Leaders of Myanmar’s military junta dined and celebrated the country’s Armed Forces Day, while the killing of more than 100 anti-coup protesters has drawn global outrage, with defence ministers of 12 nations condemning the military.
Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and his generals threw a lavish party attended by foreign dignitaries and funerals were held for the fallen the following Sunday, with some reports the military had tried to intervene in the mourning.
The US accused the security forces of a “reign of terror” on Saturday, the deadliest day since last month’s coup as more than 400 people have now been killed in the suppression of protests in Myanmar.
The military seized control of the South East Asian country in a February 01 coup after an election which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.
The luxury military party was held on Saturday to mark the annual Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the start of Myanmar’s military resistance against Japanese occupation in 1945.
Images from state TV shared on social media showed military officials, including Min Aung Hlaing, wearing white uniforms and bow ties, walking along a red carpet smiling, and seated at large tables for dinner.
Representatives of Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand attended.
Earlier on Saturday, the military held a parade and heard a speech from Min Aung Hlaing, who said he wanted to “safeguard democracy” but also warned against “violent acts”.
An international backlash soon followed as the defence chiefs of a dozen nations, including the UK, on Sunday issued a rare joint statement condemning the military’s violent actions.
The US, Japan and Australia were also among the signatories of a statement that said: “A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people it serves.”
The UK government has also urged all British nationals in Myanmar to “leave the country as soon as possible”.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the advice “follows the significant increase in violence on March 27”.
“We were previously advising British nationals to leave unless they had an urgent need to stay,” it added.
Security forces opened fire in more than 40 locations on Saturday. The commercial centre, Yangon, saw dozens of deaths, but killings were recorded from Kachin in the north to Taninthartharyi in the far south.
The US said it was “horrified” by the killings. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the military of “sacrificing the lives of the people to serve the few.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply shocked” by the violence, and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called it a “new low”.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews called for an international emergency summit.
China and Russia have not joined the criticism, which means taking action through the UN Security Council – where they have vetoes – could be difficult. (Source: BBC)