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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights sounds alarm on Myanmar crisis

UN High Commissioner Türk reports a “never-ending nightmare” in Myanmar, with over 4,603 civilians killed by the military. Calls for immediate action to protect civilians and restore democracy. Urges ASEAN and the world to act.



In a grave address to the Human Rights Council, Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, depicted a harrowing picture of the ongoing human rights catastrophe in Myanmar, describing the situation as “a never-ending nightmare.”

Türk highlighted the escalation and spread of armed conflict across the nation since his last update in September, noting the unbearable suffering inflicted on the populace by three years of military rule.

Türk detailed a series of brutal acts by the military, including the killing of over 4,603 civilians, among them 659 women and 490 children, since the coup in February 2021. The actual number of victims is feared to be much higher. Reports of civilians, including children, being burnt alive have shocked the international community, alongside disturbing footage of pro-military fighters engaging in such acts.

The intensification of violence, particularly since late October, has seen the military’s use of heavy weaponry, resulting in a significant number of civilian casualties. January 2024 alone saw 145 civilian deaths out of 232 verified, more than 60% of which were caused by airstrikes and artillery attacks, with a substantial number of victims being women and children.

The military’s tactics have not only involved direct violence but also efforts to provoke inter-ethnic tensions and forcible recruitment, including a controversial military service law mandating conscription for young men and women. Reports of forced recruitment, including of children, have been widespread, with the Rohingya community being particularly targeted.

Türk also reported on systemic violations of fundamental rights, with over 20,000 opponents of the military regime currently detained. The systemic use of torture and the high number of deaths in custody highlight the dire human rights situation. Additionally, the military’s blockade of humanitarian aid has exacerbated the crisis, with millions unable to access necessary support.

Focusing on the plight of the Rohingya, Türk underscored the deepening violence in Rakhine State, where recent military actions have led to significant civilian casualties and exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. Despite international calls for action, the Rohingya remain vulnerable, facing systemic discrimination and violence, with little hope for a safe and dignified return to their homes.

The High Commissioner reiterated calls for the immediate cessation of military operations in civilian areas, the release of all political prisoners, and compliance with international human rights law.

He urged the international community to take decisive action to limit the military’s access to resources essential for its campaign of repression. Türk also advocated for a new approach by ASEAN and influential states to engage with all actors, including the National Unity Government and civil society, to restore democracy and civilian rule in Myanmar.

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