The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has warned of “mass deaths” from starvation and disease in the wake of fighting between rebel groups and junta forces in the east of the country.
Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since a February putsch and a brutal military crackdown on dissent that has killed over 800, according to a local monitoring group. Fighting has flared in several communities — especially in townships that have seen a high death toll at the hands of the police — and some locals have formed “defence forces”. Clashes have escalated in Kayah State near the Thai border in recent weeks. The UN estimates around 1,00,000 people have been displaced.
“The junta’s brutal, indiscriminate attacks are threatening the lives of many thousands of men, women and children in Kayah,” Tom Andrews said in a statement on Twitter on Tuesday.
“Let me be blunt. Mass deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure, on a scale we have not yet seen… could occur in Kayah State absent immediate action.”
Diplomatic efforts to halt the bloodshed have been led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — of which Myanmar is a member — but the bloc is riven with infighting and has managed to put little pressure on the junta.