Home World Systematic terror, brutal atrocities rife in Myanmar: UN human rights chief

Systematic terror, brutal atrocities rife in Myanmar: UN human rights chief

Systematic terror, brutal atrocities rife in Myanmar: UN human rights chief

Addressing the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasized that the crisis there is “emblematic of a decades-long legacy of military domination, the stifling of dissent, and division.”

He added that the same dynamics are playing out against the minority Muslim Rohingya and other communities in Rakhine province.

“We are hearing stories of horrific war tactics, such as beheadings. Midnight drone attacks. The burning of homes as people sleep. People being shot at as they flee for their lives.”

‘Forced conscription’

The situation in the southeast Asian nation has been in freefall since Myanmar’s military – known as the Tatmadaw – overthrew the democratically elected government and arrested key political and government leaders in February 2021.

Furthermore, fierce fighting has been reported between junta forces, and ethnic armed groups and those opposed to the coup, forcing thousands to flee their homes and worsening humanitarian crisis across the country.

“The military has lost control over a considerable amount of territory. So, it is resorting to increasingly extreme measures. Forced conscription. Indiscriminate bombardment of towns and villages. Brutal atrocity crimes,” Mr. Türk said.

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) is investigating several reported attacks against civilians in Rakhine and Sagaing over recent days with large numbers of civilians allegedly killed.

‘Shocking memories’

Mr. Türk also highlighted the dire situation in Rakhine’s Maungdaw town, with the Arakan Army warning residents, including many Rohingya, to evacuate.

“But Rohingya have no options. There is nowhere to flee,” he said, noting that in Buthidaung, a similar pattern of displacement and destruction has occurred.

The military also ordered ethnic Rakhine villages near provincial capital Sittwe to be vacated, conducting mass arrests. In the village of Byaing Phyu, men were separated, tortured, and killed, with women also raped and murdered.

The military also pressured and threatened young Rohingya men to join their ranks, Mr. Türk added, referring to reports that indicate that thousands of Rohingya youth have been conscripted into the same army that killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of their community in 2016 and 2017.

These tactics have brought back the shocking images and memories from 2017 of systematic terrorization, persecution and forced displacement of populations,” the High Commissioner said.

‘A future is possible’

High Commissioner Türk informed the Human Rights Council, the UN’s highest body on human rights, of his visit to southeast Asia and meetings with key stakeholders, notably Myanmar’s civil society and its young people.

“These young people have strong expectations of the international community. They seek for the extent of Myanmar’s suffering to be genuinely acknowledged and given the attention it deserves,” he said.

He highlighted their efforts and those of groups within the country against decades of oppression and violence. New local governance structures have emerged, aiding hundreds of thousands of civilians in need and delivering vital protection services in the complete absence of a functioning public system.

“They have risked their lives and livelihoods to help communities in need and resist the repression by the military. And with them, a future is possible.”

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