential to draw in all the big powers — including the US, China, India, Russia, and Japan — in a way that could lead to a serious international crisis (as well as an even greater catastrophe in Myanmar itself).”
CNN’s Eleanor Pickston and Richard Roth contributed to this report.