Human rights devastated by Myanmar violence, says UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet said Myanmar’s military “has a duty to protect civilians”. (file)

Geneva:

The UN rights chief said on Friday that violence in Myanmar is on the rise, warning that the country has fallen into a “human rights catastrophe” since the February 1 coup.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for a halt to the already escalating violence to prevent further loss of life and a deeper humanitarian emergency, alluding to alleged military build-up in several areas of the country.

“In just four months, Myanmar has transformed from a fragile democracy to a human rights catastrophe,” he said in a statement, adding that the military leadership was “singlely responsible” for the crisis.

The country has been in turmoil since the generals overthrew civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.

The United Nations Office of Rights on Friday pointed to credible reports showing that at least 860 civilians were killed in brutal crackdowns by security forces on nearly daily protests against the coup.

Fighting has broken out in several communities – particularly in townships that have seen high numbers of deaths at the hands of the police – and some locals have formed “defense forces”.

Bachelet pointed to intensifying violence in several parts of Myanmar, including Kaya State, Chin State and Kachin State, “with violence particularly intensifying in areas with significant ethnic and religious minority groups”.

– human shield –

“State security forces continue to use heavy weapons, including air strikes, against armed groups and against civilians and civilian objects, including Christian churches,” he said.

“It seems that no effort is being made to de-escalate the tensions, but to increase the number of troops in key areas,” he said.

The UN rights chief pointed to “credible reports” that security forces have used civilians as human shields, shelling civilian homes and churches, and blocking humanitarian access by attacking aid workers. .

“Over 108,000 people have fled their homes in Kaya State alone in the past three weeks,” he said, “who had fled to forested areas with little or no food, water, sanitation or medical care.”

“These are the people who are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.”

Bachelet insisted that the army behind the coup, also known as the Tatmadaw, had a “duty to protect the civilians”.

He said, the international community urgently “needs to unite in our demand that the Tatmadaw cease the abusive use of heavy artillery against civilians and civilian objects and respect the principle of distinction.”

He also called on the people’s defense forces and other armed groups to “take all possible measures to protect civilians”.

Bachelet, citing reliable sources, said at least 4,804 people were arbitrarily detained, condemning the country-wide arrests of activists, journalists and opponents of the regime.

He expressed concern over reports of torture of detainees and mass punishment to family members of activists.

“Instead of negotiating, the military is branding its opponents ‘terrorists’ and pursuing politically motivated charges against the democratic leadership,” he said.

“The military leadership alone is responsible for this crisis, and this should be taken into account.”

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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