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Editorial: Myanmar military must halt slaughter of citizens

The Myanmar military, which should be protecting its people, has turned to a path of bloodshed targeting unarmed civilians. Its actions are absolutely unforgivable.

    On Myanmar's Armed Forces Day, over 100 citizens were killed. The military, which trampled on the public's will through a coup d'etat, is refusing to lend an ear to international society's calls for an end to the violence.

    One man in his 40s who sustained serious injuries was thrown alive into a fire, and a 13-year-old boy who was watching a demonstration in front of his home was fatally shot. Furthermore, security forces reportedly shot a person on a bike that passed them, and also opened fired on mourners at a funeral for one of the victims.

    Armed ethnic minority forces that had formed a cease-fire agreement with the military after Myanmar shifted to civilian rule 10 years ago participated in demonstrations, and the Myanmar military retaliated with air strikes. There are concerns that internal conflict that has continued for over half a century will again boil over.

    In a little under two months since the coup d'etat began, over 400 citizens have already been killed, including more than 20 children.

    Myanmar's military had warned the public in advance through state television that if they participated in demonstrations, they would be in danger of being shot in the head or back. This was a despicable move, threatening the public with force.

    In commemoration ceremony remarks, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, chairman of Myanmar's State Administration Council, stated that the military was with the public, but in reality, it is far away. One soldier who escaped to neighboring India told the Mainichi Shimbun that they were ordered, "Use your automatic weapons on demonstrations without hesitation."

    The chiefs of defense of 12 countries including Japan and the United States recently took the unusual step of issuing a joint declaration condemning the military-sponsored violence in Myanmar. The Myanmar military must seriously heed the declaration's statement that the military "is responsible for protecting -- not harming -- the people it serves."

    At the U.N. Security Council, China and Russia, which hold veto rights, continue to take a passive stance on the issue. But to put an end to the military's actions, international society must band together and increase pressure on the junta.

    Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi issued a statement saying the Japanese government strongly condemns the situation in Myanmar. Japan has informally decided to suspend new official development aid to Myanmar, but has refrained from making an official announcement. It is apparently paying consideration to the Myanmar military.

    Japan should send out a clear message expressing opposition to the coup d'etat and clarify its stance that it does not permit violence against citizens. It then must use its own channels to engage in dialogue with the military and help bring an end to the slaughter of citizens as soon as possible.

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