FILE - In this May 23, 2021, file photo, military troops and police go on patrol at Kayah state, eastern Myanmar. 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, a U.N. expert said Wednesday, June 9.(AP Photo/File)

UN expert says Myanmar attacks risk humanitarian tragedy

UN expert says Myanmar attacks risk humanitarian tragedy

BANGKOK (AP) — 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, a UN expert said Wednesday.

The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom 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.”

“Mass deaths from starvation, disease and exposure could occur in Kayah state after many of the 100,000 forced to flee into forests from junta bombs are now cut off from food, water and medicine by the junta,” he said in remarks posted on Twitter.

Kayah state, also known as Karenni state, is in eastern Myanmar along the border with Thailand and has an estimated population of 350,000-400,000.

The UN’s office in Myanmar said in a statement Tuesday that people in Kayah are in urgent need of food, water, shelter, fuel and healthcare, and that “this crisis could push people across international borders seeking safety, as already seen in other parts of the country.” Villagers from the Karen minority south of Kayah fled to Thailand in March and April when they came under attack by Myanmar’s military.

The military, which ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced widespread opposition to its rule, initially by massive nonviolent protests. After soldiers and police used deadly force to crush the peaceful demonstrations, a low-level armed insurrection has emerged in both the cities and countryside.

According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 850 protesters and bystanders have been killed in the junta’s crackdown, though the government puts the death toll at about a third of that.

There has been fierce fighting in Kayah since May 21, when government forces moved into areas controlled by the state’s dominant political organization, the Karenni National Progressive Party, and its armed wing, the Karenni Army. The KNPP is one of about a dozen armed ethnic organizations that have been battling for decades for greater autonomy from the central government.

Andrews said he has received “credible reports of a major shortage of safe drinking water, severe diarrhea outbreaks, and a lack of adequate shelter” among Kayah’s displaced people. He said there were reports that the military had set up blockades that are keeping aid from reaching them.

An official for the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, a recently formed group fighting against the government, confirmed that there was an urgent need among the displaced people for protection during the current rainy season and for medicine.

The spokesman, who was contacted by phone from Thailand and declined to give his name for safety reasons, said there was not much fighting Wednesday, though occasional sounds of government heavy weapons could be heard.

The defense force is an outgrowth of the protest movement that began against military rule after the February takeover. The units were formed locally and now sometimes operate at the state level. They are loosely affiliated with an alternative National Unity Government established by elected lawmakers who were denied their seats in Parliament by the army coup.

The National Unity Government seeks recognition as Myanmar’s legitimate government, and has announced plans to unite the local defense forces into a federal army in alliance with the long-established ethnic rebel groups, who have provided the new groups with military training. The fighting in Kayah is believed to be the first in which a local defense force conducted joint operations with an ethnic guerrilla group.


A previous version of this story corrected the name of the antigovernment group in Kayah to Karenni Nationalities Defense Force.

Grant Peck, The Associated Press


Just Posted

The Sylvan Lake Gulls celebrate a sixth inning home run from Nolan Weger on Sunday during a game against the Edmonton Prospects. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Historic opening weekend for Sylvan Lake Gulls

It wasn’t perfect, but perhaps that was the beauty of it. Fans… Continue reading

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

Three Hills RCMP recovered stolen copper wire during recent investigation near Kneehill. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Fatal ATV rollover near Innisfail Saturday

A 77-year-old man from Red Deer County died Saturday after an ATV… Continue reading

Firefighters and emergency services workers helped celebrate Barry Young’s 85th birthday at Timberstone Mews on May 29. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters in central Alberta make birthdays special

A fire truck arriving outside your house is not normally good news.… Continue reading

A view of Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park is shown in this undated handout photo. More Canadians are expected to leave their passports at home this summer and hit the road in Canada as the weak loonie and low gas prices prompt a deeper exploration of their own country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Travel Alberta *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Report: Alberta losing residents to other parts of Canada

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly winds down in Alberta, residents are continuing… Continue reading

A large number of supporters were out Saturday at a rally intended to bring awareness about including Hinduism in the grade 2 portion of the K-6 draft curriculum. As it stands now, Hinduism won’t be taught until grade 6 in the proposed draft curriculum. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Video: Rally to support adding Hinduism to draft curriculum draws crowd in Red Deer

The Hindu community in Red Deer came out in droves on Saturday… Continue reading

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Germany's Robin Gosens, left, celebrates Germany's Mats Hummels after scoring his side's fourth goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group F match between Portugal and Germany at the football arena stadium in Munich, Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Matthias Hangst/Pool Photo via AP)
Germany clicks at Euro 2020 with 4-2 win over Portugal

MUNICH (AP) — Germany finally clicked into gear at the European Championship,… Continue reading

Fans cheer on their team during the pre-game warmup of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup semifinal with the Montreal Canadiens facing the Vegas Golden Knights, in Montreal, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
COVID-19 concerns give way to Habs Fever in Quebec as Montreal continues playoff run

MONTREAL — The sun hadn’t yet risen in Montreal on Friday morning… Continue reading

Coronavirus cases are on the rise from India to South Africa and Mexico, in a May 19, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
As Brazil tops 500,000 deaths, protests against president

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Anti-government protesters took to the streets in… Continue reading

A black bear cub forages for food along a salmon stream below a bear viewing spot for tourists in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in Juneau, Alaska.  (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Bandit responsible for vehicle break-ins is a black bear

THORNTON, N.H. (AP) — Surveillance video helped police get to the bottom… Continue reading

FILE - In this April 25, 2019 file photo, Editor Rick Hutzell, center, gives a speech to his staff including Chase Cook, Nicki Catterlin, Rachael Pacella, Selene San Felice and Danielle Ohl at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. The editor of the Capital Gazette, which won a special Pulitzer Prize citation for its coverage and courage in the face of a massacre in its newsroom, is leaving the Maryland newspaper. Hutzell, who worked at the Annapolis paper for more than three decades, authored a farewell column that was published on the paper's website Saturday, June 19, 2021. (Ulysses Muoz/The Baltimore Sun via AP)
Editor of paper that endured newsroom shooting says goodbye

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The editor of the Capital Gazette, which won… Continue reading

Most Read