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Myanmar Junta Violations May Amount to Crimes Against Humanity

FILE - This handout photo from Pauk Township News taken and released June 16, 2021, shows the remains of houses allegedly set on fire by Myanmar junta forces, in Kin Ma village, Pauk township, in Myanmar's Magway region.

A U.N. investigator on Myanmar has accused the country’s military junta of systematic attacks against the people of Myanmar that may amount to crimes against humanity. The report by the special rapporteur was submitted Wednesday to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

In a blistering attack against Myanmar’s coup leaders, special investigator Thomas Andrews presented documented evidence of mass atrocity crimes against the people of Myanmar. He said more than 1,100 people have been killed, at least 8,000 arbitrarily arrested and more than 230,000 forcibly displaced. This, since the military junta seized control of the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi February 1.

Andrews described in wrenching detail the killings of protesters in the streets, the beatings and torture of people in detention, of entire villages being attacked by bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. He said no one is spared, not even the children. He noted at least 75 children aged 14 months to 17 years have been killed by junta forces as of July.

"I have also received credible reports of children being tortured, including two boys who were starved and then had their legs burnt with iron rods. "Now the junta is increasingly relying on another depraved tactic, the use of collective punishment, including the abduction of family members of those who have been issued arrest warrants, but who police and military forces are unable to locate," he said.

Andrews said the people are not taking the generals’ abuse lying down. He said members of the deposed civilian government and ethnic leaders have formed a National Unity Government as a legitimate opposition to the junta. He said civilian-led People’s Defense Forces are providing security for villages. But he noted Myanmar would not gain its freedom without vigorous support and action by the international community.

"In my view, the well-intentioned efforts of those who have sought to end this violence through engagement and dialogue will not succeed as long as the military junta lacks the will to end its brutality, and this can only come with leverage. "The fact is, current efforts by the international community to stop the downward spiral of events in Myanmar are simply not working," Andrews said.

The U.N. investigator called for coordinated international action and targeted economic sanctions against the junta. For example, he said, sanctions on the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise could stop the junta from continuing to steal the country’s natural resource wealth. He said a comprehensive embargo on weapons and dual use technology could save lives.