YANGON, Burma (AP) – Burmese media claim that security forces killed 91 people on the deadliest day since last month’s military coup.
The Myanmar Now online news site reported after dark that the death toll had reached 91, higher than all estimates for the previous March 14 peak, which ranged from 74 to 90.
A tally published by an independent researcher in Yangon, who compiled the death toll in near real time, puts the total at 89 as darkness fell, spread over more than two dozen towns and villages.
As the Burmese military celebrated the annual Armed Forces Day with a parade on Saturday in the country’s capital, soldiers and police reportedly killed dozens elsewhere as they cracked down on anti-coup protests. Status last month.
A tally published by an independent researcher in Yangon who compiled the near real-time death toll estimated the total death toll on Saturday afternoon at 74, spread across more than two dozen towns and villages. It would amount to the deadliest day since the coup.
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The figures collected by the researcher, who asked not to be named for his safety, generally correspond to the tally published at the end of each day by the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, which documents deaths and arrests and is widely regarded as a definitive source. . The Associated Press is unable to independently confirm the death toll.
The killings quickly drew international condemnation, with numerous diplomatic missions in Burma issuing statements mentioning the killing of civilians on Saturday, including children.
“This 76th day of the Burmese armed forces will be remembered as a day of terror and dishonor,” the European Union delegation in Burma said on Twitter. “The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, is an indefensible act.”
The death toll in Burma has steadily increased as authorities step up with their crackdown on opposition to the February 1 coup that toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The coup reversed years of progress towards democracy after five decades of military rule.
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As of Friday, the Association of Political Prisoners had verified 328 people killed in the post-coup crackdown. The highest daily death toll was at least 74 people on March 14, but on that occasion all but a handful were in Yangon, the country’s largest city.
Junta leader Major General Min Aung Hlaing did not directly refer to the protest movement when he delivered his nationally televised address on Armed Forces Day to thousands of soldiers in Naypyitaw. He spoke only of “terrorism which can harm the peace of the state and social security” and called it unacceptable.
This year’s event was seen as a flashpoint of violence, with protesters threatening to double their public opposition to the coup with growing protests. Protesters refer to the holiday by its original name, Resistance Day, which marks the start of a revolt against Japanese occupation during World War II.
On Friday evening, state television MRTV aired an announcement urging young people – who have been at the forefront of the protests and among the victims – to learn from those killed in the protests about the danger of being hit. to the head or back.
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The warning was widely viewed as a threat as many of the deaths among the protesters were from a gunshot to the head, which suggests they were the targets of death. The ad suggested that some young people were participating in protests as if it were a game and urged their relatives and friends to dissuade them from participating.
In recent days, the junta has portrayed protesters as those who commit violence for their sporadic use of Molotov cocktails. In contrast, security forces used live ammunition for weeks against largely unarmed and peaceful crowds.
The military government does not publish a regular casualty tally, and when it did release numbers, the totals were a fraction of what independent parties such as the UN reported. He said his use of force was justified to end what he called the riots.
In his speech on Saturday, Min Aung Hlaing took the opportunity to try to justify the overthrow of Suu Kyi’s government, accusing him of failing to investigate irregularities in the general election last November, and reiterating that his government would organize “free and fair elections” and hand over power thereafter.
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The military claimed there were irregularities in the voting lists for the last election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.
The junta detained Suu Kyi the day she took power and continues to hold her on petty criminal charges while investigating corruption allegations against her that her supporters see as politically motivated.
Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Saturday’s events showed that the military, known in Burma as Tatmadaw, should be prosecuted in international courts.
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“It is a day of suffering and mourning for the Burmese people, who have paid for the arrogance and greed of the Tatmadaw with their lives, time and time again,” he said.
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