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Myanmar military likely behind ‘crimes against humanity’: UN expert

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Myanmar’s military is likely committing “crimes against humanity”, the UN’s top expert on rights in the Asian country said Thursday, adding that at least 70 people had reportedly been “murdered” since the February 1 coup.

Thomas Andrews told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that Myanmar was currently being “controlled by a murderous, illegal regime”.

“There is growing evidence that (the) Myanmar military, led by the same senior leadership, is now likely engaging in crimes against humanity, including acts of murder, enforced disappearance, persecution, torture.”

While stressing that such offences can only be determined in a court of law, he said there was clear evidence that the junta’s crimes were “widespread”, “systematic” and part of a “coordinated campaign”.

He also said they were being carried out with “the knowledge of senior leadership”, including junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur was presenting his latest report on the situation to the council, but lamented that since its publishing last week, the numbers of people killed and detained by the military had swelled significantly.

Diplomatic pressure has been building since the generals seized power, triggering daily protests around the country that they have struggled to quell.

The military has defended its takeover by citing voting irregularities in the November elections won by ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.

Since seizing control, “Myanmar security forces have murdered at least 70 people”, most of them under the age of 25, Andrews said, pointing to credible reports.

His comments came as nine protesters were shot dead in Myanmar on Thursday.

And as of Wednesday evening, the junta had arbitrarily arrested and detained more than 2,000 people, he said, while “the violence against protesters, including violence against people sitting peacefully in their homes, is steadily increasing”.

– International action needed –

Andrews said he had documented how the junta had “systematically destroyed legal protections, from freedom of expression, assembly and association, to the right to privacy”.

Already before the coup, the current leadership in Myanmar was facing charges for “atrocity crimes” and “genocide” before the International Criminal Court over its treatment of Rohingya Muslims.

“Since the coup, the Myanmar military has attacked and forcibly displaced several thousand members of ethnic nationalities from their homes”, he said.

Andrews said that in light of evidence that “the Myanmar junta is engaged in atrocity crimes against its own people right now”, urgent action was needed.

He said the Security Council’s statement Wednesday expressing deep concern about the situation was “wholly insufficient”.

“The people of Myanmar need not only words of support but supportive action,” he insisted.

“They need the help of the international community, now.”

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