UN human rights chief said Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis continues to expand as systematic brutality by security forces known as the Tatmadaw, has inflamed pre-existing armed conflicts in multiple ethnic states.
High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said on Monday hundreds of localised armed resistance groups have now formed across the country, triggering “widespread violence in areas that were previously stable”.
Following the takeover of the civilian government by the military in February last year in a coup, the country has a “profound crisis” facing access to basic human rights.
“The economy is on the brink of collapse. Over 14.4 million individuals are now assessed as being in humanitarian need,” said the OHCHR chief, predicting that “food scarcity will sharply increase over the coming months”.
Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has forecast that “the combined impact of the coup and the Covid-19 pandemic could force nearly half of Myanmar’s population into poverty this year.”
And yet despite harsh repression, many citizens continue to resist the military coup.
Although most protests have been expressed peacefully, including a ‘Silent Strike’ as well as other forms of protest and boycotts, the military has met all dissent with lethal force, mass arbitrary arrests, and the torture.
“Credible sources have recorded the deaths of over 1,600 individuals, many engaged in peaceful protest. At least 350 of those killed died in military custody, over 21% of the total deaths,” Ms. Bachelet said.
Since 1 February 2021, more than half a million people have been forced to flee their homes, with at least 15,000 reportedly fleeing the country – adding to the nearly 340,000 people internally displaced before the coup, and more than one million refugees, most of them mostly Muslim Rohingya who have found refuge in Bangladesh
Disproportionate military crackdowns in clear violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, have taken place in Sagaing and Magway Regions, as well as in Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, and Shan States.
“Tatmadaw have targeted both armed resistance groups and civilians with helicopter gunships, airstrikes, and the use of indiscriminate force,” she said, as a so-called “four-cuts” strategy continues to “punish local communities for their assumed support to armed elements.”
“These attacks have occurred alongside mass arrests, summary executions and torture.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recorded at least 286 attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel since February 2021.
With shattered economic, education, health, and social protection systems and precious development gains destroyed, the High Commissioner voiced her concern that the State stands on the verge of collapse.
“I remain acutely concerned for the safety and rights of human rights defenders and other civil society actors,” she said.
“There is virtually no civic space left across the country. Intense surveillance, including by digital means, amplifies the danger to activists in all military-controlled areas.” (Source: UN News)