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UN Rights Chief Warns Myanmar At Risk Of Civil War As Despair Rises

900 people have been killed and 200,000 forced to flee from increasingly violent military raids.

GENEVA — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has warned that Myanmar could plunge into war as despair among the civilian population rises in the wake of the Feb. 1 military coup.

Bachelet’s report is being discussed as part of a special interactive dialogue on Myanmar at the UN Human Rights Council.

Bachelet said what began as a coup by the Myanmar military has rapidly morphed into an attack against the civilian population.

Nearly 900 people have been killed and some 200,000 forced to flee from increasingly violent military raids on neighborhoods and villages. She warned about widespread and systematic assaults against civilians to risk sparking a broader civil war.

“Some people, in many parts of Myanmar, have taken up arms and formed self-protection groups,” Bachelet said

Map of Myanmar

“These newly formed armed opposition groups have launched attacks in several locations, to which the security forces have responded with disproportionate force. I am concerned that escalation in violence could have horrific consequences for civilians.”

The High Commissioner said that Myanmar’s political crisis has evolved into a multi-dimensional human rights catastrophe that is causing inestimable suffering for the population and is devastating prospects for sustainable development.

She called on the international community to pressure the military to stop attacking its people and to return the country to democracy. 

“ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus is an important starting point for the way forward, but I urge swift action to advance this process before the human rights situation in the country deteriorates further,” said Bachelet. 

“This should be reinforced by Security Council action. I urge all states to act immediately to give effect to the General Assembly’s call to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.”

ASEAN or Association of Southeast Asian Nations is an economic union comprising 10 member states in Southeast Asia.

More than five months have passed since Myanmar’s military leaders derailed the country’s fragile democracy. Since the February military coup in Myanmar that ousted the democratically elected government led by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other prominent politicians have been detained, and hundreds of civilians have been killed by security forces.

The coup occurred on the day parliament was to convene and form a new government. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy secured the overwhelming majority (83 percent) of seats on the November 8, 2020, election, the second contested poll since the end of military rule in 2011.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a monitoring group, reported that as of March 28, 459 people had been killed during protests against the coup, while a further 2,559 had been arrested, charged, or sentenced.

Following the defeat of many of its party members, the military claimed election fraud. However, Myanmar’s election commission declared the poll to be transparent and fair.

Under Myanmar’s constitution, the military is guaranteed 25 percent of all seats in parliament. The armed forces also get to appoint the heads of key ministries and one of two vice presidents.

“The United States is alarmed by reports that the Burmese military has taken steps to undermine the country’s democratic transition, including the arrest of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials in Burma,” said the White House in a statement.

“US President Biden has been briefed by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. We continue to affirm our strong support for Burma’s democratic institutions and, in coordination with our regional partners, urge the military and all other parties to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law and to release those detained today.”

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Amrita Das and Saptak Datta. Map by Urvashi Makwana)

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