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  • Writer's pictureOvith Thiyagalingam

Myanmar: Escalating Violence and Human Rights Abuses

This article discusses themes of state-led violence and violence against children and may be triggering for some readers.

“States must take immediate coordinated action to address an escalating political, economic and humanitarian crisis that is putting Myanmar’s children at risk of becoming a lost generation.”

– Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar

Humanitarian Crisis

The situation in Myanmar is an extreme humanitarian crisis, evidenced by a persisting cycle of poverty and forced displacement, human rights violations, abuses, and growing violence and insecurity. Since last year’s military coup on February 1, 2021, over 1,900 civilian killings by the military were reported. The UN has also registered over 1 million internally displaced people, and over 14 million civilians are recognized to be in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

Violence and internal armed conflict have intensified since the coup, and little to no civilian protection exists. Burning entire villages, homes, and schools, clear and extreme violations of international human rights law have been executed under Myanmar’s military rule. Civilians in some areas, such as the north-western state of Chin, are also reported to have been detained and often forcibly disappeared or used as human shields by the military.

Further, the military’s human rights abuses against children, with children not only being caught in escalating attacks by the military against civilians but also often the direct targets, constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Reports received by the UN include information of innocent children who were beaten, stabbed, burned with cigarettes, killed in mock executions, and who had their teeth and fingernails pulled out during interrogation sessions conducted by the military.

Demanding Government Action

Despite much evidence of human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar, international efforts to hold the country’s military accountable for its violent leadership have been mostly ineffective.

All states with the highest level of global access and influence, including Canada, must put increased pressure on Myanmar’s military leadership to be accountable for its ongoing and past human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

This will, however, first require a Myanmar political climate conducive to discussions. The military leadership must end the targeting of civilians, and instead peacefully engage with all stakeholders and ethnic minority groups to determine a solution to the political, economic, and humanitarian crisis plaguing the country.

Student Action

Do your part in supporting the people of Myanmar.

Here's some ways that you can help:

  1. Get involved with local charities and/or school clubs working with organizations in Myanmar to provide international humanitarian assistance.

  2. Support better access to post-secondary education for Myanmar refugees/migrants in Canada – for example, pitch a new scholarship idea to your school.

  3. Promote campus-wide awareness to the crisis by engaging in discussions about the humanitarian crisis with your teachers and peers.

  4. Donate to the Canadian Red Cross’ International Programs Fund to support the Canadian Red Cross' on-the-ground humanitarian initiatives in Myanmar.

Every action makes a difference.

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