While Myanmar's military celebrated Armed Forces Day on Saturday with a parade through the capital, the ruling junta's security forces killed more than 100 people elsewhere throughout the country in the deadliest crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protesters since last month's coup.
According toMyanmar Now, soldiers and police had killed at least 114 people, including children, nationwide as of 9:30 pm on Saturday in Myanmar. "The military celebrated Armed Forces Day by committing mass murder against the people it should be defending," said Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. "The Civil Disobedience Movement is responding with powerful weapons of peace."
"It's past time," Andrews added, "for the world to respond in kind with and for the people of Myanmar." Saturday's brutal massacre, which came just one day after a regional human rights group reported that the total death toll since the military regime seized power on February 1 had climbed to 328, was widely condemned by diplomats around the world. "This bloodshed is horrifying," said US Ambassador Thomas Vajda. "Myanmar's people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule."
The European Union's delegation to Myanmar tweeted: "This 76th Myanmar Armed Forces Day will stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonor. The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, are indefensible acts." British foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that "today's killing of unarmed civilians, including children, marks a new low. We will work with our international partners to end this senseless violence, hold those responsible to account, and secure a path back to democracy."
In a statement issued Thursday, Andrews had warned that "conditions in Myanmar are deteriorating, but they will likely get much worse without an immediate robust, international response in support of those under siege."
"It is imperative that the international community heed the recent call of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres for a 'firm, unified international response,'" Andrews said. "To date, however, the limited sanctions imposed by member states do not cut the junta's access to revenue that help sustain its illegal activities, and the slow pace of diplomacy is out of step with the scale of the crisis." Andrews noted that "the incremental approach to sanctions has left the most lucrative business assets of the junta unscathed. It needs to be replaced by robust action that includes a diplomatic offensive designed to meet the moment."
"Without a focused, diplomatic solution, including the hosting of an emergency summit that brings together Myanmar's neighbors and those countries with great influence in the region, I fear the situation of human rights in Myanmar will further deteriorate as the junta increases the rate of murders, enforced disappearances, and torture," he said.
Andrews' fears were realized Saturday as the military escalated its use of lethal violence against anti-coup demonstrators and other civilians. "They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes," resident Thu Ya Zaw toldReuters in the central town of Myingyan. "We will keep protesting regardless... We must fight until the junta falls."
The resolve of pro-democracy protesters is evident. According toAl Jazeera, citizens defied a "military warning that they could be shot 'in the head and back'" in order to take to "the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other towns." Kyaw Win, the director of the Burma Human Rights Network in the United Kingdom, toldBBC News that the military had shown it had "no limits, no principles." Win added, "It's a massacre, it's not a crackdown anymore."
In his statement released prior to Saturday's wholesale killing, Andrews emphasized that "it is critical that the people of Myanmar... the duly elected illegally deposed parliamentarians who make up the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, and opposition leaders and activists see that the international community is working towards a diplomatic solution in support of the peaceful Civil Disobedience Movement."
"This combined course of action—domestic peaceful resistance, sustained pressure, and international diplomatic momentum—will have a greater chance for success than taking up arms," Andrews continued, "and will save untold numbers of lives."
"Member states have an opportunity to demonstrate this alternative, but the window in which this can be achieved is closing rapidly," he said, adding: "I fear that the international community has only a short time remaining to act." That warning has become even more urgent since it was first shared.