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Myanmar’s military leader vows to crush all dissent

Myanmar’s ruling military junta marks Armed Forces Day vowing to take action against what it calls “terrorist” resistance groups and to increasingly impose martial law and control in the country already crushed by dictatorship, violence and economic paralysis.

An impressive arsenal of weapons was paraded in Myanmar’s capital Naypydaw on Monday, alongside hundreds of marching troops to mark the country’s Armed Forces Day, the third since the 1 February 2021 coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since then, over 17,000 people have been arrested and at least 13,689 remain in jail, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The regime has killed almost 3,000 - and that is only counting pro-democracy demonstrators shot dead in military crackdowns. Thousands more have been killed in the army’s offensives against the country’s ethnic nationalities.

The UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the country claims that over 13,000 children were killed last year.

Attacks on minorities

The junta’s unveiled distrust of religious minorities and non-Burmese ethnic groups has resulted in the persecution of the predominantly Muslim Rohingyas who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh and Thailand, and in repeated assaults on Christians.

At least 1.3 million people have been displaced. Tens of thousands of homes have been razed to the ground. Dozens of churches have also been destroyed.

Since the coup, over 140 people have been sentenced to death, including two pro-democracy parliamentarians who were executed last year. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, has been handed a 33-year prison sentence, and many voices that uphold religious freedom and human rights – including Christian leaders – have been sentenced to prison after secretive trials held behind closed doors.

The voice of the Catholic Church

In the past two years, Pope Francis, Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo and his fellow bishops have reiterated calls for peace and dialogue. On the eve of the coup anniversary this year the metropolitan archbishops of Myanmar - Mandalay’s Archbishop Marco Tin Wan, Taunggyi’s Archbishop Basilio Athai - together with Cardinal Bo, issued a plea for peace condemning the destruction of lives and the fact that “places of worship and monasteries, where communities sought peace and reconciliation are themselves increasingly under attack.”

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