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UN Official Says Myanmar at Risk of Civil War as Despair Rises


FILE - Anti-coup protesters shout slogans as they march during a protest in Pabedan township against the military junta, in Yangon, Myanmar, June 26, 2021.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet warns Myanmar could plunge into war as despair among the civilian population rises in the wake of the military coup in February. Bachelet's report is being discussed as part of a special interactive dialogue on Myanmar at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

More than five months have passed since Myanmar’s military leaders derailed the country’s fragile democracy. Bachelet says what began as a coup by the Myanmar military has rapidly morphed into an attack against the civilian population.

She says nearly 900 people have been killed and some 200,000 forced to flee from increasingly violent military raids on neighborhoods and villages. She warns the widespread and systematic assaults against civilians risk sparking a broader civil war. She says despair is rising.

FILE - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet looks on after delivering a speech on global human rights developments during a session of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, June 21, 2021.
FILE - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet looks on after delivering a speech on global human rights developments during a session of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, June 21, 2021.

“Some people, in many parts of Myanmar, have taken up arms and formed self-protection groups. These newly formed armed opposition groups have launched attacks in several locations, to which the security forces have responded with disproportionate force. I am concerned that escalation in violence could have horrific consequences for civilians,” she said.

Bachelet noted the coup has exacerbated several long-running conflicts in Myanmar’s borderlands. She said fighting has resumed in Kachin, Kayin and northern Shan States. She added Chin and Kayah States, which have been largely peaceful in recent years, have taken up arms again.

The High Commissioner warned Myanmar’s political crisis has evolved into a multi-dimensional human rights catastrophe. This, she said, is causing inestimable suffering for the population and is devastating prospects for sustainable development.

Bachelet is calling on the international community to pressure the military to stop attacking its people and to return the country to democracy. She noted 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as ASEAN, drew up a possible road map for addressing the crisis in Myanmar when they met in late April.

“ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus is an important starting point for the way forward, but I urge swift action to advance this process before the human rights situation in the country deteriorates further. This should be reinforced by Security Council action. I urge all states to act immediately to give effect to the General Assembly’s call to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar,” Bachelet said.

Myanmar is not participating in this debate because the United Nations Credentials Committee has not yet decided who is the legitimate government and should hold the U.N. seat. The choice is between the deposed democratically elected government or Myanmar’s ruling military junta, which seized power in a February 1 coup d’etat.

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