Myanmar’s ruling military paraded an arsenal of weapons in the capital Naypyidaw on Monday, in a grand display of force days after the United States imposed fresh sanctions against the junta for inflicting “pain and suffering on the people of Burma.”
The array of equipment – ranging from rocket launchers to tanks – was deployed alongside hundreds of marching troops to mark the country’s annual Armed Forces Day, video from state media showed.
Myanmar’s military has ruled the impoverished Southeast Asian nation with an iron fist for most of the past six decades, apart from a brief 10-year flirtation with a quasi-democracy that came crashing down in 2021 when the generals seized power once more.
Monday’s parade was the third time the military, known as the Tatmadaw, has marked Armed Forces Day since overthrowing the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has since been sentenced to 33 years in prison during secretive trials that her lawyers say are politically motivated.
Speaking to the crowd during the parade, the junta’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing said the Tatmadaw will “put in effort into achieving full law enforcement and tranquility across the Union to ensure the socio-economic security of all citizens.”
He added the military will take action against “terrorist organizations” and armed resistance groups, adding “martial law is increasingly being imposed in important townships that need to be controlled during the second phase of the State of Emergency.”
In the two years since the coup, the country has been torn by violence and economic paralysis.
The junta has cracked down on anti-coup protesters, arrested journalists and political prisoners and executed several leading pro-democracy activists, drawing condemnation from the United Nations and rights groups.
Swathes of Myanmar’s long restive border regions have erupted in insurgencies with the military accused of conducting massacres and widespread rights abuses, including air strikes and war crimes against civilians.
The US last week slapped a fresh series of sanctions on two people with alleged ties to the military and three businesses owned by them, a statement from the State Department said.
“Additionally, Treasury is issuing a Sanctions Alert on Burma jet fuel to inform individuals, businesses, and other persons of the sanctions risks associated with the provision of jet fuel to Burma’s military regime,” it added, referring to Myanmar by its older name.
Rights groups and those fighting the Tatmadaw have accused the military of repeatedly using its helicopters and jets to carry out airstrikes that often kill civilians.
Myanmar remains roiled in economic distress, with shortages of food, fuel and other basic supplies.
But its military has become largely self-sufficient in manufacturing a range of weapons.
According to a United Nations report published in January, several UN member states are still selling weapons to the military, despite Western-led sanctions against the junta.
But the increased political and economic isolation has not stopped the military from manufacturing a wide variety of weapons, the report said.
“An equally important factor, however, is the fact that Myanmar’s military can produce a large variety of weapons in-country,” it added.
In a report published Sunday by “The Global New Light of Myanmar,” long considered the mouthpiece for whoever is running the country, Armed Forces’ Day will “safeguard the national interest of the State, lives and property of people, and to put a strenuous effort on respective corners in times of natural disasters.”
The objective of the day is “to provide the necessary assistance by Tatmadaw for holding a free and fair multiparty democratic general election,” it added.