Myanmar anti-regime protesters call for UN and US intervention against the regime in front of the US Embassy in Yangon in February 2021. / The Irrawaddy
The UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar has warned the world that the people of Myanmar are deeply disappointed by the response of the international community to their country’s crisis sparked by the military coup last year.
Thomas Andrews said at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Wednesday that conditions in military-ruled Myanmar have “gone from bad to worse to horrific for untold numbers of innocent people” since the military staged a coup last year.
“With each report I have warned that unless UN member states change course in the way they collectively respond to this crisis, the people of Myanmar will suffer even further,” he said.
Myanmar has been socially and politically devastated by the military takeover. The regime has faced popular armed resistance across Myanmar since last year and is struggling to control the country. In response, it has resorted to artillery and air strikes to crush the resistance.
As a result, Andrews said, 1.3 million people have been displaced; 28,000 homes destroyed; villages burned to the ground; and children killed. At the same time, there are 130,000 Rohingya in de facto internment camps while others suffer deprivation and discrimination rooted in their lack of citizenship.
Despite the scale of its atrocities, the junta has gone unpunished by the international community, including the UN. The US and other Western democracies have imposed some targeted sanctions on the regime leadership but they have been largely ineffective as some countries, including regional neighbors, continue to engage with the junta.
At the same time, due to resistance from the regime’s allies Russia and China, the UN Security Council has yet to pass any resolutions against the regime, failing to deter the junta from committing atrocities against its own people, including the killing of more than 2,000 people so far for anti-regime activism. This has left many people in Myanmar critical of the international community for its lack of willingness to help them end the military dictatorship by providing practical action, rather than simply moral support.
Andrews highlighted this point at the meeting, saying the people of Myanmar are deeply disappointed by the response of the international community to the crisis, which has been limited to expressions of support, without any practical action to back them up.
“They are frustrated and angered by member states that are working to prop up this illegal and brutal military junta with funding, trade, weapons, and a veneer of legitimacy,” he said.
“Many in Myanmar have come to the conclusion that the world has forgotten them, or doesn’t care,” he added.
Andrews suggested UN members rethink existing policies that aren’t working, while setting a new course of action to stand with and for those who are “fighting for their lives, their children, their future”.
His appeal came as the UN General Assembly is in progress in New York.
In his remarks to the assembly on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden barely mentioned Myanmar. He referred to the country briefly near the end of his 29-minute speech, pointing out that pro-democracy activists and ethnic minorities in Myanmar were being horribly abused by the military regime.
A few days prior to Biden’s speech, the regime launched air strikes and a ground assault against a school in Myanmar, killing 11 schoolchildren, some as young as 7.
The UN secretary general said he strongly condemned the attacks.
On Wednesday, US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet tweeted that he met with international partners on the sidelines of the UNGA to discuss the worsening crisis in Myanmar, the need to end the violence, and “our efforts to support the people of Burma in their aspirations for peace and democracy.”
On the same day, he met with representatives of Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG) and its parliamentary body.