File photo of protestors flooding streets in Mandalay, Myanmar, despite an army crack down.
File photo of protestors flooding streets in Mandalay, Myanmar, despite an army crack down.India Narrative/IANS

Myanmar crisis: UN chief 'appalled' by escalating violence with dozens reported killed over weekend

New York, March 16, 2021

The UN chief on Monday issued a statement saying he was "appalled" by the reported killing over the weekend of dozens of protesters calling for the restoration of democracy, at the hands of the country's military.

Violence continues to rage across the south-east Asian nation at the hands of forces loyal to leaders of the February 1 military coup, and, according to media reports, dozens of people lost their lives, including around 50 on Sunday alone.

"The killing of demonstrators, arbitrary arrests and the reported torture of prisoners violate fundamental human rights and stand in clear defiance of calls by the Security Council for restraint, dialogue and a return to Myanmar’s democratic path," said Secretary-General António Guterres, in the statement released by his spokesperson in New York.

Guterres urged the international community "to work collectively and bilaterally" to help bring an end to the repression.

He called on the military to allow a visit by his Special Envoy "as an important element in calming down the situation and setting the stage for dialogue and return to democracy."

In a statement on Sunday, Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said she “personally heard from contacts in Myanmar heartbreaking accounts of killings, mistreatment of demonstrators and torture of prisoners over the weekend”.

“The ongoing brutality, including against medical personnel and destruction of public infrastructure, severely undermines any prospects for peace and stability.”

Schraner Burgener also underlined that the international community, including regional actors must come together “in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations”.

‘Junta leaders don't belong in power’

The UN independent human rights expert on Myanmar also reiterated his appeal to UN Member States “to act” to address the crisis.

Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said on Monday, he was “heartbroken” and “outraged” at the reports of the largest number of protesters “murdered by Myanmar security forces” in a single day.

“Junta leaders don't belong in power, they belong behind bars. Their supply of cash and weapons must be cut now.”

Mr. Andrews, last week, called on the international community for a united global response in Myanmar’s hour of need, warning that the junta’s brutal response to peaceful protests likely met the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.

Thus far, more than 120 protesters – including women and children – have reportedly been killed during the crackdown, including many who were shot by live ammunition, according to media reports.

Hundreds more have been wounded, and over 2,000 arbitrarily arrested and detained, the media reports added.

‘Children held incommunicado’

Among those arbitrarily detained are an estimated 700 children, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In a statement on Facebook, it said that many of those arrested or detained are being held incommunicado, without access to legal counsel, in violation of their human rights.

“UNICEF condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force against children, including the use of live ammunition, and the arbitrary detention of children, and continues to call on security forces to immediately refrain from violence and to keep children and young people out of harm’s way”, the agency stressed.

‘Violence unacceptable’

The UN Country Team (UNCT) in Myanmar also denounced the violence, calling for those responsible to be brought to justice.

“Another tragic day for Myanmar with reports of numerous people killed in Mandalay and elsewhere by security forces,” the Country Team said in a tweet, late on Saturday (local time).

“The UN has made clear that such violence is unacceptable and those responsible should be held to account.”


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