A United Nations rights expert has warned of “mass deaths from starvation, disease and exposure” in eastern Myanmar after “brutal, indiscriminate attacks” by the military forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in Kayah State.
In a statement on Wednesday, Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, called for urgent international action, saying attacks by the military – which took power after a February coup – were “threatening the lives of many thousands of men, women and children” in Kayah or Karenni state.
The plea came hours after the UN office in Myanmar said the violence in Kayah had displaced an estimated 100,000 people, who were now seeking safety in forests, host communities and southern parts of neighbouring Shan state.
Those fleeing and those in locations affected by the bombing and artillery fire were in dire need of food, water, shelter, fuel and access to healthcare, the UN office said in a statement.Myanmar has been in chaos since the military takeover, with daily protests across the country and fighting in border areas between the military and armed ethnic minority groups. Human rights groups say security forces have killed at least 849 people since the coup and detained 5,800 others.
‘Painfully slow progress’ on ASEAN plan
Security forces have also attacked and threatened humanitarian workers, while Andrews said he had received reports that soldiers were “stopping aid from reaching these desperate people” by setting up military blockades and laying landmines on public roads.
Andrews said the military’s attacks against civilians in Kayah was the “latest in a series throughout Myanmar causing massive displacement and humanitarian suffering, including in Mutraw in Karen State, Mindat in Chin State, and Bago City, among other areas”.
“Now more than ever, the international community must cut off access to the resources the junta relies on to continue these brutal attacks against the people of Myanmar,” he added.
Myanmar’s military has so far ignored international criticism of its violent crackdown and showed little sign of heeding a “Five-Point Consensus” agreed between Min Aung Hlaing and Southeast Asian leaders in April. The agreement – reached at a special summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – called for an end to violence, political talks and the naming of a regional special envoy.