UN Warns Myanmar Faces ‘Full-Blown Conflict’ like Syria

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Human Rights chief raises concerns over intensifying clashes between the military and ethnic groups.

UCA News reporter

The United Nations rights chief has warned the ongoing repression by Myanmar’s military against protesters could be heading into “full-blown conflict” similar to Syria’s.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged member states to take immediate, decisive and impactful measures to push Myanmar’s military leadership into halting its campaign of repression and slaughter of its people.

“Statements of condemnation and limited targeted sanctions are clearly not enough. States with influence need to urgently apply concerted pressure on the military in Myanmar to halt the commission of grave human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity,” she said in a statement on April 13.

The beleaguered Southeast Asian country has seen another weekend of coordinated bloodshed across the country, including a massacre of at least 82 people in Bago, near Yangon, on April 9.

Bachelet said the military seemed intent on intensifying its pitiless policy of violence against the people of Myanmar using military-grade and indiscriminate weaponry.

She said there are clear echoes of Syria in 2011 when peaceful protests were met with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate force. The state’s brutal, persistent repression of its own people led to some individuals taking up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence all across the country.

“I fear the situation in Myanmar is heading towards a full-blown conflict. States must not allow the deadly mistakes of the past in Syria and elsewhere to be repeated,” Bachelet stressed.

Over 700 people have been killed in the bloody crackdown by security forces since the military overthrew the civilian-led government on Feb. 1.

At least 3,080 people are in detention and 23 people have been sentenced to death, including four protesters and 19 others who were accused of political and criminal offenses, according to OHCHR.

Bachelet also raised concerns about clashes between the military and armed ethnic groups that have intensified in several locations in Kachin, Karen and Shan states, where the military has deployed airstrikes that have killed and displaced civilians.

The recent airstrikes in Karen state left at least 20 dead and more than 40 wounded, according to Free Burma Rangers, a Christian aid group. It said more than 24,000 civilians have been displaced in Karen state.

The military has continued its ground offensive in Papun, Nyaunglebin and Thaton townships in the eastern state that killed a 60-year-old man and wounded six others including an 11-year-old girl.

In most parts of the country, people have pledged to mark this year’s Thingyan New Year festival from April 13-17 with protests rather than the traditional sprinkling of water.

Pro-democracy activists have also called on the public not to take part in the water festival under the junta as it would be disrespectful to those who sacrificed their lives during anti-coup protests.

A series of campaigns have been launched during the holiday to show resistance to military rule, such as by painting pots with pro-democracy images, reciting prayers and silent strikes.

Pro-democracy protesters, mostly young people, continued to carry out protests in towns and villages on April 14.

Featured image: Protesters with Thingyan festival flowers during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon’s Hlaing township on April 13. (Facebook/AFP via UCA News)

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The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) is a ministry that provides news, features and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia. www.ucanews.com