On a day when Myanmar’s commander in chief vowed in a speech “to protect people from all dangers,” soldiers and police he controls gunned down dozens of men, women and children across the country, continuing a ruthless campaign to suppress widespread opposition to last month’s military coup.
Demonstrations began a week after the Feb. 1 takeover, which abruptly ended Myanmar’s decadelong shift toward democracy. They have continued every day since as protesters demand that elected government be restored. A civil disobedience movement has brought large parts of the economy to a standstill, with civil servants, factory workers, shopkeepers, bank staff and others refusing to go to work in an effort to push the military to give up power.
Soldiers have responded by shooting citizens in the streets. The U.N.’s Human Rights office said Saturday that it had received reports of scores of people killed and hundreds injured across 40 locations in the country. A representative for the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a nonprofit that monitors arrests and fatalities, said at least 91 people had been killed and that the group was working to confirm the full death toll.
Before Saturday, armed forces and police had slain 328 people, according to the group. Images emerge daily of bloodied bodies with gunshot wounds and inconsolable family members cradling the corpses of their loved ones.
Saturday began with a military parade in the capital Naypyitaw to mark the country’s Armed Forces Day, an annual holiday celebrating the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s armed forces are known. The ceremony was attended by Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin in a show of Moscow’s support for the generals, who face sanctions from the U.S. and other Western democracies. Myanmar’s military is counting on Russia and China to block firm action against it at the U.N. Security Council, of which the two powers are permanent members.