UN Official Warns of Syria-Style Conflict in Myanmar, Urges Immediate Int’l Action

By The Irrawaddy 14 April 2021

As the Myanmar military regime continues its deadly crackdowns on protesters and armed resistance in border areas grows, the United Nations’ top human rights official has voiced fears that the country could descend into a “full-blown conflict” as seen in Syria, and urged member states to take immediate measures against the regime.

The Southeast Asian nation has been under military rule since February, and seen nationwide protests against the men in uniform. The regime has killed more than 700 civilians, including children, so far in its attempts to crush the protests, using live rounds and powerful explosives like rifle grenades.

“There are clear echoes of Syria in 2011. There too, we saw peaceful protests met with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate force,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday.

“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,” she added.

The brutal, persistent repression by the Assad regime of Syria against its own people led some to take up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence across the country.

In Myanmar today, due to the regime’s deadly crackdowns, once-peaceful anti-regime protesters are now in favor of armed resistance.

In the country’s north, east and south, ethnic armed groups that have been waging wars against the military to secure autonomy for decades recently launched attacks on regime troops in their areas, causing heavy casualties to the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military). They said they were not happy with the regime’s bloody attacks on civilians.

Internationally, the regime has been opposed since the coup. Targeted sanctions against the regime leadership and their families have been imposed. Despite individual calls to take serious action, such as invoking the “responsibility to protect”, or R2P, principle against the junta, nothing has happened. At the UN Security Council, the regime’s allies China and Russia have blocked efforts by member states to make collective decisions to solve the crisis in Myanmar.

Bachelet said on Tuesday that statements of condemnation, and limited targeted sanctions, were 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,” she said.

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