UN warns of ‘mass deaths’ in Myanmar after 100,000 refugees flee | ASEAN News

A UN rights expert has warned of “mass deaths due to hunger, disease and exposure” in eastern Myanmar after “brutal, indiscriminate attacks” by the army forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in in the State of Kayah.

In a statement Wednesday, Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, called for urgent international action, saying the army’s attacks – which took power after a February coup – “threatened the lives of many thousands of men, women and children ”» In Kayah or Karenni State.

“Let me disassemble it,” Andrews said. “Mass deaths from starvation, disease and exposure, on a scale we have not seen since the February 1 coup, could have occurred in Kayah State without immediate action.”

The damage 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 the forests, host communities and southern parts of neighboring Shan State.

Those fleeing and those in areas affected by the bombing and artillery fire needed food, water, shelter, fuel and access to health care, the UN office said in a statement.

“This crisis could push people across international borders seeking security,” he warned, calling on all parties to “take the necessary measures and precautions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.”

This picture taken on June 1, 2021 shows people taking refuge in a jungle area in Demoso, Kayah state, after fleeing fighting between the Myanmar army and members of the People’s Defense Forces (PDF ) [Stringer/ AFP]
This picture taken on June 3, 2021 shows people taking refuge in a jungle area in Demoso, Kayah state [Stringer/ AFP]

Myanmar has been in chaos since the military recovery, with daily protests across the country and fighting in border areas between military groups and armed ethnic minorities. Human rights groups say security forces have killed at least 849 people since the coup and arrested 5,800 others.

People living in Kayah told Al Jazeera that the army has launched indiscriminate airstrikes and bombings in civilian areas after the clash broke out on May 21 between security forces and a civil resistance group called the Karenni People’s Defense Force (KPDF).

There were several deaths, including that of a 14-year-old boy who was killed in Loikaw commune and a young man who was killed in the head with his hands tied behind his back. The army repeatedly attacked churches in the predominantly Christian area, killing in one case four people who were among 300 villagers who were taking refuge in a Catholic church in Loikaw.

‘Painfully slow progress’ on the ASEAN plan

Security forces have also attacked and threatened humanitarian workers, while Andrews said he had received reports that soldiers “stopped helping to reach these desperate people” by installing military blocks and laying landmines on the roads. public.

“Any pressure or leverage from UN member states can put on the junta must now be exerted so that junta leader Min Aung Hlaing immediately does: (1): open access roads and allow the rescue aid to reach those in need, and (2) stop terrorizing the population by ceasing aerial bombardment, bombing and shooting at civilians ”.

Andrews said the army’s attacks on civilians in Kayah have been “the latest in a series across Myanmar causing massive displacement and humanitarian suffering, including in Mutraw in Karen State, Mindat in Chin State, and in Bago City, among other areas. ”

“Now more than ever, the international community must cut off access to the resources on which the junta relies to continue these brutal attacks against the people of Myanmar,” he added.

Myanmar’s army has so far ignored international criticism of its violent crackdown and has shown few signs of attention to a “Five-Point Consensus” agreement 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 appointment of a regional special envoy.

On Monday, ASEAN foreign ministers met with a Myanmar military envoy in Chongqing, China and expressed concern over the army’s “painfully slow” progress in implementing the consensus. Wunna Maung Lwin, the army’s foreign minister, told the meeting: “The only way to ensure a democratic system that is disciplined and genuine” was through a five-point military program announced after the February stroke.

That plan bears little resemblance to the ASEAN consensus, and includes the creation of a new electoral commission – the military has said without proof that the November 2020 elections were fraudulent – measures against the COVID-19 pandemic and even efforts for economic recovery.

Meanwhile, China has supported the ASEAN plan.

In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Minister said that Wang met with Wunna Maung Lwin and called for the implementation of the “Five-Point Consensus” and the end of “all kinds of violence” in Myanmar.

“We encourage all parties in Myanmar to engage in a political dialogue within the constitutional and legal framework and share the process of democratic transformation,” Wang said in the statement.

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