The killing by the Burmese military of more than 100 pro-democracy protesters on the deadliest day since the February coup has sparked outrage around the world and calls for a stronger global response.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly condemned the junta, saying Washington was “horrified” by Saturday’s deaths, and that the violence shows “that the junta will sacrifice the lives of the people to serve a few” .
“I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims. The courageous people of Burma reject the army’s reign of terror, ”he said.
The killings on Saturday – the annual Myanmar Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the beginning of resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945 – are believed to bring the number of civilians killed since the coup to more than 440.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews has said it is time for the world to act – if not through the UN Security Council, then through an international summit of ’emergency. He said the junta should be cut off from funding, like oil and gas revenues, and access to arms.
“Words of condemnation or concern ring frankly hollow for the people of Myanmar as the military junta commits mass killings against them,” he said in a statement.
“The people of Myanmar need the support of the world. Words are not enough. It is high time for solid and coordinated action.
The criticism came as senior military officials from the United States and its allies prepared to issue a statement condemning Myanmar’s security forces, saying the country’s military had lost credibility with its people.
“As chiefs of defense, we condemn the use of lethal force against unarmed persons by the Myanmar armed forces and associated security services,” the draft statement read.
It was signed by 12 defense chiefs from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States.
The EU delegation in Myanmar called Saturday a “day of terror and dishonor”. Dominic Raab, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, said the country had hit a “new low”. “We will work with our international partners to end this senseless violence, hold those responsible to account and ensure a return to democracy,” he said.
US Ambassador Thomas Vajda strongly condemned the violence on Saturday. “On Myanmar Armed Forces Day, the security forces murder unarmed civilians, including children, the very people they have sworn to protect,” he said. “This bloodshed is horrible. These are not the actions of a professional military or police force. “
The joint statement by military leaders, obtained by Reuters ahead of its scheduled release this weekend, is a rare statement from the world’s top military commanders, including in Asia and Europe.
Burmese security forces killed 114 people, including children, on Armed Forces Day – the bloodiest day of its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters since the coup, according to reports and witnesses. military last month.
Myanmar’s military has so far ignored criticism of its brutal crackdown on dissent.
Myanmar’s military has said it seized power because the November elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party were fraudulent, a claim rejected by the country’s election commission and international observers. Aung San Suu Kyi is still being held at an unknown location and many other prominent figures from her National League for Democracy party are also in detention.
Although the draft foreign military chiefs declaration does not explicitly condemn the February 1 coup, which toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, it does state that a professional army must follow international standards of conduct. “And is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people.” it serves “.
He said the country’s military must “stop the violence and work to restore respect and credibility to the people of Myanmar whom they have lost because of their actions.”
The London-based Burma Human Rights Network responded to Saturday’s violence by calling on the international community to tighten economic sanctions against Myanmar’s trade interests and impose a global arms embargo and no-fly zone in areas of ethnic conflict in the country.
“Every day, the horror of the Burmese military worsens as it becomes more and more desperate to cling to the power it has stolen from the people,” said the network’s executive director, Kyaw Win. “The international community must act immediately to end this nightmare for the Burmese people.”
New US and European sanctions this week have increased external pressure on the junta, but Myanmar’s generals have benefited from support from Russia and China, both vetoed members of the UN Security Council who could block any potential UN action.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin attended a parade in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw on Saturday after meeting with senior junta leaders a day earlier.
Diplomats said eight countries – Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand – sent representatives to the Armed Forces Day parade, but Russia has was the only one to send a minister.
Amnesty International has called for a stronger international response, including a UN arms embargo and sanctions against key generals, though Russia and China’s veto power in the Security Council makes it unlikely that such measures can be adopted.
“This is just the latest example of the determination of the military authorities to fight their way out of national resistance to the coup,” said Ming Yu Hah, deputy regional director of campaigns for Amnesty International.
“These heinous killings again show the generals’ shameless contempt for the insufficient pressure exerted so far by the international community. The cost of international inaction is counted in the bodies. “
Additional reports from Reuters and Emma Graham-Harrison