The UN human rights chief on Friday urged the international community to step up pressure on Myanmar’s military junta to stop its campaign of violence against the public and to insist on the prompt restoration of civilian rule.

“One year after the military seized power, the people of Myanmar – who have paid a high cost in both lives and freedoms lost – continue to advocate relentlessly for their democracy,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a press statement.

She said the actions taken by the UN Security Council and by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been insufficient to convince Myanmar’s military to cease its violence and facilitate humanitarian access and aid deliveries.

“It is time for an urgent, renewed effort to restore human rights and democracy in Myanmar and ensure that perpetrators of systemic human rights violations and abuses are held to account,” said Bachelet, urging governments and businesses to listen to her plea.

Private companies’ withdrawal

Bachelet did welcome some private corporations’ decisions to withdraw on human rights grounds, calling it a “powerful tool to apply pressure on the financing of the military’s operations against civilians.”

She met with human rights defenders this week, who are pleading with the international community not to abandon them and instead to take strong measures to ensure their rights are protected and the military is held accountable, she added.

Bachelet said she has heard chilling accounts of journalists being tortured, factory workers being intimidated, silenced, and exploited, and ethnic and religious minorities being persecuted more aggressively.

Oppression of Rohingya Muslims

She said the minorities include the Muslim Rohingya, who have long been subjected to oppression and state violence, citing arbitrary arrests, detentions, and sham trials of political opponents.

“And yet, courageous human rights defenders and trade unionists continue to protest, to advocate, to document and accumulate the mounting evidence of violations,” she said.

The brutal effort by security forces to crush dissent has led to the killing of at least 1,500 people by the military since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup, she said, adding that this figure does not include thousands more deaths from armed conflict and violence that have intensified across the country.

The UN Human Rights Office said it has documented gross human rights violations on a daily basis, the vast majority of which are committed by security forces.

At least 11,787 people have been arbitrarily detained for voicing their opposition to the military in peaceful protests or through online activities, with 8,792 still in custody.

At least 290 people have died in detention, many of whom were most likely tortured.

Bachelet said armed clashes have increased in frequency and intensity, with every part of the country experiencing some level of violence.

“The military has been punishing local communities for their assumed support of armed elements,” Bachelet explained.

The rights office has documented village burnings, including places of worship and medical clinics, mass arrests, summary executions, and torture.

She asserted that the crisis has been exacerbated by a combination of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of banking, transportation, education, and other sectors, leaving the economy on the brink of collapse.

“There are projections that nearly half of the population of 54 million may be driven into poverty this year,” said the UN rights chief.

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