Myanmar's military leader justifies coup

Myanmar's military leader has doubled down on his justification of last month's coup as civilians continue to call for protests.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Saturday spoke at a ceremony in Naypyitaw on Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the start of resistance against the Imperial Japanese military in 1945.

He said soldiers had to seize power because of "unlawful acts" during the general election last year. He stressed his claim the military will ensure social and economic developments in the country.

The military says representatives of about 30 countries usually attend the annual ceremony. But only eight countries, including China and Russia, took part this year. Japan was absent.

Min Aung Hlaing expressed gratitude to the Russian representative for the country's support, describing it as a "true friend."

Meanwhile, the military has been stepping up its crackdown on protesters.

A local human rights organization says as of Friday, 328 people have been killed since the February 1 coup.

Protesters are calling for nationwide demonstrations on Saturday.