UN warns of ‘mass deaths’ in Myanmar after 100,000 flee fighting
By Al Jazeera
UN says people fleeing
military’s ‘brutal, indiscriminate attacks’ in eastern Kayah are in dire need
of food and water.
A United Nations rights expert has warned of “mass deaths
from starvation, disease and exposure” in eastern Myanmar after “brutal,
indiscriminate attacks” by the military forced tens of thousands of people to
flee their homes in Kayah State.
In a statement on Wednesday, Tom Andrews, the UN special
rapporteur for Myanmar, called for urgent international action, saying attacks
by the military – which took power after a February coup – were “threatening
the lives of many thousands of men, women and children” in Kayah or Karenni
“Let me blunt,”
Andrews said. “Mass deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure, on a
scale we have not yet seen since the February 1 coup, could occur in Kayah
State absent immediate action.”
The plea came hours after the UN office in Myanmar said the
violence in Kayah had displaced an estimated 100,000 people, who were now seeking
safety in forests, host communities and southern parts of neighbouring Shan
Those fleeing and those in locations affected by the bombing
and artillery fire were in dire need of food, water, shelter, fuel and access
to healthcare, the UN office said in a statement.
“This crisis could push people across international borders
seeking safety,” it warned, calling for all parties to “take the necessary
measures and precautions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure”.
People living in Kayah told Al Jazeera the military has launched
indiscriminate air attacks and shelling in civilian areas after fighting broke
out on May 21 between the security forces and a civilian resistance group
calling itself the Karenni People’s Defense Force (KPDF).
There have been several deaths, including that of a
14-year-old boy who was shot dead in Loikaw township and a young man who was
shot in the head with his hands tied behind his back. The military has
repeatedly attacked churches in the predominantly Christian area, in one
instance killing four people who were among 300 villagers sheltering at a
Catholic church in Loikaw.
progress’ on ASEAN plan
Security forces have also attacked and threatened
humanitarian workers, while Andrews said he had received reports that soldiers
were “stopping aid from reaching these desperate people” by setting up military
blockades and laying landmines on public roads.
“Any pressure or leverage UN member states can put on the
junta must now be exerted so that junta leader Min Aung Hlaing will
immediately: (1): open access roads and allow lifesaving aid to reach
those in need, and (2) stop terrorizing the population by ceasing the aerial
bombardment, shelling, and shooting of civilians.”
Andrews said the military’s attacks against civilians in
Kayah was the “latest in a series throughout Myanmar causing massive
displacement and humanitarian suffering, including in Mutraw in Karen State,
Mindat in Chin State, and Bago City, among other areas”.
“Now more than ever, the international community must cut
off access to the resources the junta relies on to continue these brutal
attacks against the people of Myanmar,” he added.
Myanmar’s military has so far ignored international
criticism of its violent crackdown and showed little sign of heeding a
“Five-Point Consensus” agreed between Min Aung Hlaing and Southeast Asian
leaders in April. The agreement – reached at a special summit of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – called for an end to violence,
political talks and the naming of a regional special envoy.
On Monday, ASEAN foreign ministers met a Myanmar military
envoy in China’s Chongqing and expressed concern over the army’s “painfully
slow” progress on implementing the consensus. Wunna Maung Lwin, the military’s
foreign minister, however, told the meeting: “The only way to ensure the
democratic system that is disciplined and genuine” was through a military
drafted five-point programme announced in the wake of February’s coup.
That plan has little similarities with the ASEAN consensus,
and includes the establishment of a new elections commission – the military has
claimed without evidence that the November 2020 election was fraudulent –
measures against the COVID-19 pandemic as well as efforts for economic
China, meanwhile, has backed the ASEAN plan.
In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said Wang met
Wunna Maung Lwin and called for the implementation of the “Five-Point
Consensus” and an end to “all kinds of violence” in Myanmar.
all parties in Myanmar to engage in political dialogue within the
constitutional and legal framework and restart the process of democratic
transformation,” Wang said in the statement. Source: Al Jazeera