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UN warns of 'human rights catastrophe' in Myanmar

Leah Carter
September 23, 2021

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for urgent action to curb the "terrible and tragic" consequences of the conflict. She also cited an economic and political crisis made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Anti-coup protesters gather in Yangon, Myanmar
Over 8,000 people have been detained since the February coupImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday warned of a "human rights catastrophe" in Myanmar, and called on international leaders to do more to prevent the conflict from becoming worse.

Her warning came in a new report issued by the UN Human Rights Office, detailing widespread violations made by the military, the Tatmadaw, against the people in Myanmar.

What the UN said about Myanmar

The report said Myanmar was facing a "human rights catastrophe that shows no sign of abating."

"The national consequences are terrible and tragic —the regional consequences could also be profound," Bachelet said in a statement. "The international community must redouble its efforts to restore democracy and prevent wider conflict before it is too late."

The UN scorned the use of lethal force and mass arrests of protesters since the military coup on February 1.

"Serious violations have been committed — of the rights to life, liberty and security of person, the prohibition against torture, the right to a fair trial, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly," the statement said.

The UN chief also cited reports that indicate that security forces have used interrogation techniques amounting to torture, including beating detainees and depriving them of food, water and sleep.

"Military authorities have also arrested over 8,000 people, including elected officials, protesters and journalists during arrests and raids," the UN said. "At least 120 people have reportedly died in custody, and some have been denied access to medical treatment."

It also cited an increase in military activity, along with greater resistance by armed groups in the country in recent weeks. Over 800 people have been killed since the military coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

"Fighting between the military and ethnic armed groups has also increased exponentially since the coup," the statement said.

Experts say that figure could be higher.

In addition to the crisis spurred by the military coup, Myanmar has also faced many challenges in managing the coronavirus pandemic.

The country has recorded more than 452,000 infections since the start of the pandemic and over 17,000 deaths. However, the real figures could be higher.

Reuters contributed to this report