GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Office on Sunday condemned escalating violence against protesters in Myanmar, calling on the country’s military junta to immediately halt the use of force.
“We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protestors,” Ravina Shamdasani, the office’s spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Shamdasani said the UN Human Rights office has credible information that the use of force left at least 18 people dead and over 30 others wounded in protests against the Feb. 1 coup.
“Throughout the day, in several locations throughout the country, police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force,” she added.
Deaths reportedly occurred due to live ammunition fired into crowds in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago, and Pokokku.
According to witnesses and local media, anti-coup demonstrators were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades as police and soldiers intensified a crackdown on a campaign against the recent military coup in the Southeast Asian country.
“The people of Myanmar have the right to assemble peacefully and demand the restoration of democracy,” Shamdasani said. “These fundamental rights must be respected by the military and police, not met with violent and bloody repression.”
The UN rights office said that lethal force against non-violent demonstrators is never justifiable under international human rights norms.
“Since the beginning of the coup d’état in Myanmar on 1 February, 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,” Shamdasani said.
On Sunday alone, police detained at least 85 medical professionals and students and seven journalists present at the demonstrations.
More than 1,000 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the country, and some of them remain unaccounted for.
The rights office reiterated its call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained, 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,” Shamdasani said.