Security forces in Myanmar killed over 90 people on Saturday, as the country witnessed one of its bloodiest days of protests since a military coup last month, Reuters reported citing local media.

Myanmar Now, a news agency in the country, said that 91 civilians were killed across 40 towns on Saturday. With this, the overall toll went up to 1,630. Another independent researcher in the commercial capital Yangon said that 93 people were killed, AP reported.

The development took place as the country observed its Armed Forces Day. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said during a parade in the capital Naypyitaw that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy, Reuters reported.

“They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes,” Thu Ya Zaw told Reuters, in the central town of Myingyan, where at least two protesters were killed. “We will keep protesting regardless...We must fight until the junta falls.”

Min Aung Hlaing, however, reiterated a promise to hold elections, even though he did not offer any time-frame. “The army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy,” he said in a live broadcast on state television, according to Reuters. “Violent acts that affect stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate.”

The Armed Forces Day event was seen as a flash point for violence, with demonstrators threatening to double down on their public opposition to the coup with more and bigger demonstrations, AP reported. The protestors refer to the holiday by its original name, Resistance Day, which marks the beginning of a revolt against Japanese occupation in second World War.

Despite the military’s actions, hundreds of thousands of protestors hit the streets, in their agitation against the coup.

Meanwhile, the United Nations in Myanmar issued a statement criticising the military’s actions on Saturday and said it was “horrified by the needless loss of life”.

“Ensuring peace and defending the people should be the responsibility of any military, but the Tatmadaw [official name of the Myanmar Army] has turned against its own people,” UN Special Envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener said.

The European Union delegation to the country also said that the “76th Myanmar armed forces day will stay engraved as a day of terror and dishonour”.

Military coup in Myanmar

The military coup in Myanmar followed the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy and Aung Suu Kyi in the national elections in November last year, with the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party faring poorly in its key strongholds.

The country’s military refused to accept the government, citing unsubstantiated allegations of fraud. It was also announced that the coup was the result of the government’s failure to delay the November election despite the outbreak of the coronavirus.

However, General Min Aung Hlaing said on February 8 that “free and fair” elections will be held after the completion of the emergency period, and the military will hand over power to the winner.