The death toll in Myanmar has been steadily rising as authorities grow more forceful in suppressing opposition to the February 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Protesters in Myanmar have returned to the streets to press their demands for a return to democracy, just a day after security forces killed more than 100 people in the bloodiest day since last month's military coup.
Protests were held in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s two biggest cities, as well as in the cities of Bago and Monywa, and in the small town of Moe Kaung in Kachin State. Some of the demonstrations were again met with police force.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the generals ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering mass protests demanding a return to democracy.
The junta on Saturday staged a major show of might for its annual Armed Forces Day as the death toll since the February 1 coup climbed to at least 423, according to a local monitoring group.
Defence chiefs from a dozen countries have jointly condemned the bloodbath in Myanmar.
The defence ministers of 12 countries including the US, Britain, Japan and Australia condemned the Myanmar military's use of lethal force against civilians.
"A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting, not harming, the people it serves," the rare joint statement said.
"We urge the Myanmar Armed Forces to cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions."
I am deeply shocked by the killing of dozens of civilians, including children & young people, by security forces in Myanmar today.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) March 27, 2021
The continuing military crackdown is unacceptable and demands a firm, unified & resolute international response. https://t.co/qtnQaH5jvN
The recent reports of violence out of Myanmar (Burma) are deeply disturbing. I stand with General Milley, Admiral Davidson, and other military leaders around the world in condemning this violence. https://t.co/MpmgYbXZX0— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) March 28, 2021
Funerals were held Sunday for some of the victims, after the bloodiest day since the putsch.
In Mandalay, the family of Aye Ko, a father-of-four, commemorated his life at a service after he was killed overnight.
"We are told by the neighbours that Aye Ko was shot and thrown into the fire," a relative told AFP.
"He was the only one who fed the family, losing him is a great loss for the family."
Karen minorities targeted
A day earlier, violence erupted across the country with the military using live rounds in nine regions, including the largest city Yangon, local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said.
By sunset, AAPP said at least 90 people had been killed. Local media, however, put the death toll higher at 114.
"Junta forces shot machine guns into residential areas, resulting in many civilians, including six children between ten and sixteen years old, killed," AAPP said.
"The fact the illegitimate military regime is targeting children is a grave act of inhumanity."
Rebels in eastern Myanmar's Karen state said they had been targeted in air strikes late Saturday, hours after the ethnic armed group seized a military base.
Hsa Moo, an ethnic Karen and human right activist said three people were killed and at least eight were injured.
It was the first air assault in years in the state, and targeted the Fifth Brigade of the Karen National Union (KNU) – one of the country's largest armed groups – which says it represents the ethnic Karen people.
The junta did not immediately comment, and there was no official confirmation of any casualties.
DAILY UPDATE (27/03)— AAPP (Burma) (@aapp_burma) March 28, 2021
423+ killed by junta coup
2428 are detained
119 have been issued arrest warrants#WhatsHappeningInMaynmar
fatalities https://t.co/Fq56X1TF81 pic.twitter.com/ThkPPSverv
'Harmful to state tranquillity'
There was a grand parade of troops and military vehicles in the capital Naypyidaw on Saturday where junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing defended the coup and pledged to yield power after new elections.
But he also issued a threat to the anti-coup movement, warning that acts of "terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquillity and security" were unacceptable.
Armed Forces Day commemorates the start of local resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II, and usually features a military parade attended by foreign military officers and diplomats.
The junta announced that eight international delegations attended Saturday's event, including those of China and Russia – with a state media broadcast showing Russian deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin in the audience.
It is advisable to limit your movements today. If you must travel move cautiously and ensure you have the ability to communicate with loved ones while traveling. Rapidly seek shelter should a change in the security situation dictate it.— American Citizen Services - Burma (Myanmar) (@ACSRangoon) March 28, 2021
US advice on movement restriction
The US embassy in Yangon urged American citizens to limit their movements on Sunday.
"If you must travel move cautiously and ensure you have the ability to communicate with loved ones while travelling," American Citizen Services tweeted.
The warning came a day after the US cultural centre in Yangon had shots fired at it Saturday.
Overnight, at the Miss Grand International beauty pageant in Bangkok, a tearful Myanmar contender, Han Lay, pleaded for peace.
"I deeply feel sorry for all the people who have lost their lives on the streets," she said in an emotional address, before singing Michael Jackson's "Heal the World".
"Please help Myanmar, we need your urgent international help right now."
The Myanmar embassy in London on Sunday confirmed the ambassador met with Suu Kyi's youngest son Kim, 44, last week, who reiterated a request to speak to his mother by telephone.