GENEVA (AP) — An independent U.N. rights expert on Thursday cited “credible reports” that Myanmar security forces have killed at least 70 people. He also pointed to growing evidence of crimes against humanity since last month’s coup, and upbraided the U.N. Security Council for a “wholly insufficient” response.
Thomas Andrews, an expert focusing on Myanmar, lamented the “horrible truth” that every time he issues a report on the situation, “the number of murders and arbitrary detentions in Myanmar becomes outdated.” He said the count of arbitrary detentions since the Feb. 1 coup had topped 2,000 as of Wednesday night.
“As of this moment, credible reports indicate that Myanmar security forces had murdered at least 70 people,” he said.
Speaking to the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council, Andrews said violence against protesters and even “people sitting peacefully in their homes” was rising. He said the junta was detaining dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people every day.
“It should come as little surprise that there is growing evidence that this same Myanmar military, led by the same senior leadership, is now engaging in crimes against humanity,” he said, citing murder, enforced disappearance, persecution, torture and imprisonment against basic rules of international law.
Andrews, a former U.S. lawmaker, acknowledged a formal determination of crimes against humanity requires a full investigation and trial. He is working under a mandate from the council and does not speak for the United Nations.
He noted a U.N. Security Council statement on Wednesday that expressed concern about the situation, condemned the violence and voiced support for a democratic transition. Such words are “welcome, but … wholly insufficient,” he said.
The junta has repeatedly insisted it’s acting to restore order and ensure Myanmar’s democratic transition.
Chan Aye, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s foreign ministry, said in a video statement that authorities were seeking to maintain law and order in the country and “have been exercising utmost restraint to deal with the violent protests since 8 February.”
His written statement — the video was cut short — also said that Myanmar was undergoing “extremely complex challenges” and facing a “delicate situation,” and insisted that the military leadership did not want to stall a budding democratic transition.
“In this respect, Myanmar would like to seek the understanding from the United Nations and international community on its efforts to maintain sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity, national unity and social stability throughout the country,” the statement said.