Myanmar is in a State of Profound Humanitarian Crisis


In her report, the U.N. human rights chief presents a dismal picture of a country whose economy, security, freedoms, human rights, and future are systematically being destroyed. Thirteen months after a military coup overthrew Myanmar’s democratically elected government, Michelle Bachelet says the human rights of the people are in profound crisis and the country is in total disarray.

She says formerly stable areas of the country are now beset by widespread violence. She says the economy is on the brink of collapse, with almost half of Myanmar’s population of nearly 55 million expected to be plunged into poverty this year.

Despite the consequences, she says people continue to protest the military’s harsh repression of their rights to freedom of assembly and expression. She says dissenters are severely punished, noting many are killed, subject to mass arbitrary arrests, and torture.

“Credible sources have recorded the deaths of over 1,600 individuals, many engaged in peaceful protest. At least 350 of those killed died in military custody, over 21 percent of the total deaths. Since the first of February 2021, over half a million people have been forced to flee their homes.”

She notes at least 15,000 people have fled the country. This is in addition to the more than one million refugees in Bangladesh, most of them Rohingya Muslims. Most have sought asylum from violence and persecution at the hands of Myanmar’s armed forces.

Bachelet says disproportionate military responses to armed resistance have taken place with ferocity in multiple ethnic states. She says the brutal operations employed to quell these areas resemble those employed against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017. She says such operations clearly violate international human rights and humanitarian law.

“Myanmar is increasingly at risk of state collapse, with shattered economic, education, health, and social protection systems. Collapse of the health system has had devastating consequences for Myanmar’s COVID-19 response. The country’s precious development gains have been destroyed by conflict and the military’s abuse of power.”

Bachelet says accountability remains crucial to any solution to this crisis. She urges the international community to take urgent action to halt violence in Myanmar and to respond to the acute humanitarian needs of the people.

Myanmar did not respond to the high commissioner’s report because the United Nations does not recognize the legitimacy of the military government.

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