At least 50 protesters killed in Myanmar on Armed Forces Day

Photo: EPA

Myanmar's security forces shot and killed at least 50 protesters on Saturday, news reports and witnesses said, a brutal crackdown on dissent that came as the leader of the ruling junta said the military will protect the people and strive for democracy. So far more than 300 have died amid the protests since the 1 February coup.

The number of people killed in the turmoil since the coup against Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government is now nearly 380, based on a separate Thursday's toll and a tally kept by the activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

A broadcast on state news channel MRTV on Friday evening had issued a veiling warning that civilians should learn from the deaths of others that "you can be in danger of getting shot in the head and back." Protesters against the coup, however, still came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns, defying the warning, while the country's generals celebrated Armed Forces Day with parades and speeches.

Among the victims was Chit Bo Nyein, a 21-year-old team captain from the Hantharwady United U-21 team, who was shot dead by the military's armed forces on Saturday morning in Yangon while he was helping in his family's tea shop in Insein township, neighbours told dpa.

"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.

Despite the growing death toll and threats, thousands of Myanmar residents are participating in regular protests, demanding that the government headed by Aung Sang Suu Kyi be returned to power. The army has had her under house arrest since 1 February. She is accused of a variety of crimes. Additionally, the army has alleged tampering in the November vote that saw her National League for Democracy (NLD) return to power, but has provided no proof.

The military's commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, on Saturday reiterated a promise to hold elections as well as allegations that the NLD had acted unlawfully as big parades were held in Naypyidaw.

"The army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy," he said, adding that it also sought to protect the people and to restore peace across the country. "Violent acts that affects stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate."

However, the ongoing protests show that a sizeable portion of the populace are not on board with the military's version of the story.

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