The UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Myanmar on Tuesday called for a “COVID ceasefire” for the country, as infections and deaths soar even as the military junta escalates attacks against healthcare workers.
Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said junta forces have engaged in at least 260 attacks against medical personnel and facilities, resulting in at least 18 deaths. Meanwhile, over 600 health care professionals are currently eluding outstanding arrest warrants, and at least 67 have been detained.
No time for complacency
He urged the Security Council and Member States “to use all the tools of the UN”, including adopting resolutions, to demand Myanmar’s military rulers, known officially as the State Administrative Council (SAC), stop all attacks, particularly against healthcare professionals.
“Too many in Myanmar have needlessly perished and too many more will die without action by the United Nations”, he warned.
“Member States of the United Nations cannot afford to be complacent while the junta ruthlessly attacks medical personnel as COVID-19 spreads unchecked. They must act to end this violence so that doctors and nurses can provide life-saving care and international organisations can help deliver vaccinations and related medical care.”
Resolution on ceasefires
Myanmar’s military seized power in February, sparking countless pro-democracy protests across the country which were met with violent crackdowns, and widespread human rights abuses.
Mr. Andrews said the junta has murdered at least 931 people, while some 5,630 others are being held in arbitrary detention where they are at risk of coronavirus infection. Another 255 people have been sentenced for “trumped up crimes”, he added, with 26, including two minors, being sentenced to death.
In February, the Security Council passed a resolution calling for ceasefires in all conflict areas so that COVID-19 vaccinations could take place, and to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarians and medical personnel.
Attacks must end
“This resolution represented a principled framework to address the outbreak of COVID-19 in States experiencing unrestrained violence. Given this escalating crisis, these demands must now be focused specifically on Myanmar. Doing so will save untold numbers of lives,” said Mr. Andrews.
“Of course, the best outcome would be for the junta to stand down so that a legitimate civilian government can lead a coordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis,” he added.
“But in the immediate term, the junta’s relentless attacks and detentions must end. For this to be possible, the people of Myanmar need the UN and its Member States to step up with strong, principled action.”
Role of Rapporteurs
Special Rapporteurs, like Mr. Andrews, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor specific countries or thematic issues.
They serve in their individual capacity and are not UN staff, nor do they receive a salary from the Organization.