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Unbearable levels of suffering and cruelty — Global Issues

In a scheduled update to the UN’s top rights forum, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights explained that the humanitarian emergency there linked to the 2021 coup had worsened in recent months.

“Three years of military rule have inflicted – and continue to inflict – unbearable levels of suffering and cruelty on people in Myanmar,” he said, amid an escalation of armed conflict across the country which has claimed thousands of lives, including from aerial attacks on towns and cities.

Suppression of freedoms

Mr. Türk cited verified reports that more than 4,600 individuals have been killed by the military since February 2021, including hundreds of women and children. The actual death toll is likely to be much higher, the High Commissioner noted, as he referred to witness statements indicating that hundreds of civilians had been burnt alive or executed by the military, including women.

This “chilling disregard for human life” had been accompanied by other “sweeping violations of fundamental rights and the rule of law” that continue across the country, Mr. Türk insisted.

Today in Myanmar, more than 20,000 opponents of the military, including 3,909 women, still languish in detention, the High Commissioner said. People fear they can be arrested for anything at any time, he continued, citing multiple accounts of ill-treatment and other violations.

“It is deeply shocking to read my Office’s reports of systemic use of torture against political detainees in police stations, military interrogation centres and prisons,” Mr. Türk said.

Inter-ethnic tensions

The UN rights chief also maintained that the military had employed ultra-nationalist militias to stoke inter-ethnic tensions. Linked to this, violence had reached unprecedented levels in Rakhine state, with reports that civilians had been shelled and displaced en masse.

Rakhine came to international prominence in 2017 when hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya fled the state to neighbouring Bangladesh, after what former UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the Myanmar military.

Last year, up to 5,000 Rohingya undertook “perilous” boat journeys in their search for a safe haven and hundreds of others have been detained while trying to escape to other parts of Myanmar, Mr. Türk told the Council.

He also called for the immediate cessation of military operations targeting civilians, the release of political prisoners and full compliance with international human rights law.

Mr. Türk emphasized the urgent need for global solidarity and support to end the human rights crisis gripping the nation, including limiting the military’s access to weapons supplies.

“For the last three years, people in Myanmar have sacrificed everything and kept alive their aspirations for a better and safer future. They need the entire international community to support them,” the UN rights chief insisted.

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