GENEVA (13 April 2021) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged States to take immediate, decisive and impactful measures to push Myanmar’s military leadership into halting its campaign of repression and slaughter of its people.
“We have witnessed yet another weekend of coordinated bloodshed in many parts of the country, including the reported mass killing of at least 82 people in Bago between Friday and Saturday. The military seems intent on intensifying its pitiless policy of violence against the people of Myanmar, using military-grade and indiscriminate weaponry,” Bachelet said.
“There are clear echoes of Syria in 2011. There too, we saw peaceful protests met with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate force. The State’s brutal, persistent repression of its own people led to some individuals taking up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence all across the country. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time warned in 2011 that the failure of the international community to respond with united resolve could be disastrous for Syria and beyond. The past ten years have shown just how horrific the consequences have been for millions of civilians.”
“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.”
Over the weekend, credible reports indicate that Tatmadaw forces opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades, fragmentation grenades and mortar fire in Bago in the south of the country. Security forces also reportedly prevented medical personnel from helping the wounded, as well as charging relatives a “fine” of roughly USD 90 to claim the bodies of those who were killed. Some individuals are also now resorting to the use of makeshift or primitive weapons in self-defence.
Clashes between the military and ethnic armed groups have also intensified in several locations in Kachin, Shan and Kayin states, where the military have been employing airstrikes that have killed and displaced civilians.
As arrests continue, with at least 3,080 people currently detained, there are reports that 23 people have been sentenced to death following secret trials – including four protesters and 19 others who were accused of political and criminal offences.
The mass arrests have forced hundreds of people to go into hiding, and reports suggest that many journalists, civil society activists, celebrities and other public figures are being sought, many simply because of the dissent they have been expressing on-line. Wireless broadband and mobile data services were cut indefinitely on 2 April, leaving the vast majority of people without access to vital sources of information and communication.
Meanwhile, the country’s economy, education and health infrastructure have been brought to the brink of collapse, leaving millions of Myanmar people without livelihood, basic services and, increasingly, food security. Thousands of internal migrants have left urban centres for their home communities – which once relied on their income. COVID-19 measures have effectively been brought to a standstill.
The High Commissioner called on the Myanmar military and neighbouring States to facilitate humanitarian access to populations in need. She urged neighbouring States to give temporary protection to people fleeing the violence, and to refrain from returning people fleeing Myanmar at this time, in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement.
“Statements of condemnation, and limited targeted sanctions, are 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 against the people,” Bachelet said.
The High Commissioner made particular reference to the report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which contains clear recommendations for impactful action in relation to the military.* Bachelet stressed the need to cut off the supply of arms and finances to the military leadership that aid its commission of serious human rights violations.