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UN expert: Myanmar military junta continues denying Rohingya existence

  • Published at 03:40 pm September 23rd, 2021
Rohingya Crisis
File Photo: Rohingya, who crossed the border from Myanmar two days before, walk after they received permission from the Bangladeshi army to continue on to the refugee camps, in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on October 19, 2017Reuters

More than 600,000 Rohingyas living in Myanmar are facing danger, reminds Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

The Myanmar military junta continues to deny the existence of the Rohingya ethnic minority, denying them citizenship, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights, United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews has said.

The same commanders who oversaw the mass atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas in 2017 are now overseeing the military junta, putting more than 600,000 Rohingyas living in Myanmar in danger, he told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

UN expert says current international efforts failing, urges ‘change of course’.

The UN independent rights expert has also said that conditions inside the country following the February 1 military coup have worsened, urging a “change of course” to prevent further human rights abuses and deaths, as the current international efforts are failing.

Also Read - PM Hasina: Global inaction over Rohingya repatriation shocks Bangladesh

According to him, since its power grab and overthrow of the democratically-elected government, the junta and its forces have murdered more than 1,100 people, arbitrarily detained more than 8,000, and forcibly displaced more than 230,000 civilians, bringing the total number of internally placed persons in Myanmar to well over half a million.

Andrews described how junta-controlled military forces have killed protesters in the streets, murdered civilians in their homes, beaten individuals to death and tortured people to death while in detention.

This has been carried out through bombings, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, he said.  Entire villages have also been attacked using airstrikes, sieges and mass arson and civilians have been forced to serve as porters and human shields.

Children not spared

As of July, the junta had killed at least 75 children ranging in age from 14 months to 17 years, the rights expert said.

These children were hit by junta driven vehicles, shot by junta forces or killed by junta artillery shells. He told the council he had received credible reports of children being tortured, including two boys who were starved and then had their legs burnt with iron rods.

Civil and political rights in Myanmar have also been systematically destroyed by the junta, Andrews said.  Freedoms of expression, of association, the right to privacy, access to justice, and a free press have also been dismantled.

New tactics of the junta

The junta is increasingly relying on the use of collective punishment, including the abduction of family members of those who have been issued arrest warrants, but who police and military forces are unable to locate, said Andrews.

He said he had received credible reports that at least 177 individuals were arbitrarily detained when the initial target of a raid had successfully eluded arrest. These victims include very young children as young as 20-weeks old, he said. 

Governments urged to support people’s boycotts

The expert urged governments to support the people of Myanmar’s own boycotts against the junta, by imposing stronger coordinated economic pressure and an arms embargo.

Also Read - US declares $180m assistance for Rohingyas; total reaches $1.5b

 “People throughout Myanmar from all walks of life are engaging in what can accurately be described as ‘citizen sanctions’ - boycotts of products produced by military-owned companies as well as the payment of energy bills and taxes,” he said.

 “By some accounts, the public’s widespread refusal to pay utility bills and some taxes has cost the junta an estimated $1 billion in revenue.”

Andrews highlighted the civilian-led “People’s Defense Forces” (PDFs), which have formed in parts of the country, noting that the opposition National Unity Government has declared a “defensive war” against the junta and its forces.

Relying primarily on homemade, improvised weapons, Andrews said the armed groups were engaging in protection and ambush operations, while up against one of the largest militaries in the world that has responded with “indiscriminate attacks on entire villages and towns”.

The independent expert, who was appointed by the Human Rights Council, called for greater humanitarian aid for the more than three million Myanmar people who have been left in desperate need by the takeover.

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