Myanmar’s military ruler has vowed to “annihilate” the anti-coup protesters during a speech on Armed Forces Day, as the opponents of last year’s coup pledged to fight on.
The military on Sunday celebrated with a parade of troops and weapons in the capital, Naypyidaw, for the second year since overthrowing the elected government of now-jailed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in his speech, rejected any talks with “terrorist” opposition.
A five-point peace plan by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) calls for talks on all sides, but so far has seen little progress.
“I would like to say Tatmadaw will no longer take into account negotiation with the terrorist group and their supporters for killing innocent people … and will annihilate them into an end,” Min Aung Hlaing said.
The Southeast Asian country has been in chaos since the putsch in 2021, with more than 1,700 people killed in crackdowns on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.
The military rulers accuse opposition fighters of killing civilians and security forces in its resistance campaign, while activists say the military has killed hundreds in crackdowns since the coup.
Anti-coup protesters came out on streets in Myanmar on Sunday morning carrying signs saying “uproot the fascist military”.
Across the country, “People’s Defence Force” fighters – often armed with homemade or rudimentary weapons – clash regularly with troops, with some analysts suggesting the military has struggled to respond effectively to their hit-and-run tactics.
Fighting has also flared with more established ethnic rebel groups along the Thai and Chinese borders.
In commercial hub Yangon, about a dozen anti-coup flashmob protesters set off flares and shouted slogans, according to footage posted on social media.
Others called on social media for residents to switch off their lights at home in a national “power strike” on Sunday evening.
The shadow government of the overthrown administration, the National Unity Government (NUG), said on Sunday that Myanmar people will rip out the military and its fascism root and stem.
“Together with the souls of our lost heroes, we will fight to the bitter end,” NUG spokesman Sasa said in a statement.
Armed Forces Day commemorates the start of local resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II, and usually features a military parade attended by foreign officers and diplomats.
Last year, as army chief Min Aung Hlaing inspected the parade, troops brutalised those protesting against the coup that had unseated Suu Kyi’s government.
It was the bloodiest day so far in the military’s crackdown on democracy rallies causing the death of about 160 protesters, according to a local monitoring group, as well as sparking widespread international condemnation.
On Sunday, Min Aung Hlaing accused unnamed “foreign aggressors” of working against the military and called for the armed forces to remain united against “internal and external mischiefs”.
The vice defence minister of Russia – a major arms supplier and ally – had been due to attend this year’s parade but he could not because of his “country’s affairs”, military spokesman Zaw Min Tun added.
In February, a United Nations expert on Myanmar said Russia – along with another major ally China – was continuing to supply the military with weapons, including fighter jets and armoured vehicles.
The United States and the United Kingdom on Friday announced new sanctions against Myanmar’s army.
The new measures came days after Washington said it has concluded that the country’s military committed genocide against the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.