Conflicts & War

UN fears Myanmar situation will degenerate into open conflict

Geneva, Sep 23 (EFE).- Myanmar is in danger of plunging into a full-blown armed conflict, while abuses against the civilian population increase that could constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, United Nations officials said Thursday at the Human Rights Council.

According to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the country needs “urgent action” to prevent the situation from degenerating into a civil war.

The high commissioner presented the latest report on the human rights situation in Myanmar, where the army has taken power after the Feb. 1 military coup.

The report said the regime continues to carry out mass arrests and use its lethal force against the population, in a “catastrophe for human rights that shows no signs of abating”.

The document shows an increase in the activity of the army, parallel to that of insurgent groups against the armed forces, causing thousands of displaced especially in the states of Kayin, Shan and Kachin, where it has already seen indiscriminate bombings.

This, together with an economy in free fall and the devastating impact of Covid-19, is the breeding ground for an increase in violence and conflict in the country, the UN said.

Bachelet said that although the human rights violations reported in Myanmar could constitute a crime against humanity “the military authorities do not show the intention to stop them or to implement previous recommendations”.

The report collects complaints received between February and July, is based on interviews with 70 victims and witnesses, and relates that at the beginning of the protests against the coup the military used disproportionate but not lethal force and organized raids to “create an atmosphere of terror”.

The army’s strategy has changed toward “systematic assassinations of specific targets and the use of weapons more lethal than those of the early days, including semi-automatic rifles”, sometimes used by snipers.

As a result, at least 1,120 people have been killed since the Feb. 1 coup, read the document, which recalled Mar. 27 (Day of the Armed Forces in the country), when at least 130 protesters were killed, including 17 children.

“Security forces opened fire without prior warning, and shot people fleeing or trying to treat the wounded,” said the report that included massacres in 12 of the 15 states of the country on that day.

Along with the murders, there have been more than 8,000 arrests, including elected politicians, protesters and journalists, with at least 120 deaths in custody and complaints about the use of torture and mistreatment during interrogations.

“The consequences of all this for the country are terrible and tragic, but they can also be profound for the entire region,” said Bachelet, who called on the international community “to redouble its efforts to restore democracy and prevent the conflict from escalating before it’s too late”. EFE


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