Bachelet warns of humanitarian crisis in Myanmar

In his report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights paints a bleak picture of a country whose economy, security, freedoms, human rights and future are being systematically destroyed. Thirteen months after the military coup that toppled Myanmar’s democratically elected government, Michelle Bachelet said the human rights of the people are in deep crisis and the country is in a state of chaos.

He said previously stable areas of the country were now hit by widespread violence. He said the economy was on the verge of collapse, with nearly half of Myanmar’s population of nearly 55 million expected to fall into poverty this year.

Despite the repercussions, he said people continue to protest the military’s harsh suppression of their right to freedom of assembly and expression. He added that dissidents were severely punished, many died, were subjected to arbitrary mass arrests and torture.

“Reliable sources record more than 1,600 deaths, many of them from peaceful protests. At least 350 died in military custody, more than 21 percent of the death toll. Since February 1, 2021, more than half a million people have been forced to flee their homes,” said Bachelet.

He noted that at least 15,000 people left the country. Plus more than a million refugees in Bangladesh, most of them Rohingya Muslims. Most seek asylum from violence and persecution at the hands of Myanmar’s armed forces.

Bachelet added that excessive military action against armed resistance was violent in several ethnically diverse states. He said the brutal operations carried out to quell protests in those areas were similar to those carried out against the Rohingya in Rakhine State from 2016 to 2017. Such operations clearly violate international human rights and humanitarian law.

“Myanmar is increasingly at risk of collapse, with its economic, education, health and social protection systems crumbling. The collapse of the health system has impacted Myanmar’s handling of COVID-19. The country’s valuable building success has been destroyed by conflict and the military’s abuse of power,” he added.

Bachelet urged the international community to act urgently to stop the violence in Myanmar and address the humanitarian needs of the country’s people. [ps/lt]