Myanmar bloodshed 'absolutely outrageous', Biden says after deadliest day

An injured protester being carried on a stretcher to a hospital in Taunggyi on March 28, 2021.
An injured protester being carried on a stretcher to a hospital in Taunggyi on March 28, 2021.PHOTO: AFP/ANONYMOUS SOURCE

YANGON (AFP) - United States President Joe Biden has led global condemnation of an "absolutely outrageous" crackdown by Myanmar's junta that left more than 100 people - including several children - dead in the bloodiest day since the coup two months ago.

Soldiers and police have killed hundreds in brutal suppression against weeks of mass protests demanding a restoration of democracy and the release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 107 more people were killed last Saturday (March 27), the United Nations said, as the regime staged a major show of might for Armed Forces Day - an annual parade showcasing Myanmar's military prowess.

"It's absolutely outrageous and based on the reporting I've gotten, an awful lot of people have been killed totally unnecessarily," Mr Biden told reporters on Sunday.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the junta's celebration of its armed forces had been blighted by "a day of horror and of shame".

The latest chorus of international condemnation came after the defence chiefs of the US, Britain, Japan and nine other countries denounced the Myanmar military.

"A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting - not harming - the people it serves," the rare joint statement said.

The death toll from crackdowns since the Feb 1 coup has climbed to at least 459, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.

The AAPP said a further 13 people were killed on Sunday as funerals were held for some of the victims, after the deadliest day of violence in the eight weeks since the coup.

In Mandalay, the country's cultural capital, the family of Mr Aye Ko mourned at a funeral service after he was killed overnight.

"I am very saddened to lose my husband - together with my children, I'm heartbroken," his wife Ma Khaing told AFP as she grieved with her four children.

On Monday, the British foreign ministry advised its nationals in Myanmar to leave as soon as possible, following "a significant increase in the level of recent violence".


Onlookers making the three-finger salute as a convoy carrying the coffin of a protester passes in Kawthaung, on March 28, 2021. PHOTO: AFP/DAWEI WATCH

Shameful, cowardly, brutal

Despite the dangers, protesters hit the streets again on Sunday in parts of commercial hub Yangon and several other cities around Myanmar.

A 16-year-old boy lost his hand in one Yangon neighbourhood while trying to lob back a grenade that security forces had thrown at protesters, a rescue worker said.

The UN put last Saturday's death toll at 107 people - including seven children - but expected it to rise further.

"The shameful, cowardly, brutal actions of the military and police - who have been filmed shooting at protesters as they flee, and who have not even spared young children - must be halted immediately," UN envoys Alice Wairimu Nderitu and Michelle Bachelet said in a joint statement.

Military-run broadcaster Myawaddy TV gave last Saturday's death toll as 45 and said the crackdown was necessary because protesters had used guns and bombs against security forces.

Harmful to state tranquillity

An insurgent group in eastern Myanmar's Karen state said they had been targeted in air strikes late last Saturday, hours after the ethnic armed group seized a military base.

Mr Hsa Moo, an ethnic Karen and human rights activist, said three people were killed and at least eight wounded.

It was the first air assault in 20 years in the state, and targeted the Karen National Union (KNU) - one of the country's largest non-state armed groups.


Villagers hiding in the jungle, north of Hpa-pun in eastern Myanmar's Karen state, after the area was hit by air strikes late on March 27, 2021. PHOTO: AFP/FREE BURMA RANGERS

Further air strikes on Sunday sent 3,000 people fleeing through the jungle to seek safety across the border in Thailand, the Karen Women's Organisation civil society group said.

Last Saturday's grand parade of troops and military vehicles in the capital Naypyitaw for Armed Forces Day saw junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing defend the coup and pledge 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.

Later that evening, he entertained dignitaries including Russian deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin at a lavish outdoor dinner.