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Myanmar junta marks Independence Day with show of force in military-built capital

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Myanmar troops and weaponry paraded through the military-built capital Naypyidaw to mark the country’s independence day Wednesday, days after the junta jailed democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi for 33 years.

Swathes of the Southeast Asian country have been engulfed by fighting between junta troops and anti-coup rebels since the military seized power almost two years ago.

The junta, which recently wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of Suu Kyi, is preparing for fresh elections later this year that the United States has said would be a “sham.”

Tanks, missile launchers and armoured cars rolled through the dawn air to a parade ground in the capital, AFP correspondents said, kicking off a military parade marking 75 years since Myanmar gained independence from Britain.

Civil servants and high school students followed the troops, accompanied by a military band.

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Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was greeted by a 21-gun salute as he arrived at the parade ground.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent “sincere greetings” and anticipated the “further development” of relations, according to state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar.

Russia is a major ally and arms supplier of the isolated junta, which has said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was “justified”.  

Myanmar declared independence from British colonial rule on January 4, 1948 after a long fight championed by General Aung San, the father of ousted civilian leader Suu Kyi.

Independence Day is normally marked with festive street games, marches and gatherings in public parks and spaces. 

But since the putsch, celebrations of public holidays have been largely muted as people stay at home in protest against the junta. 

AFP correspondents said there was an increased security presence in commercial hub Yangon, which has been hit by a string of bomb attacks in recent months. 

The US embassy warned of a “potential increases in attacks, targeted shootings, or explosions” on Wednesday.  

The military has cited massive alleged voter fraud during elections in November 2020, which were won resoundingly by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, as a reason for its coup. 

International observers said at the time the polls were largely free and fair.

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