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UN condemns treatment of Christian ethnic minorities in Myanmar

South East Asia

UN condemns treatment of Christian ethnic minorities in Myanmar

Photo credit: Barnabas Fund

The United Nations has condemned the treatment of Christian ethnic minorities in Myanmar as “crimes against humanity” in a damning newly released report.

Press attention has focused on the elements of the report which call for genocide prosecutions against leaders of the Myanmar Army for actions against Rohingya Muslims. But the report also highlights “similar patterns of conduct by security forces” in Kachin and Shan states in Myanmar.

The independent fact-finding mission reported: “Violations against ethnic and religious minorities in northern Myanmar are often committed with persecutory intent, in a context of severe discrimination on ethnic or religious grounds. This manifests, for example, in the destruction or ransacking of churches and religious objects during military operations (and sometimes subsequent erecting of Buddhist pagodas).”

Army operations, which the Myanmar government insists are targeting separatist groups, “are characterized by systematic attacks directed at civilians and civilian objects, and indiscriminate attacks. Attacks often occur in civilian-populated residential areas, in the absence of an apparent military objective, and in flagrant disregard for life, property and well-being of civilians … soldiers have shot directly at and shelled civilians fleeing or seeking shelter. Attacks routinely resulted in civilian deaths and injuries. Widespread looting and the destruction and burning of homes were commonplace.”

The UN report determines that “crimes against humanity” have been committed by the Myanmar military, which are “shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity”. The finding aligns with a statement made by the U.S. Treasury Department on 17 August.

In imposing sanctions on a number of Myanmar military commanders, the Treasury stated the Myanmar Army had “engaged in violent campaigns against ethnic minority communities across Burma [Myanmar], including ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings, and other serious human rights abuses”.

In June 2018, the U.K. government’s Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Ahmad, admitted in the House of Lords that the actions of the Myanmar Army amounted to ethnic cleansing.