U.N. says military violence in Myanmar may be 'crimes against humanity'
In a new report, the United Nations says the violence in Myanmar that has claimed at least 1,600 lives following last year's military coup may be "crimes against humanity."
Myanmar's armed forces overthrew the civilian government, which was led by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, in early February of last year. The military detained Suu Kyi along with other leaders of the then-existing National League for Democracy following accusations of fraud in the 2020 national elections.
The army said at the time that power would be transferred to Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing in a statement broadcast on military-owned television that also declared a one-year state of emergency, Reuters reported. The military, called the Tatmadaw in Myanmar, named its new regime the State Administration Council.
Since the coup, the Tatmadaw has targeted anti-coup protesters and allegedly used sexual violence, shootings, electrocutions, starvation, forced drug injections and more against the public, according to the U.N. report, which was pieced together from interviews with about 155 witnesses to the violations.
"Since 1 February 2021, acts that may amount to crimes against humanity may have been committed, in particular: murder, forcible transfer, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law..." the report said.
More than 12,500 people have been detained, at least 440,000 have been displaced and about 14 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, the report says.
"Crimes against humanity under customary international law may be perpetrated when certain acts are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population," the U.N. said.
Anti-military groups have emerged in Myanmar and come together as the National Unity Government, a successor of the National League for Democracy. About 543 people who supported the military have died, with anti-coup groups claiming responsibility for 95 of the deaths, according to the report.
The State Administration Council and the National Unity Government are both wanting international recognition as Myanmar's official government.
International organizations have been unable to achieve lasting peace, with actions such as council resolutions remaining "limited in scope and impact on the ground," according to the report.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet recommended in the report that Myanmar's military immediately stop all attacks and release all detainees, and that "all parties" in Myanmar cooperate with the UN's Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
To outside nations, Bachelet advises placing sanctions on Myanmar that will cut off the military's arms supply, cutting relationships with businesses tied to the Tatmadaw and providing long-term assistance to those fleeing the country.
"The human rights situation in Myanmar has deteriorated significantly as the far-reaching impacts of the military coup continue to devastate lives and hopes across the country," she said in November 2021. "Conflict, poverty and the effects of the pandemic are sharply increasing, and the country faces a vortex of repression, violence and economic collapse."
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