GENEVA – Human rights officials are expressing alarm at the soaring death toll in Myanmar as the military junta’s security forces intensify their brutal crackdown on protesters.
The past week has been particularly deadly. The U.N. human rights office says 11 people were killed on Monday and 57 over the weekend by security forces that used live ammunition against peaceful protesters.
Since February 1, when Myanmar’s military toppled the democratically elected government of Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the U.N. agency confirms at least 149 people have been killed, though it says it believes the number of deaths to be much higher.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says her agency continues to receive distressing reports of people being arbitrarily arrested, forcibly disappeared and brutally beaten and tortured while in detention. By last count, she says more than 2,084 people remain arbitrarily detained.
“At least 37 journalists have been arrested, of whom 19 remain in arbitrary detention,” she said. “At least five deaths in custody have occurred in recent weeks, and at least two victims’ bodies have shown signs of severe physical abuse indicating that they were tortured.”
A day after Sunday’s deadly crackdown on protesters, Myanmar’s military authorities declared martial law in a number of townships in and around Yangon and Mandalay.
That means military law now will apply to civilians, subjecting offenders to military tribunals that give them no right of appeal.
Many countries and human rights activists have been calling for economic sanctions and an arms embargo on Myanmar’s military coup leaders.
Shamdasani dismisses Myanmar’s claims that under international law, countries have no right to interfere in its internal affairs. She says that is an argument often raised by countries where serious human rights situations are occurring.
“Where the state fails to protect the human rights or where the state is carrying out human rights violations against its own people, it is the duty of the international community to do something about it, to take measures to bring the violence to an end, to take measures to ensure accountability. You cannot argue non-interference when you are shooting your own people,” she said.
Human rights officials are calling on the military to stop killing and detaining protesters. U.N. rights chief Michele Bachelet is appealing to all those with influence to take measures to bring an end to the state violence against the Myanmar people.
Source: Voice of America