NAYPYIDA – Myanmar security forces killed at least 24 protesters on Saturday, one of the bloodiest days since the military seized power in a coup, as the junta staged a major show of might for its annual Armed Forces Day.
The nation has been in turmoil since the generals ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February, triggering a major uprising demanding a return to democracy.
The country’s capital Naypyidaw saw a grand parade of troops and military vehicles in the morning, with a speech by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing warning that acts of so-called “terrorism” were unacceptable.
By afternoon, as protesters continued to come out across Myanmar, AFP verified that at least 24 people were killed — though local media put the death toll at far higher.
The embassies of the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom all condemned the bloodshed.
Violence erupted all over the central Mandalay region as security forces opened fire on protesters, killing at least nine in four different cities — one of them a doctor in Wundwin and a 14-year-old girl in Meiktila, according to rescue workers on the ground.
“Four men were brought to us dead,” an emergency worker from Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, told AFP as she frantically tried to treat dozens of injured.
A protester in Myingyan, who witnessed a man killed when he was shot in the neck, said the death toll will likely grow as security forces have continued shooting across his city.
“Today is like a revolution day for us.”
In Sagaing region, at least five were killed in two cities — one of them a 13-year-old boy who was killed in the crossfire of a crackdown, according to a resident of Shwebo.
“He was just sitting inside his house,” said the resident, adding that the teenager was supposed to become a novice monk.
In the northeastern Shan state, security forces opened fire on university students — killing at least three — while in the tourist city of Bagan, a march through ancient pagodas turned into mayhem when one protesting tour guide was shot dead.