UN sees Syria echoes in Myanmar conflict

The United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday it fears the military clampdown on protests in Myanmar risks escalating a civil conflict into that seen in Syria and appealed for a halt to the “slaughter”.

UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement 3,080 had been detained and there are reports that 23 people have been sentenced to death following secret trials.

“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 said.

The statement came as pro-democracy activists in Myanmar called for a week of anti-coup protests during the traditional New Year holidays, as the death toll from the military’s crackdown on protesters surged past 700 and security forces raided a hospital in the Sagaing region.

The five-day New Year holidays, known as Thingyan, began on Tuesday and activists urged people to stage symbolic protests through the week, including by painting the three-finger salute used by demonstrators on traditional pots filled with flowers, which are typically displayed during the festive period.

“The military council doesn’t own Thingyan,” Ei Thinzar Maung, a leader of the General Strike Collaboration Committee protest group, wrote on Facebook. “The power of people is in the hands of people.”

Ei Thinzar Maung said other planned holiday protests against the military government included the splattering of red paint on pavements and the blasting of car horns.

Thingyan is the country’s most important holiday and is usually celebrated with prayers, ritual cleaning of Buddha images in temples, and high-spirited water fights on the streets.But many social media users in Myanmar said they would not celebrate this year.


One Twitter user identified as Shwe Ei said, “We do not celebrate Myanmar Thingyan this year since over 700 of our innocent brave souls are killed by inhumane junta forces unlawfully. We believe we will win this revolution.”

In the central town of Taungoo, protesters placed Thingyan pots bearing flowers and anti-coup messages on the roads early on Tuesday, the Irrawaddy website reported.

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