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Sunday July 25th, 2021

UN condemns use of force by Myanmar on democracy activists

Buddhist monks display placards during a protest march against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar

ECONOMYNEXT – The United Nations and world leaders have strongly criticised the Military junta ruling Myanmar for using “lethal force” to quell demonstrations against the coup that ousted the democratically elected government a month ago.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres “strongly condemned” the violent weekend crackdown, said a statement issued by his Spokesperson. “He is deeply disturbed by the increase in deaths and serious injuries. The use of lethal force against peaceful protestors and arbitrary arrests are unacceptable.”

At least 18 people are believed dead and around 30 wounded as soldiers and police fired live rounds at unarmed protestors in the capital Yangon and several other cities.

The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the military used live rounds and “less than lethal force” against the demonstrations citing “credible sources.”

Guterres urged the international community “to come together and send a clear signal to the military that it must respect the will of the people of Myanmar as expressed through the election and stop the repression.”

The military has claimed, without evidence, that the ruling party of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi – the National League for Democracy (NLD) – fraudulently won parliamentary elections. Arrested on 1 February, she and other leaders have remained in detention and according to news reports she is due in court today, CNN reported.

On Friday, the Myanmar Ambassador to the UN denounced the coup in a General Assembly meeting in New York, calling on the international community to take the “strongest possible measures” against the military junta to restore civilian rule. The top diplomat was reportedly fired from his post on Saturday.

“The people of Myanmar have the right to assemble peacefully and demand the restoration of democracy”, said OHCHR spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani, in a statement issued on Sunday.

“These fundamental rights must be respected by the military and police, not met with violent and bloody repression.”

According to OHCHR, police and military confronted peaceful demonstrators using disproportionate force with deaths reported in the largest city Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myiek, Bago and Pokokku. “Tear gas was also reportedly used in various locations as well as flash-bang and stun grenades”, said Shamdasani.

“Use of lethal force against non-violent demonstrators is never justifiable under international human rights norms”, she said. “Since the beginning of the coup d’état…the police and security forces have targeted an ever-increasing number of opposition voices and demonstrators by arresting political officials, activists, civil society members, journalists and medical professionals.

“Today alone, police have detained at least 85 medical professionals and students, as well as seven journalists, who were present at the demonstrations. Over 1,000 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the last month – some of whom remain unaccounted for – mostly without any form of due process, simply for exercising their human rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly.”

The Spokesperson reiterated OHCHR’s call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained by the military authorities, “including members of the democratically elected government.
“The international community must stand in solidarity with the protestors and all those seeking a return to democracy in Myanmar” Shamdasani concluded. (Colombo, March 1, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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