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The UN human rights chief warned that violence has been intensifying across Myanmar, saying the country’s military government is “singularly responsible” for a “human rights catastrophe."
In a statement published Friday, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said multiple reports indicated that armed conflict was growing in Kayah, Chin and Kachin states, with violence particularly intense in areas with considerable ethnic and religious minority groups.
Referring to the 10-member regional bloc, Bachelet said: “There appear to be no efforts towards de-escalation but rather a build-up of troops in key areas, contrary to the commitments the military made to ASEAN to cease the violence."
“In just over four months, Myanmar has gone from being a fragile democracy to a human rights catastrophe,” Bachelet added. “The military leadership is singularly responsible for this crisis, and must be held to account.”
Since the country was thrown into political turmoil following a military coup that removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government on February 1, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has led the main international diplomatic effort to find a way out of the crisis in Myanmar.
The military’s seizure of power unleashed daily protests that have been met by a bloody crackdown, as well as strikes paralyzing the country’s economy and fighting in borderlands between armed forces and ethnic minority armed groups.
The ASEAN mediation has so far made little progress, even though last week, two envoys from the bloc visited Myanmar and met top military government officials, including military chief Min Aung Hlaing. Pro-democracy groups say they are being shut out.
The UN, Western countries and China all back ASEAN’s peace efforts, yet Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, instead touted the progress of its own five-step plan towards a new election.
STATEMENT: High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warns of imminent further bloodshed and suffering in #Myanmar - says the military leadership is singularly responsible for the crisis, and must be held to account. #WhatsHappeningInMyanmarhttps://t.co/lJ8bEAtD6M
In the statement, Bachelet said more than 108,000 people have fled their homes in Kayah state over the past few weeks, with many fleeing to forests with little or no food, water, sanitation or medical aid.
Bachelet cited “credible reports” that the military has shelled civilian homes and blocked access to humanitarian aid.
“The international community needs to unify in its demand that the Tatmadaw cease the outrageous use of heavy artillery against civilians and civilian objects,” Bachelet warned.
Bachelet's office is set to update the UN’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, during its next session in July.
The statement also place the death toll of those killed by security forces since the coup to 860, mostly protesters. At least 4,804 activists, journalists and opponents of the military government are still in arbitrary detention with reports of detainees and activists’ family members being tortured and punished.
Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under custody as the military takeover was unfolding and charged with multiple charges, including a new one on Thursday for alleged corruption. She is expected to go on trial Monday.