UN special rapporteur to Myanmar warns of ‘mass deaths’ from starvation, disease

The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar —the country once known as Burma —has warned of “mass deaths” from starvation and disease in the wake of fighting between rebel groups and junta forces in the east of the coup-stricken country.

Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralyzed since the February putsch and a brutal military crackdown on dissent that has killed over 800, according to a local monitoring group.

Fighting has flared in several communities—especially in townships that have seen a high death toll at the hands of police—and some locals have formed “defence forces”.

Clashes have escalated in Kayah state near the Thai border in recent weeks.

Children and elders line up for food distribution after being displaced from fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels in Myanmar.

Locals have accused the military of firing artillery shells that have landed near villages and the UN estimates around 100,000 people have been displaced.

“The junta’s brutal, indiscriminate attacks are threatening the lives of many thousands of men, women and children in Kayah state”, said Tom Andrews on Twitter.

“Let me be blunt. Mass deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure, on a scale we have not yet seen… could occur in Kayah state absent immediate action.”

At least one-quarter of the people in Myanmar’s smallest state have been forced to flee their homes because of combat with the military junta that seized power in February, raising fears of a possible humanitarian tragedy including thousands of civilian deaths.

Andrews called for international pressure on the junta to deprive it of the resources needed ‘to continue these brutal attacks on the people of Myanmar.’

Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest.

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