The United Nations’ top human rights official warned on Tuesday that the on-going violent repression of protests in Myanmar could spark a “full-blown conflict” on a par with Syria if it is not stopped soon.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged states with influence on the Southeast Asian nation to take immediate and impactful action to halt the “slaughter” of civilians.
“Statements of condemnation, and limited targeted sanctions, are clearly not enough. States with influence need to urgently apply concerted pressure on the military in Myanmar to halt the commission of grave human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity,” said Ms. Bachelet in a statement.
The UN Human Rights chief’s appeal came in the wake of yet another weekend of bloodshed in Myanmar, including the reported killing of at least 82 people in Bago, a city 90 kilometres north of Yangon.
According to credible reports, the country’s military, the Tatmadaw, indiscriminately opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades, fragmentation grenades and mortars on the protesting civilian population.
“The military seems intent on intensifying its pitiless policy of violence against the people of Myanmar, using military-grade and indiscriminate weaponry,” she said.
Security forces also reportedly prevented medical personnel from helping the wounded, as well as charging relatives a “fine” of roughly US$90 to claim the bodies of those who were killed, according to the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR).
Ms. Bachelet also highlighted the need to cut off the supply of arms and finances to the military leadership that aid its commission of serious human rights violations, noting the report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which contains clear recommendations for impactful action in relation to the military.
The High Commissioner cautioned that the situation in Myanmar clearly echoes that of Syria in 2011, as it descended into conflict, with the past ten years showing the horrific consequences for millions of civilians.
“There too, we saw peaceful protests met with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate force. The State’s brutal, persistent repression of its own people led to some individuals taking up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence all across the country,” she said.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time warned that the failure of the international community to respond with united resolve could be disastrous for Syria and beyond, Ms. Bachelet added.
“I fear the situation in Myanmar is heading towards a full-blown conflict. States must not allow the deadly mistakes of the past in Syria and elsewhere to be repeated.”
Over 700 people are reported to have been killed in the crackdown by the security forces since the military overthrew the Government on 1 February. Thousands more have been injured, many of them seriously.
The UN human rights office also warned that Myanmar’s economy, education and health infrastructure have been brought to the brink of collapse, leaving millions without livelihood, basic services and, increasingly, food security.
In addition, clashes between the military and ethnic armed groups have also intensified in several locations in Kachin, Shan and Kayin states, where the military have been employing airstrikes that have killed and displaced civilians, including several hundred who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
The High Commissioner called on neighbouring States to give temporary protection to people fleeing the violence, and to refrain from returning people fleeing Myanmar at this time, in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement. (Source: UN News)