The defence chiefs of 12 countries have condemned the Myanmar military for its deadly crackdown on demonstrators, as people across the Southeast Asian country mourned those who lost their lives in the bloodiest day since the February 1 coup.
The United States, United Kingdom, Japan and South Korea signed onto Sunday’s joint statement.
“A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people it serves,” the defence chiefs said. “We urge the Myanmar armed forces to cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions.”
The other countries that signed the statement were Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
The rare joint condemnation came as security forces killed at least 114 people on Saturday, Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day, in a crackdown that a United Nations investigator called “mass murder”.
Several children were among those killed.
The General Strike Committee of Nationalities (GSCN), one of the main protest groups, paid tribute to those who died, saying in a Facebook post: “We salute our heroes who sacrificed lives during this revolution”. It added, “We Must Win This REVOLUTION.”
Saturday also brought some of the heaviest fighting since the coup between the army and the ethnic armed groups that control swaths of the country. Military jets killed at least three people in a raid on a village controlled by an armed group from the Karen minority, a civil society group said on Sunday, after the Karen National Union faction earlier said it had overrun an army post near the Thai border, killing 10 people.
The air raids sent villagers fleeing into the jungle.
There was no immediate comment from the Myanmar military.
‘Day of terror, dishonour’
The violence came as the military staged a major show of might for its annual Armed Forces Day.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the coup leader, said during a parade in Naypyidaw that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy. The general deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, alleging fraud in an election that returned her National League for Democracy to power last November.
The European Union’s delegation to Myanmar said that the 76th Myanmar Armed Forces Day “will stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonour”.
“The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, are indefensible acts,” it added.
US Ambassador Thomas Vajda in a statement said “security forces are murdering unarmed civilians”.
“These are not the actions of a professional military or police force,” he wrote. “Myanmar’s people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule.”
Separately, the US Embassy said shots were fired Saturday at its cultural centre in Yangon, though no one was wounded.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said it was time for the world to take action – if not through the UN Security Council then through an international emergency summit. He said the military government should be cut off from funding, such as oil and gas revenues, and from access to weapons.
“Words of condemnation or concern are frankly ringing hollow to the people of Myanmar while the military junta commits mass murder against them,” he said in a statement. “The people of Myanmar need the world’s support. Words are not enough. It is past time for robust, coordinated action.”
‘Impossible to express the pain’
The death toll in Myanmar has been steadily rising as authorities grow more forceful in suppressing opposition to the February 1 coup.
Up through Friday, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a monitoring group, said it has verified 328 deaths in the post-coup crackdown. More than 2,400 people are in detention, it said.
The Myanmar Now news portal said the 114 killed on Saturday included a 13-year-old girl in Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay and a 13-year-old boy in the central Sagaing region.
At least 40 were killed in Mandalay and at least 27 were killed in the commercial hub of Yangon, it said.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Saturday’s events showed that the military, known in Myanmar as the Tatmadaw, should be prosecuted in international courts of law.
“This is a day of suffering and mourning for the Burmese people, who have paid for the Tatmadaw’s arrogance and greed with their lives, time and time again,” he said.
New US and European sanctions this week increased external pressure on the military. But Myanmar’s generals have enjoyed some support from Russia and China, both veto-holding members of the UN Security Council that could block any potential UN action.
Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin attended Saturday’s military parade in Naypyidaw, having met senior military leaders a day earlier.
Diplomats said eight countries – Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand – sent representatives, but Russia was the only one to send a minister to the parade on Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the start of the resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945.
Dr Sasa, a spokesman for the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), an anti-coup group set up by deposed politicians, said the decision by the eight countries to attend the parade was “disgraceful” and “unacceptable”. He also urged the global community to designate Myanmar’s military as a “terrorist organisation”.
“It is impossible for us to express the pain that we feel when we saw those foreign diplomats joining hands with those celebrations of military generals. All those weapons they displayed today is to only kill the people of Myanmar,” Sasa told Al Jazeera. “How many people need to die before the international community takes action? … If there’s no action, only words, I’m afraid my country will have to go through the greatest civil war, the likes of which we have never seen before.”