Myanmar’s military junta is systematically abducting the relatives of people it is seeking to arrest, including children as young as 20 weeks old, according the UN special rapporteur for the country, reports Guardian.
Tom Andrews told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday that conditions in the country have continued to deteriorate and that “current efforts by the international community to stop the downward spiral of events in Myanmar are simply not working”, says Guardian.
The military junta and its forces have murdered more than 1,100 people, Andrews said, including dozens of children. As of July, the junta had killed at least 75 children ranging in age from 14 months to 17 years, according to Guardian.
The military, he added, was routinely abducting family members when it is unable to locate individuals it is seeking to arrest, reports Guardian.
“I have received credible reports that junta forces have arbitrarily detained at least 177 individuals¬ when the initial target of a raid had successfully eluded arrest. These victims include very young children as young as 20 weeks old,” he said, writes Guardian.
More than 8,000 people have been detained since the military seized power on February 01. The junta, which faces widespread public opposition, has arrested anyone who has challenged its rule – from elected politicians, to activists, medical workers and journalists, Guardian says.
Andrews urged a “change of course” by the international community, to avert further human rights abuses and deaths, warning there are now more than 230,000 civilians who have been displaced as a result of the junta, reports Guardian.
Over recent days, virtually the entire population of a town in western Myanmar, home to 7,500 people, were forced to flee, after clashes between the military and its opponents, according to media reports, according to Guardian.
The Global New Light of Myanmar, which is controlled by the junta, said the military was ambushed by “some 100 terrorists” while patrolling Thantlang in Chin state, near the border with India, reports Guardian.
Guardian says that residents began to flee on Monday after soldiers “began to randomly shoot out the windows” of houses in the town, according to a resident who spoke to AFP anonymously.
“Almost everyone has left,” he said, adding he was sheltering in a nearby village with about 500 people, and that several hundred had already headed towards India, according to Guardian.
Another resident said she travelled for three days with her elderly parents to reach India after soldiers bombed her house and fighting escalated around the town, reports Guardian.
“I never thought of running from my own house even after the military bombed it … but as things got worse … I finally had to flee,” she told AFP on condition of anonymity, reports Guardian.
The independent outlet Myanmar Now reported that soldiers shot dead a Baptist pastor, who had gone outside to extinguish fires. His body was discovered with his left ring finger missing, the chair of the Thantlang Association of Baptist Churches told Myanmar Now, adding that he believed troops had stolen his wedding ring, writes Guardian.
Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Thun dismissed such reports as fake news. He said 20 homes and a government building had been destroyed in a fire after a clash on 18 September clash, according to Guardian.
Attacks on junta troops have increased after Myanmar’s self-declared parallel government, which was set up by pro-democracy politicians, announced a “defensive war” against the military earlier this month, reports Guardian.
Speaking to the Human Rights Council, Andrews called for greater humanitarian aid for the more than three million Myanmar people who are in need of assistance, informs Guardian.
Guardian further reports: “The international community must make a stronger commitment to ensuring lifesaving aid reaches those in need,” he said. “Myanmar civil society organisations who are saving lives need and deserve our support. The 2021 UN Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan has received only 46 per cent of requested funds to date. We can and should do better.”