NAYPYITAW (AFP) - Myanmar's junta will "annihilate" coup opponents, army chief Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday (March 27) as the military staged a show of force on the anniversary of its bloodiest crackdown so far on democracy protests.
The south-east Asian country has been in chaos since a putsch in February 2021, with more than 1,700 people killed in crackdowns on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.
Anti-coup People's Defence Force fighters clash regularly with junta troops, while fighting has also flared in border areas with more established ethnic rebel groups.
Presiding over the annual parade that showcased tanks, truck-mounted missiles, artillery and troops on horseback, General Min Aung Hlaing told about 8,000 assembled security staff that the army would not let up.
The military will "no longer negotiate... and annihilate until the end" groups fighting to overturn its rule, he said ahead of the Armed Forces Day procession in army-built capital Naypyitaw.
Jets flew overhead trailing the yellow, red and green of the national flag, while state media showed women lining the streets leading to the parade ground to give flowers and place garlands on the marching soldiers.
Meanwhile, anti-coup protesters called on social media for a national "power strike" demonstration on Sunday evening.
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 officers and diplomats.
Last year, as new junta chief Min Aung Hlaing inspected the parade, troops brutalised those protesting the coup that had ousted Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's government.
The violence was the bloodiest day so far in the military's crackdown on democracy rallies and left 163 protesters dead, according to a local monitoring group, and sparked widespread international condemnation.
The junta has become increasingly isolated, with Cambodian strongman Hun Sen the only foreign leader to visit since the putsch.
The vice-defence minister of Russia - a major arms supplier and ally - had been due to attend this year's parade but was unable to because of his "country's affairs", junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said.
In February, a United Nations expert on Myanmar said Russia - along with major ally China - was continuing to supply the military with weapons, including fighter jets and armoured vehicles.
The United States and Britain on Friday announced new sanctions against Myanmar's army.
The new measures came days after Washington said it has concluded that the country's military committed genocide against the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
Since the putsch, more than 1,700 people have been killed in a military crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.