UN rights chief alarmed over Myanmar escalation of violence
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UN rights chief alarmed over Myanmar escalation of violence

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned Friday of intensifying violence across Kayah State, Chin State and Kachin State in Myanmar, calling for increased regional diplomacy from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other influential states to insist on the immediate cessation of violence and ongoing human rights violations.

Bachelet reported that “[s]tate security forces have continued to use heavy weaponry, including airstrikes, against armed groups and against civilians and civilian objects, including Christian churches.”

The High Commissioner referred to commitments made by Myanmar’s military leaders in April at a meeting of ASEAN leaders that there would be “immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar,” commenting that “there appear to be no efforts towards de-escalation but rather a build-up of troops in key areas, contrary to the commitments the military made to ASEAN to cease the violence.”

Bachelet went on to say that “more than 108,000 people have fled their homes in Kayah State over the last three weeks alone, many into forest areas with little or no food, water, sanitation or medical care. These are people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.” As JURIST’s own Myanmar-based reporters have commented, “At this rate, people might die of hunger and lack of medical aids before they die of military juntas’ direct bullets. Military juntas do not simply aim to win a war or rule a country. They deeply aim to take our lives mercilessly.”

She also cited reports that hospitals, schools and religious institutions have been entered and occupied by the Tatmadaw (the ruling Military junta), fired upon and damaged in military actions. Bachelet called for the protection of hospitals, schools and places of worship throughout the country, warning that explosions that have occurred in or near schools are likely to dissuade parents from enrolling their children in school and thus threaten their right to education.

According to the UN rights office, at least 860 people have been killed by security forces since 1 February, mostly in the context of protests. At least 4,804 people remain in arbitrary detention as a result of sweeping arrests of activists, journalists and opponents of the regime.

“In just over four months, Myanmar has gone from being a fragile democracy to a human rights catastrophe. In addition to the loss of life, people are suffering from severe impacts on the social and economic rights. The military leadership is singularly responsible for this crisis, and must be held to account, the statement concluded.