Global lens

How the world reported Myanmar’s ‘day of shame’ after more than 100 protestors killed

Children among the dead in ‘bloodiest’ crackdown since military coup

“They see protesters as criminals because if someone disobeys or protests the military, they are criminal. Most soldiers have never tasted democracy for their whole lives. They are still living in the dark.” 

Leaders across the world have condemned the violence that has erupted in Myanmar following a military coup at the start of February, but this damning description of the troops behind the bloodshed comes from within. 

Until earlier this month, Captain Tun Myat Aung led the 77th Light Infantry Division, a division in the military - known as Tatmadaw - that is “notorious for its massacres of civilians”, The New York Times (NYT) reports.

But then he “logged on to Facebook to discover that several civilians had been killed” in Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital, as the crackdown on anti-coup protests escalated, the paper continues. The killers were “men in uniform, just like him” - so that night he “slipped off base and deserted”.

“I love the military so much,” Tun Myay Aung told the paper. “But the message I want to give my fellow soldiers is, if you are choosing between the country and the Tatmadaw, please choose the country.”

That plea is being echoed across the globe after Myanmar’s junta “left more than 100 people - including several children - dead, in the bloodiest day since the coup two months ago”, The Guardian reports. 

According to the UN, a total of at least 107 people were killed on Saturday as troops ramped up the protests crackdown while military leaders celebrated Armed Forces Day – an annual event marking the start of the resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945.

The violence on Myanmar’s streets this weekend “represented a new low in the country’s recent lurch back to despotism”, says The Telegraph. The Tatmadaw even “intervened in funerals to arrest those who had taken part in the demonstrations”, the newspaper adds.

In Yangon, “plumes of smoke” rose above the city, where “residents heard non-stop shooting through the night”, Frontier Myanmar reports. 

At least five protestors were killed when “police opened fire” on a group “gathered in front of a police station in the city’s south to call for the release of their friends'”, the Yangon-based magazine continues. Meanwhile, a “baby playing on the street in a northern Yangon township was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet” when security forces opened fire.

Medics attend to a protester who was shot in Yangon

Medics attend to a protester who was shot in Yangon

Stringer/Getty Images

The killing represents the “worst orgy of violence to date” in the conflict in Myanmar, which appears to be “entering a new phase”, says Der Spiegel, in an article headlined “the end of humanity”.

In the early weeks of the coup, the military “still allowed a comparatively large amount of protest”, the German magazine reports. But over the weekend, “shooters executed individual protesters practically every day, often with targeted head shots”.

The violence is not confined to Yangon, with reports of police killing a man in the northern city of Mandalay on Saturday “by throwing him on to a stack of burning tyres”, The Times reports. And in the nearby city of Meiktila, “a 13-year-old girl was shot dead when security forces opened fire to disperse protesters”.

The generals overseeing the growing tide of violence are “turning their country once more into a pariah state”, The Telegraph warns.

Joe Biden is leading global condemnation of what the US president has described as the “absolutely outrageous” crackdown.

EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said the junta’s celebration of the armed forces had been blighted by “a day of horror and of shame”, while UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted that the “killing of unarmed civilians, including children, marks a new low”.

The defence chiefs of the US, UK, Japan and nine other countries have also spoken out. In what The Guardian describes as a “rare joint statement”, the group said: “A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting - not harming - the people it serves.”

Saturday’s bloodshed pushed the total tally of people confirmed to have been killed by the Myanmar military since the coup to 459, according to the local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The “randomness” of the latest killings was “particularly shocking”, writes BBC Burmese reporter Moe Myint.

“Armed with battlefield weapons, the security forces appeared willing to shoot anyone they saw on the streets,” Myint reports. “The brutality they showed they were capable of is on another level from what we have seen since the coup.”

And “neither side - the military nor the pro-democracy movement - is willing to back down”.

For former Tatmadaw captain Tun Myat Aung, the sight of the military loading live rounds into their weapons was the moment that he “lost hope for Myanmar”.

“Most of the soldiers have been disconnected from the world, and for them the Tatmadaw is the only world,” he told the NYT. “I realised that most of the soldiers see the people as the enemy.”

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