Myanmar troops and weaponry have paraded through the capital Naypyidaw to mark 75 years of independence from Britain, just days after the country’s military rulers sent the democratically-elected leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to prison for a combined 33 years.
Tanks, missile launchers and armoured cars rolled through the dawn air to a parade ground in the capital on Wednesday to kick off a military procession marking the 75th anniversary of independence, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.
Civil servants and high school students followed the troops, accompanied by a military band. A 21-gun salute greeted the country’s military ruler, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, as he arrived at the parade ground.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent “sincere greetings” and anticipated the “further development” of relations, according to the state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar.
Russia is a crucial ally and arms supplier of Myanmar’s isolated military regime, which has said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was “justified”.
Myanmar declared independence from British colonial rule on January 4, 1948, after a long fight championed by General Aung San, the late father of Aung San Suu Kyi.
A prisoner of the military since a 2021 coup, Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, received her final guilty verdict and sentence on Friday following a string of what rights groups describe as politically-motivated charges levelled against her. She must now serve a total of 33 years in prison.
Independence Day is typically marked with festive street games, marches and gatherings in public parks and spaces. But since the military coup, celebrations of public holidays have been largely muted as people stay at home in protest against the military.
Swathes of Myanmar have been engulfed by fighting between government forces and anti-coup fighters since the military seized power almost two years ago.
AFP correspondents said there was an increased security presence on Wednesday in commercial hub Yangon, which has been hit by a string of bomb attacks in recent months.
The United States embassy also warned of a “potential increases in attacks, targeted shootings, or explosions”.
The military government appears to be preparing for new elections later this year that the US has said would be a “sham”.
The last democratic elections in November 2020 were won resoundingly by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.