In response to the killing of at least 18 protesters demonstrating against Myanmar’s military coup, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) on Sunday strongly condemned the “escalating violence” and called for an immediate end to the use of force.
More than 30 demonstrators have been wounded as police and military forces used live rounds together with less-than-lethal force against crowds nationwide protesting the month-long takeover, according to OHCHR, citing “credible information”.
The military has claimed, without evidence, that the ruling party of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi – the National League for Democracy (NLD) – fraudulently won parliamentary elections. Arrested on 1 February, she and other leaders have remained in detention and according to news reports she is due in court on Monday.
On Friday, the UN Ambassador to Myanmar denounced the coup in a General Assembly meeting in New York, calling on the international community to take the “strongest possible measures” against the military junta to restore civilian rule. The top diplomat was reportedly fired from his post on Saturday.
Right to peaceful protest
“The people of Myanmar have the right to assemble peacefully and demand the restoration of democracy”, said OHCHR spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani, in a statement issued on Sunday.
“These fundamental rights must be respected by the military and police, not met with violent and bloody repression.”
The people of Myanmar have the right to assemble peacefully and demand the restoration of democracy. These fundamental rights must be respected by the military and police, not met with violent and bloody repression.
According to OHCHR, police and military confronted peaceful demonstrators using disproportionate force with deaths reported in the largest city Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myiek, Bago and Pokokku. “Tear gas was also reportedly used in various locations as well as flash-bang and stun grenades”, said Ms. Shamdasani.
“Use of lethal force against non-violent demonstrators is never justifiable under international human rights norms”, she said. “Since the beginning of the coup d’état…the police and security forces have targeted an ever-increasing number of opposition voices and demonstrators by arresting political officials, activists, civil society members, journalists and medical professionals.
“Today alone, police have detained at least 85 medical professionals and students, as well as seven journalists, who were present at the demonstrations. Over 1,000 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the last month – some of whom remain unaccounted for – mostly without any form of due process, simply for exercising their human rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly.”
The Spokesperson reiterated OHCHR’s call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained by the military authorities, “including members of the democratically elected government.
“The international community must stand in solidarity with the protestors and all those seeking a return to democracy in Myanmar”, Ms. Shamdasani concluded.