Saturday, 27 Nov 2021

Myanmar: UN urges international effort to restore democracy ‘before it’s too late’

There are warnings urgent action is needed to end the “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar.

A report by the United Nations Human Rights Office alleges widespread violations by the military against the people, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes.

More than 1,100 people have been killed by security forces since the military seized power in February.

Based on interviews with more than 70 victims and witnesses, the document details a list of alleged abuses since the coup, including attacks on peaceful protestors, junta forces firing without warning, and systematic, targeted killings involving semi-automatic weapons and snipers.

Released for the 48th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, it describes the situation in Myanmar as “a human rights catastrophe that shows no signs of abating.”

As well as increasing violence, which has displaced more than 206,000 people, the country is also grappling with COVID-19 and an economy in free-fall.

“There is no sign of any efforts by the military authorities to stop these violations nor implement previous recommendations to tackle impunity and security sector reform,” the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said.

“The national consequences are terrible and tragic – the regional consequences could also be profound.

“The international community must redouble its efforts to restore democracy and prevent wider conflict before it is too late.”

More than 8,000 people have been arrested by junta security forces over the last seven months, with at least 120 killed in custody, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB).

A recent investigation by Sky News uncovered evidence that points to the widespread harassment, torture, and killing of prisoners.

This week, the UN special rapporteur for the country said Myanmar’s military junta is systematically abducting the relatives of people it is seeking to arrest, including children as young as 20-weeks-old.

Tom Andrews, on 22 September, told the UN Human Rights Council that conditions in the country have deteriorated and that “current efforts by the international community to stop the downward spiral of events in Myanmar are simply not working”.

As of July, he said the junta had killed at least 75 children ranging in age from 14 months to 17 years.

It’s claimed they were hit by junta-driven vehicles, shot by junta forces or killed by their artillery shells.

Mr Andrews also told the council he had received credible reports of children being tortured, including two boys who were starved and then had their legs burnt with iron rods.

In recent weeks, fighting between local resistance groups and the military has escalated, with the opposition shadow government declaring a “defensive war” earlier this month.

A representative for the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) told Sky News around 10,000 people had fled their homes near the Indian border after military artillery set fire to houses during clashes with the local militia.

He said a pastor who went to put out the flames in Thantlang was shot by junta soldiers.

While Sky News couldn’t immediately verify the claims, live streams on social media showed a number of the town’s properties ablaze on 18 September.

Many of those who have fled are believed to be taking shelter in the surrounding countryside, with more than 5,500 crossing the border to the Indian state of Mizoram, according to Reuters news agency.

State media, The Global New Light of Myanmar, disputed the CDF’s reports, saying the pastor’s death was being investigated and that soldiers had been ambushed by about 100 “terrorists” and both sides exchanged fire.

Sky News has contacted the military government for comment and at the time of publication hasn’t received a reply.

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