Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews says the people of Myanmar are increasingly frustrated with an international community they feel has failed them.
Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, has said conditions for Myanmar’s 54 million people have gone from “bad to worse to terrible” since the military took power last year.
Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Andrews said the international response to the crisis caused by the February 2021 coup had “failed” and that Myanmar’s military was also committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual violence, torture, deliberate targeting of civilians and murder.
Andrews addressed the council on Wednesday, a day after it emerged that at least 11 children had been killed in a helicopter attack on a school in north central Sagaing, where the armed forces claimed anti-coup fighters were hiding.
Myanmar was thrown into crisis when senior general Min Aung Hlaing arrested re-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power on the day the new parliament was due to sit.
People took to the streets in mass protests, starting a nationwide movement of civil disobedience, to which the military responded with force, leading to some civilians to take up arms. More than 2,300 people have been killed since the coup and thousands arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a civil society group monitoring the situation.
Andrews told the Human Rights Council that 295 children were among those detained, while at least 84 political prisoners were on death row.
The military caused outrage in July when it hanged four pro-democracy activistsincluding a prominent former member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, marking the first use of the death penalty since the late 1980s.
Earlier this week, the head of the UN team investigating human rights abuses in Myanmar also addressed the Human Rights Council, telling member states that the scale and scope of alleged international crimes taking place in Myanmar had “expanded dramatically”.
Nicholas Koumjian of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) told the council that post-coup incidents were now also a “main focus” of its investigations.
Senior generals and those with links to the military have been hit by Western sanctions, as well as some of the military’s own companies, while some international companies have pulled out of the country.
In response, the generals have deepened relations with Russiawhich has also been isolated over its invasion of Ukraine.
Given the situation, Andrews said the international community needed to take “stronger, more effective action to deprive the junta and its forces of revenue, weapons and legitimacy”.
That Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)which admitted Myanmar as a member in 1997, has spearheaded diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, but the generals have ignored the five-point consensus agreed in April 2021.
As a result, ASEAN has barred military appointees from its annual summit, but earlier this week Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the group needed to consider whether more should be done and whether the consensus should be “replaced with something better”.
Saifuddin has also argued for ASEAN to engage with the National Unity Government (NUG), which was established by the ousted elected officials, drawing an angry rebuke from Myanmar’s military.