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UN chief urged to help resolve Myanmar crisis

Global bodies want Antonio Guterres to lead high-level efforts to end rights violations by the junta

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 21, 2021 08:35 AM GMT

Updated: October 21, 2021 08:40 AM GMT

UN chief urged to help resolve Myanmar crisis

People wait for detainees to be released from Insein Prison in Yangon after authorities let out thousands of people jailed for protesting against the Feb. 1 coup in Myanmar, on Oct. 19. (Photo: AFP)

International rights groups have urged the United Nations chief to increase diplomatic pressure and help resolve the ongoing crisis in Myanmar.

In a joint letter to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Oct. 20, the signatories including 97 rights groups and 15 individuals urged him to personally lead high-level efforts to address the increased violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief since the military coup on Feb. 1.

The groups, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Christian Freedom International among others, also urged the international community to increase humanitarian assistance, especially for ethnic and religious minorities who have been internally displaced.

“There is serious concern that the military will increase the use of hate speech and propaganda targeted at non-Buddhist religious groups to attempt to divide the resistance and deflect and divert attention from the coup and subsequent oppression and economic collapse,” the groups said in the letter.

They said hate speech against Christians has increased in recent months and Christian figures have been murdered and arbitrarily detained by the military.

“Religious oppression is a long-standing issue in Myanmar, and the coup has emboldened the military to further persecute Christians and Muslims living in the country,” the letter said.

The Burmese military must end all hostilities against religious minorities, release all religious and political prisoners, step down from power

A young Christian pastor was shot dead along with other three civilians while churches have been damaged or destroyed by the military’s artillery shelling in Chin state.

Catholic churches have also been attacked by the military in Kayah state in eastern Myanmar where four civilians were killed and eight others wounded by the military’s artillery shelling on a church in late May.

The military raided mosques in Kachin state in June and a custodian of the mosque was arbitrarily detained.

The attacks on protesters and religious minorities have been widespread and systematically carried out on the orders of the same general who also ordered the mass killings of Rohingya in 2017, described as genocide by a UN fact-finding mission, the letter said.

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“The Burmese military must end all hostilities against religious minorities, release all religious and political prisoners, step down from power, and allow the democratically elected government to resume,” the groups said.

They called on the international community to impose an international arms embargo and targeted sanctions on the military’s financial sources to put effective pressure on the regime.

“With current UN and ASEAN efforts failing to achieve any progress, the office of the UN secretary-general has the authority to mobilize the international community to support his diplomatic efforts to achieve change in Myanmar,” the letter stressed.

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