WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden decried the bloodshed unleashed against anti-coup protesters in Myanmar as “absolutely outrageous,” after security forces killed more than 100 people including at least seven children.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, triggering mass protests demanding a return to democracy. At least 107 people were killed across Myanmar on Saturday as security forces opened fire on protesters.
“It’s terrible,” Biden told reporters in brief remarks he gave in his home state of Delaware. “It’s absolutely outrageous and based on the reporting I’ve gotten, an awful lot of people have been killed totally unnecessarily.”
The killings came after the junta staged a major show of might for its annual Armed Forces Day. The European Union described the deadly violence as “unacceptable”. “Far from celebrating, the Myanmar military has made yesterday a day of horror and of shame,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
The condemnation came after the defence chiefs of 12 countries including the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia denounced the Myanmar military. “A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting — not harming — the people it serves,” the rare joint statement said.
“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.”
According to a local monitoring group, the death toll from crackdowns since the coup has climbed to at least 423. Funerals were held Sunday for some of the victims, after the bloodiest day since the putsch. Despite the dangers, protesters hit the streets again on Sunday in parts of Yangon including Hlaing, and in the cities of Dawei, Bago, Myingyan and Monywa.
A day earlier there were brutal military crackdowns at more than 40 locations across the country. The Mandalay and Yangon regions saw the majority of deaths, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The UN put the death toll at 107 people including seven children but expected it to rise further.
“The shameful, cowardly, brutal actions of the military and police –- who have been filmed shooting at protesters as they flee, and who have not even spared young children –- must be halted immediately,” United Nations envoys Alice Wairimu Nderitu and Michelle Bachelet said in a joint statement.
Henrietta Fore, the executive director for the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF, said 10 children reportedly had been shot and killed. “In addition to the immediate impacts of the violence, the longer-term consequences of the crisis for the country’s children could be catastrophic,” Fore said in a statement.
Rebels in eastern Myanmar’s Karen state said they had been targeted in air strikes late on Saturday, hours after the ethnic armed group seized a military base.
It was the first air assault in 20 years in the state, and targeted the Fifth Brigade of the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the country’s largest armed groups, which represents the ethnic Karen people.
Further air strikes on Sunday sent 2,000 people from two villages in Karen state darting through the jungle across the border into Thailand seeking safety.
A grand parade of troops and military vehicles in the capital Naypyidaw on Saturday saw junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing defend the coup and pledge to yield power after new elections. He also issued a threat to the anti-coup movement, warning that acts of “terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquillity and security” were unacceptable.