Since the Myanmar military launched its “disastrous” coup last year, UN-appointed independent human rights expert Tom Andrews said on Wednesday that conditions have worsened, “by any measure”.
“With each report I have warned that unless UN Member States change course in the way they collectively respond to this crisis, the people of Myanmar will suffer even further,” he told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, saying that conditions have “gone from bad to worse, to horrific for untold numbers of innocent people in Myanmar”.
‘Stakes could not be higher’
Mr. Andrews presented a grim assessment of 1.3 million displaced people; 28,000 destroyed homes; villages burned to the ground; more than 13,000 children killed as the death toll for innocent people rises significantly; a looming food crisis; and 130,000 Rohingya in de facto internment camps while others suffer deprivation and discrimination rooted in their lack of citizenship.
“Let me be frank: the people of Myanmar are deeply disappointed by the response of the international community to this crisis. They are frustrated and angered by Member States that are working to prop up this illegal and brutal military junta with funding, trade, weapons, and a veneer of legitimacy,” he spelled out.
“But they are also disappointed by those nations that voice support for them, but then fail to back up their words with action. The stakes could not be higher”.
The Myanmar military is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity daily, including murder, sexual violence, torture, and the targeting of civilians, Mr. Andrews continued.
And conflict is spreading throughout the country as increasingly more civilians take up arms against the junta.
Moreover, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding because military leaders are obstructing aid deliveries to displaced populations and communities they perceive to be aligned with pro-democracy forces.
“Untold numbers of innocent people have been left without access to food, medicine, and the means to survive,” he said.
Observing that the international response has failed, the UN expert said that “first and foremost,” Member States must more forcefully deprive the junta of revenue, weapons, and the legitimacy it needs to attack the Burmese and suppress their democratic aspirations.
“Many in Myanmar have come to the conclusion that the world has forgotten them, or simply doesn’t care. They ask me why Member States refuse to take measures that are both possible and practical, measures that could save untold numbers of lives,” he said.
“Frankly, I do not have an answer”.
Reminding that the Human Rights Council is referred to as the UN’s conscience, he appealed to its members to “re-think status quo policies” that aren’t working and set a new course of action for UN Member States to stand with and for those are “fighting for their lives, their children, their future”.
A group of people on the streets of Yangon show their support for Myanmar.