Thomas Andrews, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, reported the Myanmar military junta’s “relentless attacks” on children.
Located in Southeast Asia, Myanmar is a country that borders Thailand, Bangladesh, India and China. While the majority of the population (54 million) identifies as Buddhist, there are multiple ethnic groups, including Rohingya Muslims. When Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the general election on Feb. 1, 2021, the generals and military — who had supported the oppositional party — claimed fraud and forcefully seized power in a coup d’etat. The country is now ruled by military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, who has been internationally condemned for his violence against resistance and ethnic minorities. “As conditions continue to deteriorate in Myanmar, and the military junta continues its attempts to hide the truth, I remain steadfast in pursuing my mandate to document and report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar,” Andrews said per the United Nations. In his June 14 report, Andrews stated, “Myanmar’s junta is at war with the people of Myanmar, and children are the war’s innocent victims … The military’s 1 February 2021 coup has meant disaster for Myanmar’s children.”
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Andrews detailed that the military attacks have “displaced more than 250,000 children” in addition to the 130,000 children in “protracted displacement” and half-a-million Myanmar child refugees in other countries. The junta has also detained over 1,400 children, with 61 children held hostage, 382 children killed or maimed and 142 recorded cases of child torture. Furthermore, the current state of the country places 33,000 children at risk of death due to failed immunizations, and 1.3 million children lack nutritional support. Due to the junta’s attack on schools and academic institutions, 7.8 million children remain out of school.
According to Andrews, “the relentless attacks on children underscore the depths of the military junta’s depravity and its willingness to inflict immense misery and hardship on innocent victims.” If action is not taken, he warns that “Myanmar’s children will become a lost generation.”
“The stakes of Myanmar’s children, and for Myanmar’s future, could not be higher,” Andrew warned in his report.
He said the UN and its other entities “must respond to the crisis in Myanmar with the same urgency that they have responded to the crisis in Ukraine,” arguing that the “suffering of children is further reason why the international community must rethink and reset its response.”
“While the future of Myanmar is in the hands of the courageous people who are willing to risk everything to resist the junta and save their children, stronger support from the international community is imperative,” he concluded.
From June 17 to 23, Andrews will conduct a mission to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to share his observations of the situation in Myanmar.