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Urgent action needed to save lives amid intensifying conflict in Myanmar, says UN expert

06 December 2023

GENEVA (6 November 2023) – A UN expert today urged UN Member States to save lives endangered by an intensifying military conflict in Myanmar by taking immediate measures to stop the flow of weapons that the military junta is using to commit probable war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Even though world attention is drawn to multiple conflicts and crises, immediate international action can have a significant impact on the rapidly evolving situation in Myanmar,” he said. “Unlike other conflicts where there are calls for more and more weapons, UN Member States can make a critical difference in Myanmar by stopping the flow of weapons to a military junta that is responding to growing losses of territory and troops with indiscriminate attacks on villages”, said Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

“There is no time to waste. In just the past few weeks more than a quarter of a million have been displaced throughout Myanmar,” he said. “These developments should lay to rest any notion that the military can act as a stabilising or unifying force. The opposite is true. The junta is an agent of chaos and violence. Its relentless attacks and rampant human rights violations are unifying the country in opposition,” the Special Rapporteur said.

In late October, a military alliance in northern Shan State launched an offensive that has driven junta forces from scores of camps and wrested control of key border crossings on the border with China. In the following weeks, opposition forces in other parts of the country have also gone on the offensive, notching up military victories and taking key junta positions. The Myanmar military’s control over the country—already tenuous before the launch of the offensive—appears to be seriously diminished, Andrews said.

“The junta has responded to military losses in the same way it always has: by attacking civilians and obstructing humanitarian relief,” Andrews said.

The Special Rapporteur called on all parties to the conflict to comply with international humanitarian law, including by avoiding attacks on civilians and ensuring that prisoners of war are treated humanely and provided with medical care.

Andrews said measures must be taken now to help ground junta jets and helicopter gunships that are attacking villages, schools, hospitals, and IDP camps. A key step is cutting off the junta’s access to jet fuel. The international community must also take all available measures to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to displaced and vulnerable populations, the UN expert said.

“The writing is on the wall for the illegal military junta of Myanmar. Governments, donors, and UN agencies must look to the future and proactively engage the National Unity Government, ethnic resistance organisations, and Myanmar civil society,” Andrews said. “Now, more than ever, the international community should be working with them to help lay the foundation for a democratic and rights-respecting country.”

Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.
The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

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