The UN special rapporteur for Myanmar slammed the country’s military for the killing of at least 70 people since protests erupted against its power grab in February, citing growing evidence of crimes against humanity – including murder, persecution, and torture.
Talking about “a horrible truth”, human rights investigator Thomas Andrews told the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday that “the country of Myanmar is being controlled by a murderous, illegal regime”.
More than half of those killed were under age 25, Andrews said, adding more than 2,000 people have been unlawfully detained since the coup and violence is steadily increasing.
“There is extensive video evidence of security forces viciously beating protesters, medics, and bystanders. There is video of soldiers and police systematically moving through neighbourhoods, destroying property, looting shops, arbitrarily arresting protesters and passersby, and firing indiscriminately into people’s homes,” he said.
Andrews called for multilateral sanctions to be imposed on senior military leaders and on the country’s major sources of revenue, “including military-owned enterprises and Myanmar’s oil and gas enterprises”, he said.
“It should come as little surprise that there is growing evidence that this same Myanmar military, led by the same senior leadership, is now engaging in crimes against humanity.”
A few hours later, Myanmar rejected the accusations. “Authorities have exercised the utmost restraint to deal with the violent protests,” said in a video message Chan Aye, the permanent secretary of the ministry of foreign affairs.
His written statement – the video was cut short – also said Myanmar was undergoing “extremely complex challenges” and facing a “delicate situation”, and insisted the military leadership did not want to stall a budding democratic transition.
“In this respect, Myanmar would like to seek the understanding from the United Nations and international community on its efforts to maintain sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity, national unity and social stability throughout the country,” it said.
Myanmar has been in chaos since its military toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1. The power grab triggered huge protests nationwide.
The army has justified the coup by saying the election, won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, was marred by fraud – an assertion rejected by the electoral commission.