[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]
Unarmed civilians and children – including boy as young as five – reportedly killed on one of the bloodiest days since coup.
Myanmar’s security forces shot and killed at least 64 people – including a young boy – on Saturday, news reports and witnesses said, as the ruling junta’s leader claimed the military would protect the people and strive for democracy.
Protesters against the 1 February military coup came out on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns on Saturday, defying a warning that they could be shot “in the head and back” as the country’s generals celebrated Armed Forces Day.
The deaths on Saturday, one of the bloodiest days since the coup, would take the number of civilians reported killed to nearly 400. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in parts of Myanmar on Saturday.
A boy reported by local media to be as young as five was among at least 13 people killed in Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay. The Myanmar Now news portal said 64 people had been killed in total across the country.
Three people, including a man who plays in a local under-21 football team, were killed in a protest in the Insein district of Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon, a neighbour told Reuters.
“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.
Deaths were reported from the central Sagaing region, Lashio in the east, in the Bago region, near Yangon, and elsewhere. A one year-old baby was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet.
A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment on the killings by security forces or the insurgent attack on its post.
Gunshots hit the US cultural centre in Yangon on Saturday, but nobody was hurt and the incident was being investigated, US embassy spokesperson Aryani Manring said. The United States has led criticism of the killings of protesters.
After presiding over a military parade in the capital, Naypyidaw, to mark Armed Forces Day, Snr Gen 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.”
The warning did not specifically say that security forces had been given shoot-to-kill orders. The junta has previously tried to suggest that some fatal shootings have come from within the crowds.
But it showed the military’s determination to prevent any disruptions around Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the start of the resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945 that was orchestrated by Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, the founder of the military.
Aung San, considered the father of the nation, was assassinated in 1947.
Min Aung Hlaing said the army had to seize power because of “unlawful acts” by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, adding that some party leaders had been found guilty of corruption and legal action was being taken against them.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most popular civilian politician, remains in detention at an undisclosed location. Many other figures in her party are also being held in custody.
Protesters have taken to the streets almost daily since the coup that derailed Myanmar’s slow transition to democracy.
Until Friday evening, activist group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) counted at least 328 protesters who have been killed in the weeks of unrest. Its data shows that around a quarter of them died from shots to the head, raising suspicions they were targeted for killing.
Reuters could not independently verify the numbers killed.
A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.
defy /dɪˈfaɪ/ [C2] (v): chống lại, bất chấp
depose /dɪˈpoʊz/ (v): lật đổ
insurgent /ɪnˈsɝː.dʒənt/ (adj): biểu tình, chống đối
preside over (phrasal verb): điều hành
reiterate /riˈɪt̬.ɚ.eɪt/ (v): nhắc lại, lặp lại
safeguard /ˈseɪf.ɡɑːrd/ (v): bảo vệ
crackdown /ˈkræk.daʊn/ [C2] (n): đàn áp
tally /ˈtæl.i/ (n): thống kê, ghi nhận
orchestrate /ˈɔːr.kə.streɪt/ (v): điều hành
ominous /ˈɒm.ɪ.nəs/ (adj): đáng ngại
derail /ˌdiːˈreɪl/ (v): làm chệch hướng
demonstrate /ˈdem.ən.streɪt/ [C2] (v): biểu tình
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