‘Terrified’ UN rights expert sounds alarm ahead of bigger protests in Myanmar

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The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar expressed fear for potential violence on a greater scale in Myanmar as protests continue against the illegal takeover of the civilian government by the military on February 01.

Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews in a statement said, he is “terrified” that violence could break out, as additional soldiers have been deployed in towns and cities, including the commercial hub Yangon, where demonstrations are planned.

Following reports that a “secretive trial” of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint began on Tuesday, protest rallies have been called for downtown Yangon. There may be protests in other cities and townships as well, Mr. Andrews said.

“In the past, such troop movements preceded killings, disappearances, and detentions on a mass scale,” he said.

“I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments – planned mass protests and troops converging – we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar,” he added.

Mr. Andrews issued an “urgent call” on all governments, individuals and entities that may have influence on Myanmar military authorities to use that influence “to convince the junta that rallies planned for Wednesday must be allowed to proceed without detentions or violence.”

“Continued repression of the people of Myanmar’s basic liberties and human rights must end immediately,” he stressed.

The envoy also reiterated that those in the chain of command, regardless of rank, can be held liable for any atrocities committed against the people of Myanmar, and that they “must disobey orders to attack”.

“Of course, we cannot rely on the Myanmar military to avoid bloodshed out of a moral or legal obligation alone that is why it is so imperative that all those with influence demand that the junta restrain itself from further violence and arbitrary arrests,” said Mr. Andrews.

The Special Rapporteur also called on the international business community to take immediate action.

He urged businessmen to call their interlocutors in State Administrative Council – the body set up to govern Myanmar following the military takeover – and to “stress to them that you [the businesses]will be forced to suspend or cease business in Myanmar if they continue down this violent path”.

“Specifically stress to them that under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, businesses and investors should suspend or terminate activities with the Myanmar junta when the risk of involvement in serious human rights abuses can no longer be reasonably managed,” the rights expert said.

“I, and many others, would argue we have long passed that threshold. Please implore them to use restraint. Implore them to return power to the people of Myanmar,” Mr. Andrews added. (Source: UN News)

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