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Tuesday, October 26, 2021


Robina Senior Fellow and U.N. Rapporteur Warns of Mass Atrocity Threat in Myanmar

Tom Andrews, the Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School, released a statement on Oct. 22, 2021 warning that Myanmar could be on the verge of an even greater human rights catastrophe and loss of life than it has seen in recent months. Andrews is the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

Amid reports that the military junta is deploying tens of thousands of troops and heavy weapons to northern Myanmar, Andrews underscored the building threat of mass atrocity. “These tactics are ominously reminiscent of those employed by the military before its genocidal attacks against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017,” warned Andrews. He said he had received information that large numbers of troops were moving into restive regions in the north and northwest.

“We should all be prepared, as the people in this part of Myanmar are prepared, for even more mass atrocity crimes. I desperately hope that I am wrong,” he said.

Andrews urged States to deny the military junta the money, weapons and legitimacy that it needs to continue to hold the people of Myanmar hostage with systematic human rights violations and brutal attacks. He pointed to the recent release of thousands of political prisoners as evidence that pressure on the junta works.

“[The Association of Southeastern Asian Nation’s] announcement that the junta will not be welcome at its upcoming summit strikes at the heart of the junta’s third need — legitimacy…Without pressure, without denying the junta that which it needs from the international community, none of the detainees would have been released,” he said, stressing that in addition to denying legitimacy, more must be done to cut the junta off from weapons and money.

Andrews presented the findings of his annual report to the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 22, 2021 stating that since the coup, the military junta has engaged in probable crimes against humanity and war crimes.

He reported that since the coup, junta-controlled forces have murdered over 1,100 people, displaced a quarter million, and arbitrarily detained over 8,000 people, where many were tortured, including dozens who were tortured to death. He highlighted credible reports he received of junta forces even torturing children. 

The report built on the research and documentation efforts of Yale Law School’s Myanmar Human Rights Project, which Andrews leads at the Schell Center for International Human Rights.

Andrews reiterated the global call that the U.N. Security Council impose an arms embargo on Myanmar and stressed the need to significantly increase financial pressure on the junta, as many in Myanmar are doing with boycotts.

He also conveyed a stark message to the General Assembly that he said he has received from scores of people inside Myanmar: “Many, I dare say most in Myanmar, have come to believe that the world and this body, do not care. Over the last several months they have experienced a steep downward trajectory, including increased human rights violations and attacks by the military junta while, at the same time, they have witnessed a grossly disproportionate response by the international community. 

“I come before this venerated body today conveying a simple plea from the people of Myanmar: care about this unfolding catastrophe and then translate that care into meaningful action.

“Targeting these three needs of the junta — weapons, money, and legitimacy — while increasing humanitarian support to the people of Myanmar, is urgently needed and I believe the best means for the international community to support the people in Myanmar.

“There is global responsibility to address this crisis, and it is insufficient to pass it off to those who lack the will or the capacity to take the requisite action, particularly given the scope of the atrocities that are ongoing,” Andrews said.