Myanmar’s Tatmadaw army’s “scorched earth” policy is in the spotlight

Date:

Myanmar's Tatmadaw army's policy of "scorched earth" is in the spotlight

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Friday, March 03, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • “Tatmadaw control, according to a report by the UN office for human rights, around 3,000 civilians have been killed since the coup.

  • Ms. Shamdasani of OHCHR said that the military uses a “four-pronged” strategy, including indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery shelling, destroying villages to force civilians to move, and blocking humanitarian access.

  • “Since February 2022, military operations across the country have burned or destroyed nearly 39,000 houses, which is more than 1,000 times more than in 2021,” an OHCHR spokesperson said. “

  • The agony of political detainees according to a report from the UN human rights office, there are now approximately 20,000 political prisoners in Myanmar.

  • Over 16,000 people remain in captivity, although their whereabouts are unknown.

OHCHR’s James Rodehaver, who released the office’s most recent report on the crisis, said that “continual” violence in Myanmar between February 2022 and January 2023, including the killing, arbitrary arrest, torture, and forced disappearance of political opponents, has made the people of the country beg for help from the outside world.

“Even with all the problems they face, the Myanmarese people are still determined to fight this coup and keep working for their human rights and a more democratic future.”

Tatmadaw control

According to a report by the UN office for human rights, around 3,000 civilians have been killed since the coup. 30 percent are estimated to have perished while incarcerated.

Due to the rise in violence last year, the military is “actively fighting” on fourteen fronts, mostly in the northwest and southeast of Myanmar. The leader of OHCHR’s Myanmar team, Mr. Rodehaver, said that this is one of the reasons why Burma’s military is so small and has to rely on airstrikes and heavy weapons. This does not suggest that they are in control.

Chief advocate’s appeal

Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for “rapid, concrete action” to deal with the situation. He agreed with the calls for an end to the violence right away, for everyone being held without a reason to be let go, for people to be held accountable, and for humanitarian aid to be given without any problems.

“Two years after the military staged a coup, the generals have started a “scorched earth” campaign to get rid of any opposition,” the UN rights director said. Unfortunately, regional and global efforts for peace and restraint have been mostly ineffective. This festering calamity requires an immediate, definite response.

Airstrike horror

Among the several documented civilian airstrikes, the OHCHR report describes how four helicopters opened fire on a school in Lebanon on September 16, 2022. Still, Kone village, Tabayin Township, and Sagaing killed at least six children and injured nine others.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the OHCHR in Geneva, told the media that 60 soldiers jumped out of helicopters and stormed the area. Before taking hurt children and teachers into custody, they killed a school worker and five locals.

An airstrike at a hospital in Man Yu Gyi village, Banmauk Township, Sagaing, killed one woman and injured five others on October 20 last year. The OHCHR report said that the hospital opened the day before and that everyone who went there was a volunteer.

Death by four slashes

Ms. Shamdasani of OHCHR said that the military uses a “four-pronged” strategy, including indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery shelling, destroying villages to force civilians to move, and blocking humanitarian access. The goal of the process is to stop non-state armed groups and anti-military armed groups from getting food, money, information, and new members.

“Since February 2022, military operations across the country have burned or destroyed nearly 39,000 houses, which is more than 1,000 times more than in 2021,” an OHCHR spokesperson said. “This is in line with what they have done for decades, like in Kachin in 2011 and Rakhine in 2017.”

Sagaing was the most devastated region, with almost 25,500 dwellings destroyed. Satellite pictures reveal that on 1 May 2022 in Ah Shey See, Kale Township, Sagaing, 621 structures were burnt in a fire that destroyed nearly the entire hamlet.

Also, satellite data and interviews show that between September 16 and September 28, the military attacked and raided eight villages in Taze Township, Sagaing, and destroyed 458 homes and damaged 319 more.

The agony of political detainees

According to a UN human rights office report, there are now approximately 20,000 political prisoners in Myanmar. Over 16,000 people remain in captivity, although their whereabouts are unknown.

Mr. Rodehaver of the OHCHR stated, “We know that many of these individuals were arrested, but we have no idea where they are, including their families.” “Unfortunately, access to the detention centres is denied to everyone, even numerous humanitarian organisations.”

He continued, “The stories of the people we speak with—who have either been able to contact their families in jail or detainees who have been freed—are bleak, both regarding their living conditions and the use of torture.”

Due to OHCHR’s lack of access to Myanmar, the report’s conclusions are based on more than 96 interviews and meetings with victims and survivors, as well as satellite imagery, verified multimedia files, and credible open-source information, as well as regular collaboration, data and information exchanges within the UN system.

“Figures of casualties undoubtedly understate the reality on the ground,” the report noted.

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