Myanmar’s democratic government was toppled by its military force in a coup earlier in January, and the situation has continuously deteriorated since. The United Nations’ (UN) Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet have voiced their concerns over potential violent crackdowns that may happen in Myanmar’s streets. Considering the direction the military is currently taking to enforce its power, the UN’s fears may come to life.
So far, the worrying observations made by the UN refer to the detention of journalists and political figures, the violent clashes during peaceful protests and the Rohingya’s safety.
During the coup, the army has arbitrarily detained “dozens of political leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, activists by the military,” said Bachelet. There are also “disturbing reports of journalists being harassed or attacked,” she further exclaimed. She called for their “immediate release.” The number of detained is suspected to have risen to 350 according to a statement made by Al-Nashif. This number includes peaceful protesters who participated in increasingly more violent protests.
“Most have received no form of due process,” said Al-Nashif. They “have not been permitted legal representation, family visitations or communication. Some remain missing, with no information as to their whereabouts or well-being,” she followed.
However, peaceful protests are increasingly more violent as the number of deaths, injuries and arrests are rising. “The indiscriminate use of lethal or less-than-lethal weapons against peaceful protestors is unacceptable,” said Al-Nashif, “more violence against Myanmar’s people will only compound to the illegitimacy of the coup, and the culpability of its leaders.” The latest protest has reportedly killed two civilians and injured twenty when military started shooting to disperse the crowds.
“I remind the military leadership,” said Bachelet, “that Myanmar is bound by international human rights law, including to respect the right to peaceful assembly, and to refrain from using unnecessary or excessive force.”
The international community is also concerned about the safety of the Rohingya community. In 2017, 700,000 were forced to flee by Myanmar’s security forces. With the coup, this threatens the 600 000 Rohingya’s that remain in Myanmar, 120,000 of them being confined to camps. “The military authorities must not be allowed to exacerbate the situation of the Rohingya people,” said Al-Nashif, “after the extreme violence and decades of discrimination that they have endured.”
“To this Council,” said Nada Al-Nashif, “we recommend the strongest possible call for the military authorities to respect the result of the election, to return the power to civilian control and to immediately release all individuals arbitrarily detained.”
“Decisive action is imperative,” said Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews, “including the imposition of strong targeted sanctions, and an arms embargo until such time as democracy is restored.”
In a final statement, High Commissioner Bachelet urges any nation with influence to denounce the actions of Myanmar’s military force and hold them accountable for their human rights violations. The Organization for World Peace will continue to carefully monitor the events unfolding in Myanmar.
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