UN Human Rights HC Volker Türk Delivered an Oral Update on Myanmar to the 56th Human Rights Council

June 20th, 2024  •  Author:   Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  •  4 minute read
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“As we convene here in the Council, yet again discussing Myanmar, we are bearing witness to a country being suffocated by an illegitimate military regime. Myanmar is in agonizing pain. And the disintegration of human rights continues at breakneck speed. This is a crisis emblematic of a decades-long legacy of military domination, the stifling of dissent, and division,” Türk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“And right now, these very same dynamics are playing out in terrifying form with the Rohingya and Rakhine communities.We are hearing stories of horrific war tactics, such as beheadings. Midnight drone attacks. The burning of homes as people sleep. People being shot at as they flee for their lives,” he said.

“The military has lost control over a considerable amount of territory. So it is resorting to increasingly extreme measures. Forced conscription. Indiscriminate bombardment of towns and villages. Brutal atrocity crimes,” the High Commissioner said.

“The Myanmar military continues to gain access to foreign currency and weapons it needs to sustain its campaign of terror, while international financial support for the people of Myanmar is meagre at best,” Turk said.

On a recent visit to Southeast Asia, the High Commissioner met with Myanmar civil society to discuss the spiralling regional impacts and the urgent need for leadership and influence to halt the catastrophe in Myanmar.

In Malaysia, he met with representatives of almost all ethnic communities from Myanmar, noting that a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to meet with Rohingya and other ethnic communities around one table.

“I also witnessed a profound sense of hope. In my discussions with Myanmar civil society, human rights defenders and refugee communities, it was clear to see there is a new generation of young people from all ethnic communities leading the struggle to create an inclusive vision for the future of Myanmar,” he said.

“We are witnessing a people’s revolution against decades of oppression and violence,” Türk said.

In some areas outside the military’s control, new local governance structures have emerged, supported by ethnic armed groups and activists alike. They are providing food, shelter, education and healthcare for hundreds of thousands who are otherwise receiving little to no humanitarian support. And they are delivering critically needed protection services in the complete absence of a functioning public system.

Armed conflicts continue to rage brutally across the country, taking an increasingly grim toll on the lives of civilians, Türk said. The UN Human Rights Office is investigating several reported attacks against civilians in Rakhine State and Sagaing over recent days with large numbers of civilians allegedly killed — in airstrikes, naval artillery barrages and shootings.

In a cynical move, the military has pressured and threatened young Rohingya men to join their ranks. Some reports have indicated thousands of Rohingya youth have been conscripted into the very same forces that displaced hundreds of thousands of their community in 2016 and 2017.

In response, the Arakan Army has exhorted Rohingya to fight with them against the military. They have targeted their communities by forcibly displacing residents. On multiple occasions, they have detained or killed men of fighting age who they suspected of taking up arms against them.

“These tactics have brought back the shocking images and memories from 2017 of systematic terrorisation, persecution and forced displacement of populations,” the High Commissioner said.

And tens of thousands of civilians from these communities have been forced to flee, among them entire Rohingya communities with no guarantees of finding safe haven.   Over one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are still living in limbo in dire conditions, with no prospect for durable solutions.

“The violence must end. The attacks against civilians must end. The forced conscription must end. And the denial of humanitarian aid must end,” Türk said.

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