At the bi-weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, made the following comments on Myanmar, with James Rodehaver chief of the UN Human right office in Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military has created a perpetual human rights crisis through the continuous use of violence, including the killing, arbitrary arrest, torture and enforced disappearance of anti-coup opponents, a report published by the UN Human Rights Office said today.
“Two years after the military launched a coup, the generals have embarked on a scorched earth policy in an attempt to stamp out opposition,” Ravina Shamdasani, said.
“Tragically, regional and global efforts for peace and restraint have largely fallen on deaf ears. The military, emboldened by continuous and absolute impunity, has consistently shown disregard for international obligations and principles. Urgent, concrete action is needed to end this festering catastrophe,” she said.
The report echoed calls by the Security Council and ASEAN for, among other things, an immediate halt to the violence, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, accountability, and unhindered humanitarian access.
The report documents a litany of human rights abuses from 1 February 2022 to 31 January 2023, accompanied by a sharp rise in violence especially in the north-western and south-eastern parts of Myanmar.
It cites credible sources as having verified the deaths of at least 2,940, and 17,572 arrests by the military and its affiliates since the coup. Nearly 80 per cent of the country’s 330 townships have been impacted by armed clashes.
The military employs its so-called four-cuts approach - including through indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery shelling, razing villages to displace civilian populations, and denial of humanitarian access - to cut off non-State organized armed groups and other anti-military armed elements from access to food, finances, intelligence and recruits.
“Among the numerous incidents of airstrikes, on 16 September - in Let Yet Kone village, Tabayin Township, Sagaing - four helicopters opened fire on a school killing at least six children and injuring nine others. After some 60 soldiers deployed from helicopters to the ground, they reportedly raided the village, executing a school technician and five villagers before arresting wounded children and teachers,” Shamdasani said.
One of the most frequently used tactics by the military is the systematic and widespread burning of villages and dwellings. Consistent with their modus operandi documented over decades, including in Kachin in 2011 and Rakhine in 2017, UN reports indicated that nearly 39,000 houses nationwide have been burnt or destroyed in military operations since February 2022, representing a more than 1,000-fold increase compared to 2021.
Sagaing was the most affected region, accounting for over 25,500 homes. In an incident on 1 May 2022 in Ah Shey See, Kale Township, Sagaing, satellite images suggest the burning of almost the entire village with 621 structures destroyed. Satellite imagery coupled with interview reports suggest that between 16 and 28 September in Taze Township, Sagaing, the military destroyed 458 houses and damaged another 319 across eight villages during a series of raids and attacks.
The military’s mismanagement of the economy has provoked an economic crisis for much of the population, resulting in the doubling of poverty rates compared to March 2020. Rural populations are reported to be at risk of starvation as the military imposes further restrictions on access to areas affected by violence and conflict. Compounding the situation, main supply routes and waterways across the country have been blocked, preventing humanitarian actors from reaching 17.6 million people in need.
“The military has also adopted rules, including martial law, intended to target anti-coup opposition and severely restrict the civic space that had significantly contributed to Myanmar’s democratic transition,” Shamdasani said.
“Across Myanmar, people are continuously exposed to violations and crimes, including killings, enforced disappearances, displacement, torture, arbitrary arrests, and sexual violence. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the military and its affiliated militias continue to be responsible for most violations, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes,” the spokesperson said.
James Rodehaver, chief of the UN Human Rights Office in Myanmar made the following comments. “They've weaponized the legal system. They have used the detention system, of course, as a means to both detain their political opponents and to torture those who have spoken out against them.”.”
There have been over 300 airstrikes in the last year, and OHCHR has been able to get satellite data on dozens of these areas.
“This is an ethnic Bamar area, actually. And you will see that one of the tried-and-true tactics of this ‘four cuts’ policy is to launch airstrikes and artillery barrages, that have if you can see closely, you can see several impact craters throughout the village area. And then, ground troops moved into this area shortly after the shelling stopped and the troops stayed overnight in the village and then burned it on their way out in the morning before they moved on to the next village.”
“There is also an image of Se Zin village in Kachin state. And here we see a very similar pattern where you had a succession of airstrikes against the village. And I would just say that in all the people we've spoken to, there were no military forces, no opposition armed groups present in this village when this airstrike was launched. There was no forewarning given. And you can see again, a series of impact craters and mixed with houses that have been burned. And of course, that indicates that after the airstrikes, the ground troops moved in and then structures were torched. Over 16 civilians were killed in this incident, and it resulted in and again over 200 houses being destroyed before they left the village.”
“The situation in Myanmar has grown and as I say, intense and you have a military making war against its own people and in pursuing they’re ‘four cuts’ policy, they have really created the crisis that's resulted in a loss, a regression in every human right.”
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