Myanmar’s junta says will strive for democracy after warning anti-coup protesters



The leader of Myanmar’s ruling junta said on Saturday that the military will protect the people and strive for democracy, as protesters called for a huge show of defiance against last month’s coup despite warnings they risked being shot.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing reiterated a promise to hold elections in a speech on Armed Forces Day, after a military parade in the capital Naypyitaw. He gave no date for elections.

“The army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy,” the general said in a live broadcast on state television, adding that authorities also sought to protect the people and restore peace across the country.

“Violent acts that affects stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate”.

Troops killed four more people in demonstrations on Friday, taking the number of deaths to 328 in the crackdown that has followed the coup against Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government on February 1.

A broadcast on the state television on Friday evening said: “You should learn from the tragedy of earlier ugly deaths that you can be in danger of getting shot to the head and back”.

The warning did not specifically say that security forces had been given shoot-to-kill orders, and the junta has previously tried to suggest that some fatal shootings have come from within the crowds of protesters.

But it indicated that the military was determined to prevent any disruptions around Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the start of the military’s resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945.

Min Aung Hlaing said the army had to seize power because of “unlawful acts” by Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, adding that some party leaders had been found guilty of corruption and legal action was being taken against them.

In a week that saw international pressure on the junta ramped up with new US and European sanctions, Russia’s deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin attended the parade. On Friday, he met senior junta leaders and offered support for the military.

“Russia in a true friend,” Min Aung Hlaing said. There were no signs of other diplomats at an event that is usually attended by scores of officials from other nations.

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