YANGON, Myanmar

Myanmar has seen the most violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters on Saturday when the ruling military regime put on a show of its strength on its annual Armed Forces Day.

The junta, in a televised message on Friday night, warned the protesters of the risk of being shot in the head and back if they continue the anti-coup demonstrations.

As the protesters, however, defied the junta threat and took to the streets in towns and cities across the country on Saturday, they met the violent crackdown by the security forces.

According to media reports, volunteer groups and witnesses to the killings, more than 140 people have been shot dead by the security forces throughout the country on Saturday.

Myanmar NOW, a leading news outlet in the country, reported that it has verified the deaths of 141 civilians in 44 towns and cities in eight out of 15 regions on Saturday.

Yangon and Mandalay, the two largest cities and most important commercial hubs of the country, were the worst hit on Saturday with 23 and 29 deaths, respectively, according to the tally by Myanmar 

Young deaths

Those killed in Yangon include a 21-year-old policeman, who broke his rank and joined the civil disobedience movement. He was shot in the head by security forces in the Insein township, said a volunteer medic.

“He was shot in head, and already dead when his colleagues brought him to us,” a member of a local rescue team told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.

Another teenage victim was a 14-year-old Hindu boy in Yangon’s Minggalar Taung Nyunt township, reported local media outlet Khit Thit Media.

The youngest victim of Saturday’s violence crackdown was a 7-year-old boy who was shot dead while he was playing on the street near his house in Mandalay’s Shwe Bo town.

In footage shared on social media, the victim’s father was seen screaming in frenzy — “My son has died, this is my son who has died” — while holding the lifeless body.

The death tolls are expected to rise as the crackdown is ongoing.

Condemnation from diplomats

The violence drew the strongest condemnations by foreign diplomats who refused to attend the ceremony of Armed Forces Day in the administrative capital Nay Pyi Taw.

European Union in Myanmar described the violent crackdown on Armed Forces Day as a “day of terror and dishonor”.

“The killings of unarmed civilians including children are indefensible,” EU said in a statement on Saturday.

The US Embassy in Yangon said it has been investigating the shots fired by an unidentified group at the American Center.

U.S ambassador to Myanmar Thomas Vajda said the security forces are murdering unarmed civilians, including children.

He called on the junta to an immediate end the violence and restore the civilian government.

“Myanmar people have spoken clearly: they do not want to live under military rule,” he said in a press release on Saturday.

Anti-coup protests started across the Southeast Asian nation just after Feb. 1 when the democratically elected leader, Aung Suu Kyi, was ousted and detained by the military.

The UN and rights groups have expressed concern over the use of disproportionate force by the military junta on unarmed protesters, saying this could harm the fragile democracy.

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