Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, has said that conditions for Myanmar’s 54 million people have gone from “bad to worse to horrific” since the military seized 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 the Myanmar military was also committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual violence, torture, deliberate campaign against of civilians, and murder.
Andrews was addressing 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 plunged 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 and began a nationwide movement of civil disobedience to which the military responded with force, leading 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 in detention, while at least 84 political prisoners were on death row.
The military caused outrage in July when it hung four pro-democracy activists, including 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 spoke to the Human Rights Council, telling member states that the scope and scale of alleged international crimes taking place in Myanmar had “broadened dramatically”.
Nicholas Koumjian of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) told the council that incidents following the coup were now also a “major focus” of its investigations.
Senior generals and those with links to the military have been hit with western sanctions, as well as some of the military’s own businesses, while some international businesses have pulled out of the country.