Myanmar junta commiting 'crimes against humanity': UN expert

Myanmar has experienced mass protests and a brutal military response since the Feb 1 coup which ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - Myanmar's military has carried out crimes against humanity since seizing power in February, a top UN rights expert said on Wednesday (July 7), urging the international community to do more to halt the abuses.

Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, Mr Thomas Andrews, the special rapporteur on the rights situation in Myanmar, decried the "widespread, systematic attacks against the people" since the coup five months ago.

Myanmar has experienced mass protests and a brutal military response since the Feb 1 coup which ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"The junta's military forces have murdered approximately 900 people, forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands, tortured many, including torturing people in custody to death, disappeared untold numbers; and arbitrarily detained nearly 6,000."

Some of the acts, he said, "amount to crimes against humanity", lamenting the fact that more had not been done to rein in the violations.

"The international community is failing the people of Myanmar," he said.

Mr Andrews said the military had cut off food, water and medicine to those displaced by its attacks on villages.

It had "taken family members hostage when its forces are unable to find those with outstanding arrest warrants", including recently arresting a four-year-old child, he added.

But the international community so far had failed to take the actions needed to bring the violations to a halt, he said.

The people of Myanmar, he warned, "desperately need the support of the international community before it is too late".

"Some in Myanmar have lost hope that help from the international community will be forthcoming and have instead sought to defend themselves through the formation of defence forces and acts of sabotage," he added.

"This trend could escalate quickly and the junta's pattern of the use of grossly disproportionate force in response will likely lead to an even greater loss of life."

Mr Andrews repeated a call for the creation of an international Emergency Coalition for the People of Myanmar, which could impose sanctions and "significantly reduce the revenue that the junta needs to continue its reign of terror.

"Cut off their income, and you cut off their capacity to continue their relentless attack on the people of Myanmar," he said.

The international community should also ban arms sales to the Myanmar military, and launch investigations into the violations committed, he said.

And there needed to be a dramatic hike in humanitarian aid to the people through "non-junta channels": Countries should work together to "deny any claims of legitimacy that the junta may try to assert", he added.

"There is no guarantee that this approach will succeed," he acknowledged, but "there is overwhelming evidence that the current path leads to even greater impunity, a humanitarian disaster, and a failed state".

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