World UN alarmed by abuse of civilians in growing Myanmar conflict
UN says 100,000 flee fighting in Myanmar border state after 'indiscriminate attacks' from security forces
The United Nations said on Tuesday an estimated 100,000 people in Myanmar's Kayah state had been displaced by fighting that included "indiscriminate attacks by security forces" in civilian areas.Myanmar has been in turmoil since a military coup on February 1, with daily protests in towns and cities and fighting in borderlands between the military and ethnic minority militias, some of which have only existed for a few weeks.
BANGKOK (AP) — The United Nations’ office in Myanmar expressed concern Thursday about escalating human rights abuses after reports that a group opposed to the junta may have executed 25 civilians it captured and allegations that troops had burned down a village.
The struggle between the military regime that took power in February after ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and those opposing it has sharpened in recent months.
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Since the military seized power on February 1, more than 5,900 people have been detained by the junta's security forces, and a majority remain in detention, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Of those, at least 87 are journalists, with 51 still in detention, Reporting ASEAN documented. Life in Gen. Min Aung Hlaing's post-coup Myanmar has become near impossible for media workers, with many forced into exile abroad or fleeing to rebel-controlled areas in the jungles as they expose the junta's crimes. Those who remain in the cities have gone into hiding and swap safe houses every few days to avoid arrest.
Elements of what had initially been a nonviolent civil disobedience movement have evolved into a fledgling armed resistance force in response to harsh repression from police and soldiers who killed hundreds of peaceful protesters and bystanders.
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American citizen Nathan Maung, who has been detained in Myanmar since March 9, was released and deported to the United States on Tuesday after charges against him were dropped, his lawyer said. © Handout Journalist Nathan Maung, left, with his colleague Hanthar Nyein. Nathan Maung is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Myanmar online news site Kamayut Media and had spent more than two months incarcerated in the country's notorious Insein Prison, north of Yangon. He was arrested alongside co-founder and producer Hanthar Nyein, a Myanmar national, as security forces raided their offices in early March.
The statement by the U.N. office cited abuses by both sides, calling on “all actors in the current crisis to ensure that international human rights norms and standards are respected.”
“This includes upholding the obligation to minimize collateral harm to civilians and to civilian infrastructure, and prohibiting the application of collective punishments against communities, families or individuals,” the U.N. office said.
The statement noted the discovery of two mass graves in the eastern state of Kayin, also called Karen, containing the human remains of 25 people “who had reportedly been detained on 31 May by the Karen National Defense Organization,” or KNDO.
The KNDO is one of the fighting forces of the Karen National Union, the political organization of the Karen ethnic minority that has been fighting for decades for more autonomy from the central government.
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Su and her husband are among the 1.7 million Myanmar nationals working in neighboring Thailand, according to the Migrant Workers Group, and part of a vital network of overseas workers who support relatives at home. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates some $1.4 billion was sent to Myanmar in 2015 from overseas workers. © Bex Wright/CNN Ma Oo, migrant rights advocate in Bangkok, Thailand in May 2021 The current situation has left thousands of migrants living with constant worry not just for the financial well being of their loved ones, but for their safety.
The junta said Sunday that the 25 bodies were those of road construction workers who were detained and killed by the KNDO.
In response, KNDO spokesman Wah Nay Nu was quoted by The Irrawaddy, an independent online news service, as saying the men were not civilians but government military personnel who were spying. Some were shot dead by KNDO forces but others were killed by shelling from government forces, he said.
On Wednesday, however, the Karen National Union said it would investigate and stated that it “follows the Geneva Convention which does not condone the killing of civilians during armed conflict.” The statement added that any wrongdoing could be prosecuted, without providing specifics.
Photos Show Smoldering Ruins of Myanmar Town, Burned to Ground by Government Troops
"We think it isn't over. We will shift to other villages. Even if we go back to our village, there is no place to stay because everything is burnt," a villager told the Associated Press.The unnamed resident of the now-destroyed Kinma village in central Myanmar said he believed military forces came to search for members of a village defense force in opposition of the country's ruling military junta. The local defense force told residents of the troops' arrival beforehand and after homes were searched, the troops destroyed the village.
The U.N. statement called for "those responsible for human rights violations to be held accountable, including the perpetrators and their chain of command.”
Also in dispute was the burning of Kinma village in the Magway region in Myanmar's heartland on Tuesday.
A resident of the village confirmed toaccounts in independent media that government troops were responsible for burning down most of the village’s roughly 250 houses, and that an elderly couple unable or unwilling to flee with the rest of the villagers were believed to have died. The villager spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals by the government.
Government-controlled media, however, reported that “terrorists” had burned the home of someone unsympathetic to their cause, and wind spread the fire to other homes.
The government and its opponents each refer to the other side as “terrorists.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is deeply concerned and disturbed” by the reports of government forces burning down villages in Kinma, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
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“We cannot live in a world where military coups become a norm,” the UN Secretary-General said.The condemnation comes as UN officials express concern that the nation is on the brink of civil war and as humanitarian conditions worsen for civilians. While significant, though, the vote itself revealed complicated geopolitics that may stymie a more forceful international response to the situation.
This "reminds us of the systematic burning of villages in North Rakhine state, which we saw in the past and which led to the dramatic exodus of the Rohingya people,” Dujarric said.
“The Secretary-General continues to strongly condemn the continued repression by the security forces against civilians across the country, which again is having major regional ramifications and requires a unified international response,” Dujarric said.
Noting the discovery of the two mass graves, Dujarric said the United Nations calls on all parties to ensure that international human rights standards are respected including minimizing harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure and prohibiting collective punishment against communities, families or individuals.
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