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Streets of blood in Myanmar town as UN fears 'crimes against humanity'

   March 12, 2021 12:26 AM
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by Helen Regan, CNN

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(CNN)Bloodshed continues in Myanmar after another violent day Thursday saw at least 12 people killed by the ruling junta, according to a watchdog group, prompting a top UN official to say the crackdown on peaceful protests is "likely meeting the legal threshold for crimes against humanity."

In the small, central town of Myaing, police shot into a crowd of unarmed people, killing at least eight, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Images posted on social media showed the town's roads streaked with blood and bodies laying crumpled and lifeless in the street. In one unverified graphic image, a body can be seen with the head blown apart and brain remnants spilled onto the road. The shootings in tiny Myaing are further evidence the military junta, which seized power in a coup on February 1, is attempting to crush peaceful opposition to its enforced rule in every corner of Myanmar, not just the big towns and cities. In the biggest city, Yangon, Thursday, protester Chit Min Thu was killed in North Dagon area, according to Reuters. His wife, Aye Myat Thu, told the news agency he had insisted on joining the protests despite her appeals for him to stay home for the sake of their son. "He said it's worth dying for," she said. "He is worried about people not joining the protest. If so, democracy will not return to the country."

At least 80 people have been killed since the military invalidated the results of the country's democratic election, the United Nations human rights office said, and hundreds more injured. At least four of the deaths in recent days were individuals arrested and detained by the junta, including two officials with the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) party. All four died in custody, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. More than 2,000 people have been arbitrarily detained since the coup, according to AAPP, many of them kept out of contact from family and friends, their condition or whereabouts unknown. CNN cannot independently verify the arrest numbers or death toll from AAPP. Myanmar's state run daily newspaper published a notice on Wednesday reinforcing the military's narrative that it is using minimum force against protesters. On Thursday, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that a "growing body of reporting" indicates the junta's security forces are committing "acts of murder, imprisonment, persecution and other crimes as part of a coordinated campaign, directed against a civilian population, in a widespread and systematic manner, with the knowledge of the junta's leadership." The "brutal response," he said, is "thereby likely meeting the legal threshold for crimes against humanity." He called on UN member states to stop the flow of revenue and weapons to the junta, saying multilateral sanctions "should be imposed" on senior leaders, military-owned and controlled enterprises and the state energy firm, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. His statement came after rights group Amnesty International released a report saying the military were embarking on a "killing spree" in Myanmar, using increasingly lethal tactics and weapons normally seen on the battlefield against peaceful protesters and bystanders.

By verifying more than 50 videos from the ongoing crackdown, Amnesty's Crisis Evidence Lab confirmed security forces appear to be implementing planned, systematic strategies, including the ramped-up use of lethal force, indiscriminate spraying of live ammunition in urban areas, and that many of the killings documented amount to extrajudicial executions. "These Myanmar military tactics are far from new, but their killing sprees have never before been livestreamed for the world to see," said Joanne Mariner, director of crisis response at Amnesty International. "These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions. These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open.

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