Troops fire at the funeral as Myanmar mourns the deadliest day since the coup

Myanmar security forces opened fire at a funeral on Sunday, witnesses said as people across the country gathered to mourn 114 people killed the previous day in the worst protest against last month’s military coup.

Mourners fled the shooting at a service for 20-year-old student Thae Maung Maung in Bago near the commercial capital of Yangon and there were no immediate reports of deaths, three people told Reuters.

“While we were singing the song of revolution for him, the security forces just came and shot at us,” said a woman named Aye who was at the service. “People, including us, are fleeing when they open fire.”

A further 12 people were registered dead in incidents elsewhere in Myanmar by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners on Sunday, taking their total number of civilians killed since the February 1 coup to 459.

Thousands of villagers in a border area fled to Thailand after military airstrikes on one of several ethnic militias that have intensified attacks since the coup, witnesses and local media said.

There were no reports of large-scale protests in Yangon or Mandalay, which bore the brunt of the casualties on Saturday, Myanmar’s armed forces. But people in Mandalay surrounded a police station late at night, accusing security forces of arson after five houses burned down, residents said.

Reuters could not reach the police there for comment.

At least six children between the ages of 10 and 16 were among those killed on Saturday, according to news reports and witnesses. Protesters call the victims “Fallen Stars”.

Isolation call

The bloodshed drew renewed Western condemnation. The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar said the army was carrying out “massacres” and called on the world to isolate the junta and stop its access to weapons.

Foreign criticism and sanctions imposed by some Western countries have so far failed to lead the military leaders, as have almost daily protests around the country since the junta took power and detained the elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We salute our heroes who sacrificed lives during this revolution and we must win this revolution,” one of the largest protest groups, the General Strike Committee of Nationalities (GSCN), posted on Facebook.

Heavy fighting also broke out between the army and some of the two dozen ethnic armed groups that control parts of the country.

About 3,000 people fled to neighboring Thailand after military jets bombed areas controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU) militia near the border, an activist group and local media said.

In an air strike by the military on Saturday, at least three civilians were killed in a village controlled by KNU, said a group from civil society. The militia said earlier that it had exceeded an army post near the border and killed 10 people.

Fighting also broke out on Sunday between another armed group, Kachin’s independence army, and the military in the Jpakant Jade mining area in the north. Kachin forces attacked a police station and the military responded with an air strike, Kachinwave’s media reported.

There were no reports of deaths.

A junta spokesman did not respond to calls to comment on the killings or the fighting.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said during a parade to mark Armed Forces Day that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy.

‘Ringing hollow’

Countries including the United States, Britain, Germany and the European Union again condemned the violence.

“It’s awful, it’s outrageous,” US President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware. “Based on the reporting, I have received very many people have been killed completely unnecessarily.”

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, called on Myanmar’s generals to step down from what he called a “meaningless path” to violence against their own people.

“We will continue to use EU mechanisms, including sanctions, to target the perpetrators of this violence, and those responsible for closing the clock on Myanmar’s path to democracy and peace,” Borrell said in a statement.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter: “We will not tolerate the military’s brutal actions against the people of Myanmar.”

UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said the junta should be suspended from funding, such as oil and gas revenues, and from access to weapons.

“Condemning or disturbing words are, frankly, ringing hollow for the people of Myanmar while the military junta commits mass murder against them,” he said in a statement.

The top US military officer and nearly a dozen of his counterparts said that a professional military must adhere to international standards of conduct “and is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people it serves”.

Myanmar’s military seized power, saying Suu Kyi’s election in November was fraudulent, a statement made by the country’s election commission. Suu Kyi is being held in an undiscovered place and many other people in her party are also in custody.