Myanmar mourns, protests after crackdown’s deadliest day yet

YANGON, Myanmar — Mourners flocked to the funerals of those killed in the deadliest day of a crackdown on protests of last month’s coup in Myanmar, as demonstrators, uncowed by the violence, returned to the streets Sunday to press their demands for a return to democracy.

A day earlier, security forces killed at least 114 people, including several children under 16, according to local media — a shocking escalation that prompted the U.N. rapporteur to accuse the junta of committing “mass murder” and to criticize the international community for not doing enough to stop it. There were reports that the violence continued Sunday.

At a funeral in Bhamo in the northern state of Kachin, a large crowd gathered to chant democracy slogans and raise the three-finger salute that has come to symbolize resistance to the military takeover. Family and friends were paying their respects to Shwe Myint, a 36-year-old who was shot dead by security forces on Saturday.

The military had initially seized her body and refused to return it until her family signed a statement that her death was not caused by them, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, a broadcast and online news service.

Mourners also used another funeral as a show of resistance. In Yangon, the country’s largest city, they flashed the three-finger salute as they wheeled the coffin of a 13-year-old boy. Sai Wai Yan was shot dead by security forces Saturday as he played outside his home.

The Feb. 1 coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government reversed years of progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. It has again made Myanmar the focus of international scrutiny as security forces have repeatedly fired into crowds of protesters. More than 420 people have been killed since the takeover, according to multiple counts. The crackdown extends beyond the demonstrations: Humanitarian workers reported that the military had carried out airstrikes Sunday against guerilla fighters in the eastern part of the country.

Anti-coup protesters run around their makeshift barricade they burn to make defense line during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar
Anti-coup protesters run around their makeshift barricade they burn to make defense line during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar.

The junta has accused some of the demonstrators of perpetrating the violence because of their sporadic use of Molotov cocktails and has said its use of force has been justified to stop what it has called rioting. On Saturday, some protesters in Yangon were seen carrying bows and arrows.

Saturday’s death toll far exceeded the previous single-day high that ranged from 74 to 90 on March 14. The killings happened throughout the country as Myanmar’s military celebrated the annual Armed Forces Day holiday with a parade in the country’s capital, Naypyitaw.

“Today the junta of Myanmar has made Armed Forces Day a day of infamy with the massacre of men, women and very young children throughout country,” said Tom Andrews, the U.N.’s independent expert on human rights for Myanmar. “Words of condemnation or concern are frankly ringing hollow to the people of Myanmar while the military junta commits mass murder against them. … It is past time for robust, coordinated action.”