Myanmar: UN Rights Office ‘Deeply Disturbed’ Over Increasing Violence Against Protesters

Conditions are steadily worsening in Myanmar, where the UN has reported 68 deaths from March 13th to 15th, and some victims had shown signs of “severe physical abuse indicating that they were tortured.” The latest casualties bring the death toll to 149 as of March 17th

Myanmar has been under military control since February 1st, when military officials demonstrated a violent overtaking of the civilian government. The military coup was spurred by a landslide electoral victory in November by National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate Aung San Suu Kyi, which secured 80% of seats in the election.  Myanmar’s military and opposing political parties quickly disputed the results, which has led to the unlawful detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and the following civil unrest.

Under the current martial law, more than 2,084 individuals remain under custody arbitrarily. Ravina Shamdasani, a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has condoned these actions and stated, “We are deeply disturbed that the crackdown continues to intensify, and we again call on the military to stop killing and detaining protestors.” 

The UN has also raised concerns about how the conflict is consequently leading to alarming increases in food and fuel costs, the halting of the Myanmar banking sector, increased risk of violence for migrants, and disruptions to humanitarian efforts and aid programmes. 

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), some communities are experiencing an increase of 20-35% for essential goods such as rice and cooking oils and an average increase of 15% for petrol and diesel across the country. Challenges associated with access to affordable food are also being compounded by the shutdown of the banking sector and have led to issues surrounding the availability of cash and a decrease in remittances.  The WFP stated they are “building a contingency food stock, which would allow a switch from cash to in-kind food assistance” in an attempt to provide assistance. 

The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) provided a statement declaring concern for the state of violence and its impact on migrants within the country, especially in industrial districts such as Hlaing Tharyar, where the majority of migrants are located. The increase in violence has led to a dramatic displacement of internal migrants within the area as they attempt to find safety in their home communities. “Migrants are among the most impacted by the ongoing political crisis”, stated IOM. Furthermore, humanitarian efforts are finding challenges in providing services due to factors surrounding supply chain operations, the halt of the banking infrastructure, and communication networks.