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UN Rights Chief Calls for Restoration of Civilian Rule in Myanmar

FILE - Myanmar refugees, who fled a surge in violence as the military cracks down on rebel groups, walk with food aid on the Thai border in Thailand's Mae Sot district, Jan. 15, 2022.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is calling for greater international pressure on Myanmar's military to stop its relentless campaign of violence against the people and return the country to civilian rule.

It is nearly one year since the military overthrew the country's democratically elected government and seized power. Since then, the coup leaders have systematically violated their people's human rights with impunity, Bachelet said, adding that this has been met with universal condemnation, but little action.

Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, said the high commissioner recently met with human rights defenders who gave chilling accounts of journalists being tortured, of factory workers being intimidated, and of intensified persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya.

FILE - Rohingya refugees from Myanmar bathe at a makeshift camp in Lhokseumawe, Indonesia's Aceh province, Jan. 13, 2022.
FILE - Rohingya refugees from Myanmar bathe at a makeshift camp in Lhokseumawe, Indonesia's Aceh province, Jan. 13, 2022.

"The brutal effort by security forces to crush dissent has led to the killing of at least 1,500 people by the military since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup," Colville said. "But that figure does not include thousands more deaths from armed conflict and violence, which have intensified nationwide."

He said the U.N. human rights office has documented gross human rights violations daily, the vast majority committed by security forces. More than 11,700 peaceful protesters have been arbitrarily detained and at least 290 have died in detention, many, he noted, likely due to torture.

Colville said there is almost universal rejection of the military and the coup among the civilian population, and the military has not been able to consolidate its power.

"For the first time, the country's many ethnic groups have come together in solidarity and begun to articulate a very different and more inclusive and more democratic vision of the future of the country," he said. "And that is incredibly important because in the past, there has tended to be distinct divisions between different groups."

Colville said the military leaders will find their brutal actions have spawned a whole generation of young people who will not go quietly back to accepting the status quo.

High Commissioner Bachelet said Myanmar's people have shown extraordinary courage and resilience in standing up for their basic human rights, but the international community now must show its resolve to support them through concrete actions to end the crisis.