Troops fire at funeral as Myanmar mourns bloodiest day since coup – UPDATE

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Myanmar security forces opened fire on Sunday, witnesses said, at people gathered for the funeral of one of the 114 people killed the previous day, the bloodiest day of protests since the military coup on Feb. 1.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the firing on the funeral in the town of Bago, near the commercial capital Yangon, according to three people who spoke to Reuters.

“While we are singing the revolution song for him, security forces just arrived and shot at us,” said a woman called Aye, who was at the service for Thae Maung Maung, a 20-year-old student who was shot on Saturday. “People, including us, run away as they opened fire.”

The body of 18-year-old Hein Thant, who was shot in the head, lays on the ground during a protest against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, 27 March 2021. Anti-coup protests continue as Myanmar’s junta held a military parade in a major show of strength for the annual Armed Forces Day on 27 March in Naypyitaw. EPA-EFE

Two people were killed in firing on protests on Sunday in separate incidents elsewhere, witnesses and news reports said. One person was killed when troops opened fire overnight on a group of protesters near the capital Naypyitaw, Myanmar Now news reported.

So far on Sunday there were no reports of large-scale protests in Yangon or in the country’s second city, Mandalay, which bore the brunt of the casualties on Saturday, Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day. Funerals were held in many places.

At least six children between the ages of 10 and 16 were among those killed on Saturday, according to news reports and witnesses.

The bloodshed drew renewed Western condemnation. The U.N. Special Rapporteur for Myanmar said the army was carrying out “mass murder” and called on the world to isolate the junta and halt its access to weapons.

Foreign criticism and sanctions imposed by some Western nations have failed so far to sway the military leaders, as have almost daily protests around the country since the junta took power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We salute our heroes who sacrificed lives during this revolution and We Must Win This REVOLUTION,” one of the main protest groups, the General Strike Committee of Nationalities (GSCN), posted on Facebook.

Saturday also brought some of the heaviest fighting since the coup between the army and the ethnic armed groups that control swathes of the country.

Military jets had killed at least three people in a raid on a village controlled by an armed group from the Karen minority, a civil society group said on Sunday, after the Karen National Union faction earlier said it had overrun an army post near the Thai border, killing 10 people. The air strikes sent villagers fleeing into the jungle.

Fighting erupted on Sunday between another armed group, the Kachin Independence Army, and the military in the jade-mining area of Hpakant in the north. The Kachin forces attacked a police station and the military responded with an aerial assault, Kachinwaves media reported.

There were no reports of casualties.

A junta spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment on the killings or the fighting.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said during a parade to mark Armed Forces Day that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy.

‘RINGING HOLLOW’

Saturday’s dead included 40 people in Mandalay and at least 27 in Yangon, Myanmar Now said. The casualties took the overall number of civilians reported killed since the coup to more than 440.

Countries including the United States, Britain and the European Union strongly condemned the violence.

U.N. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said it was time for the world to take action – if not through the UN Security Council then through an international emergency summit. He said the junta should be cut off from funding, such as oil and gas revenues, and from access to weapons.

“Words of condemnation or concern are frankly ringing hollow to the people of Myanmar while the military junta commits mass murder against them,” he said in a statement.

U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet called the killings “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”.

The top military officer from the United States and nearly a dozen of his counterparts said in a statement that a professional military must follow international standards for conduct “and is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people it serves”.

The military took power saying that November elections won by Suu Kyi’s party were fraudulent, an assertion dismissed by the country’s election commission. Suu Kyi remains in detention at an undisclosed location and many other figures in her party are also in custody.

Meanwhile about 3,000 villagers from Myanmar’s southeastern Karen state fled to Thailand on Sunday following air attacks by the army on an area held by an ethnic armed group, an activist group and local media said.

Myanmar’s military launched air strikes on five areas in Mutraw district, near the border, including a displacement camp, the Karen Women’s Organization said. “At the moment, villagers are hiding in the jungle as more than 3,000 crossed to Thailand to take refuge,” a statement from the group said.

Thai PBS reported about 3,000 had reached Thailand. Thai authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At least two soldiers from the Karen National Union were killed, said David Eubank, founder of the Free Burma Rangers, a relief organisation. “We haven’t had air strikes there for over 20 years,” Eubank said. “Second, these were at night, so t

Reuters

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