NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar’s junta will “annihilate” coup opponents, army chief Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday as the military staged a show of force on the anniversary of its bloodiest crackdown so far on democracy protests.

The Southeast Asian country has been in chaos since a putsch in February 2021, with more than 1,700 people killed in crackdowns on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

Across Myanmar “People’s Defence Force” fighters — often armed with homemade or rudimentary weapons — clash regularly with junta 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.

Presiding over the annual parade that showcased tanks, truck-mounted missiles, artillery and troops on horseback, Min Aung Hlaing told about 8,000 assembled security personnel that the army would not let up.

The military will “no longer negotiate... and annihilate until the end” groups fighting to overturn its rule, he said ahead of the Armed Forces Day procession in army-built capital Naypyidaw.

Jets flew overhead trailing the yellow, red and green of the national flag, while state media showed women lining the streets leading to the parade ground to give flowers and place garlands on the marching soldiers.

In commercial hub Yangon, around a dozen anti-junta flash-mob protesters set off flares and shouted slogans, according to footage posted on social media.

Others on social media called for residents to switch off their lights at home in a national “power strike” on Sunday evening.

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 new junta chief Min Aung Hlaing inspected the parade, troops brutalised those protesting the coup that had ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2022

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