UN Human Rights Chief Calls for Urgent Action on ‘Catastrophe’ in Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 24 September 2021

Urgent action is needed to prevent the situation in Myanmar from escalating into a “full-blown conflict”, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned on Thursday.

Bachelet’s alert came in a new report from her office, the OHCHR, detailing widespread violations by the military against the country’s people, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes.

With the spiral of violence that has rocked Myanmar since February showing signs of escalation “into a widespread civil war”, the UN rights chief called for more action on the part of the international community.

Speaking at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, she noted that clashes now “occur regularly” between civilian fighters and government forces in many areas of the country “where conflict has not been seen in generations”.

Presenting the new report on Myanmar to the council, Bachelet explained that it detailed many serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The country is also facing an “economy in freefall”, and the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic—“a human rights catastrophe that shows no signs of abating”, she highlighted.

Recent reports from the World Food Programme (WFP) warn that millions are facing growing food insecurity amid poverty, political unrest and economic crisis.

Mentioning that military authorities have perpetrated the vast majority of human rights documented since the Feb. 1 coup, the report highlights that there has been “heavy use of lethal force and mass arrests”.

Bachelet added that “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,” underscoring the urgent need for strong accountability measures.

There are also reports of increasing fighting between the military and ethnic armed groups since the coup, displacing thousands, particularly in Karen, Shan and Kachin states, where the military has carried out indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery barrages, killing civilians, the report added.

“The national consequences are terrible and tragic, and the regional consequences could also be profound,” Bachelet highlighted.

Calling on the international community to redouble its efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar, Bachelet said it was essential to prevent the civil conflict from escalating further.

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