GENEVA 

Myanmar’s security forces must “halt their vicious crackdown on peaceful protestors,” the UN human rights chief said on Thursday.

“Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protestors,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

“It is utterly abhorrent that security forces are firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters across the country,” she added.

Bachelet said she was also appalled at the documented attacks against emergency medical staff and ambulances attempting to provide care to those injured during protests since the junta seized power on Feb. 1.

“The UN Human Rights Office has corroborated information that police and military officers have killed at least 54 people since the Feb. 1 coup,” said the statement, adding the actual death toll could be much higher as these are the verified figures.

Of the 54 cases documented, at least 30 people were killed in Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, Magway, and Mon by security forces on Wednesday, it said.

Another person was documented to have been killed on Tuesday, 18 people on Sunday, and five before that.

“It is difficult to establish how many people have suffered injuries, but credible information indicates, at a minimum, hundreds have been wounded during protests,” said Bachelet’s office.

Arbitrary arrests

Since Feb. 1, more than 1,700 people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained after participation in protests or engaging in political activity, according to the statement.

They include parliament members, political activists, election officials, authors, human rights defenders, teachers, healthcare workers, civil servants, journalists, monks, and celebrities.

However, the actual number of those detained is likely much higher, given that demonstrations are reported to have taken place in 537 locations throughout the country where monitoring developments has not always been possible.

Bachelet said that reports also indicate that some individuals have already been convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven days to two years.

Others are known to have been charged and are awaiting trial. Another 61 people who are being sought by the military authorities are in hiding.

“The number of arbitrary arrests and detentions have escalated in recent days – on Wednesday alone, at least 700 people were detained,” said the rights office.

‘Enforced disappearances’

In many instances, soldiers and police reportedly conducted door-to-door searches and detained people.

While some are eventually released, in many cases, relatives have informed the UN Human Rights Office that they have received no information about where their loved ones are held.

UN human rights staff have received numerous similar accounts.

“Many of the arbitrary arrests and detentions that have been carried out since 1 February may constitute enforced disappearances,” Bachelet said, calling for the immediate release of all those who remain arbitrarily detained.

The rights chief also expressed concern about the targeting of journalists.

At least 29 journalists were reportedly arrested in recent days, and more than eight have been charged with crimes, including incitement to the opposition, or hatred of the government, or attending an unlawful assembly.

“I urge all those with information and influence – including Myanmar officials who are now joining the civil disobedience movement – to support international efforts to hold military leaders accountable for the serious human rights violations that have been committed both now and in the past,” Bachelet said.

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