Myanmar: 475 Dead; Armed Ethnic Groups Join Fight Against Military

While the junta's brutality has drawn global condemnation, it has gotten a show of support from Russia.

An estimate of 114 people were killed by the military junta on Saturday, which reportedly included children, while the annual Armed Forces Day was observed in the capital. According to a source who wished to remain anonymous, the military not only cracked down on street-protestors, but also shot people inside their homes.

Following the bloodiest weekend in Myanmar since the February 1 coup d'état, armed ethnic groups Karen National Union and Kachin Independence Army have now been pitted in an armed conflict against the Myanmar military, despite having previously signed ceasefire agreements.

As of now, the overall death toll from the junta's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protestors since the coup stands at 475, as reported by activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Also Read: No, The UN Has Not Declared War On Myanmar Following Military Coup

Children Not Spared

As horrific reports of indiscriminate violence by the military surface across global media, some of the most chilling accounts came from the reports of children falling victims to the junta's brutality.

Last week, the military reportedly shot and killed 7-year-old Khin Myo Chit inside her house, as she tried to go to her father. Another harrowing story is that of the shooting of a 1-year-old baby in the eye with a rubber bullet, while he was reportedly playing.

There were also reports of a 13-year-old girl being shot dead inside her house, and another 16-year-old boy being shot while riding a motorcycle on Saturday.

Witness accounts allege that the army is shooting people on the streets at random to instil fear among the people, in order to quell the increasingly volatile resistance.

Also Read: No, Chinese Troops Have Not Been Deployed To Myanmar To Help Junta

Armed Ethnic Groups Join The Fight

As the violence intensifies, activists, student leaders and pro-democracy protestors are starting to flee to neighbouring Thailand, or areas controlled by armed ethnic groups, especially by the Karen National Union (KNU) that represents the Karen ethnic groups.

The conflict between the Karen people and the Burmese administration go as far back as 1949. Despite there being a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the junta, recent developments have now brought the Karen people into the conflict.

Last Saturday, the Myanmar military jets launched air strikes in villages near the Thai border that are said to be controlled by the KNU.

The Kachin Independence Army - another armed group and the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation has also experienced an escalation in the conflict with the Myanmar military since the coup. The KIO represents the Kachin group - a coalition of six different tribal origination from North-East India, Myanmar and China's Yunnan region.

KIA has previously been under a ceasefire agreement with the military, but clashes have intensified rapidly since the coup.

The Shan State Army - the military wing of Restoration Council of Shan State, and one of the largest insurgent groups in the country, has warned retaliation against the military, if it continues to kill civilians.

Lieutenant General Yawd Serk, a political and military commander in the country's Shan State, told Sky News, "If the Burmese army is going to continue to use their weapons and kill peaceful protesters, the ethnic groups are not going to sit back and do nothing. There could be big fighting."

Serk also told Sky News that if required they would train civilians for the armed struggle.

World Condemns Military Actions, As Russia Lends A Friendly Hand

The recent escalation of violence has drawn condemnation from representatives of multiple nations.

Also Read: Photo Of A Dog Culling In Pakistan Shared Myanmar Junta Killing Dogs

Writing on social media, the United States Ambassador to Myanmar Thomas Vajda said, "On Myanmar's Armed Forces Day, security forces are murdering unarmed civilians, including children, the very people they swore to protect. This bloodshed is horrifying. Myanmar's people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule."

In a rare joint statement, the defence chiefs of 12 countries including the United States, Japan, Britain and Australia condemned the use of lethal force by the junta.

"A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting -- not harming -- the people it serves. 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 statement read.

While global condemnation followed the weekend's bloodshed, the Myanmar military also received a show of support from Russia, with the Russian deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin attending Saturday's parade. During the parade, Burmese army general Min Aung Hlaing said, "Russia is a true friend."

Ties between Russia - a country itself witnessing a rise in anti-establishment protests - and the Burmese military have grown in the recent years, with the former providing military training and scholarships to the latter, in addition to selling them arms. According to a 2020 study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, nearly 16% of all its weaponry is obtained from Russia.

While China has not shown any direct sign of support to the junta since the coup, it has also refrained from openly condemning the military actions.

India - one of the seven countries to attend Saturday's parade - has also drawn criticism for its continued silence on the matter, along with its stance of refusing aid to refugees crossing into North-East India.

Updated On: 2021-04-10T10:54:43+05:30
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