Myanmar protests
Protesters hold up placards demanding the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw. Image Credit: AFP

Myanmar: Myanmar’s security forces shot and killed at least 50 protesters on Saturday, news reports and witnesses said, as the leader of the ruling junta said the military will protect the people and strive for democracy.

Protesters against the Feb. 1 military coup came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns, defying a warning that they could be shot “in the head and back” as the country’s generals celebrated Armed Forces Day.

“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.

“The military generals are celebrating Armed Forces Day after they just killed more than 300 innocent civilians,” he said, giving an estimate of the toll since protests first erupted weeks ago.

At least four people were killed when security forces opened fire at a crowd protesting outside a police station in Yangon’s Dala suburb in the early hours of Saturday, Myanmar Now reported. At least 10 people were wounded, the news portal said.

Three people, including a young man who plays in a local under-21 football team, were shot and killed in a protest in the Insein district of the city, a neighbour told Reuters. Four people were killed in Lashio town in the east, and four in separate incidents in the Bago region, near Yangon, according to media outlets. One person was killed in Hopin town in the northeast.

Military parade

After presiding over a military parade in the capital Naypyitaw to mark Armed Forces Day, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing reiterated a promise to hold elections, without giving any time-frame.

“The army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy,” the general said in a live broadcast on state television, adding that authorities also sought to protect the people and restore peace across the country.

“Violent acts that affect stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate.” The latest deaths will add to a toll of 328 people killed in the crackdown that has followed the coup against Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, according to a tally kept by an activist group.

In an ominous warning on Friday evening, state television said: “You should learn from the tragedy of earlier ugly deaths that you can be in danger of getting shot to the head and back”.