March 27 (UPI) — Myanmar’s military fatally shot dozens of protesters Saturday and a rubber bullet injured a baby amid anti-coup demonstrations, observers said.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said dozens of protesters were shot dead in the bloodiest day since the February coup with the latest deaths bringing the total number to about 400, according to the BBC.
The regime’s armed forces killed 91 civilians in 40 towns across the country Saturday, Myanmar Now reported.
A 1-year-old baby was injured after being shot in the eye with a rubber bullet in Yangon after playing in an area where troops were located, a Myanmar Now report added.
State TV warned protesters Friday that they risked being shot “in the head and back,” but demonstrators still came out in Yangon, Mandalay and other towns, CNN reported.
Protesters were killed in the townships of Magway, Mogok, Kyaukpadaung, Mayangone, witnesses and sources told the BBC.
Deaths were also reported in Mandalay, where protesters carried the flag of the National League for Democracy, the party of the detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and gave their anti-authoritarian three-finger salute, according to the BBC.
The violence came as the military, also known as the Tatmadaw, celebrated Armed Forces Day, the annual holiday commemorating the start of its resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945, with a parade in Naypiyitaw, the capital.
Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said he would pave the way for democracy during his speech, but rejected the November election results and offered no timetable to hold new elections.
Hlaing also noted that Gen. Aung San, a national hero, founded the Tatmadaw, but did not mention that the general was Aung San Suu Kyi’s father.
The Armed Forced Day ceremony was attended by fewer foreign diplomats than usual this year after the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Europe imposed sanctions over the coup.
“On Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day, security forces are murdering unarmed civilians, including children, the very people they swore to protect,” the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said in a statement Saturday. “This bloodshed is horrifying. These are not the actions of a professional military or police force. Myanmar’s people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule. We call for an immediate end to the violence and the restoration of the democratically elected government.”
Eight countries sent representatives to the Armed Forces ceremony this year — Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand — but Russia was the only country to send a minister.
Hlaing praised the Russian deputy defense minister, Alexander Fomin, who was at the ceremony.
“Russia is a true friend,” Hlaing said.
The protests started after the Myanmar military took over the government on Feb. 1 and detained its civilian leader, and other high-ranking democratically elected officials in a coup.
The Tatmadaw made unsubstantiated claims of fraud after November’s parliamentary elections, during which Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide 399 of the 462 seats in Parliament. Protesters demand that she be released along with other members of the National League for Democracy Party.