The Current

'This is a reign of terror': UN special rapporteur calls out Security Council for 'inaction' on Myanmar

The United Nations Security Council is becoming “increasingly irrelevant” when it comes to taking concrete action to address the crisis in Myanmar, says the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in that country.

Hundreds reportedly killed since military seized power in February

People hold up images of Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest outside Maynmar's embassy in Bangkok on Feb. 1, 2021. The country has seen escalating violence since the military ousted the country's elected government in a coup last month. (Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

Story Transcript

The United Nations Security Council is becoming "increasingly irrelevant" when it comes to addressing the crisis in Myanmar, says the UN's special rapporteur on the human rights situation in that country.

"They've condemned the violence, but not the coup," Tom Andrews told The Current's Matt Galloway, adding that the council's "inaction is damning."

"I mean, this is a reign of terror going on here [in Myanmar]," he said. "We have these marauding troops now going through neighbourhoods, destroying property and then shooting randomly into people's homes."

Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed in Myanmar since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February and seized control of the country.

The army claimed it was responding to election fraud following a landslide victory by Suu Kyi's NLD party in November. Myanmar's election commission has dismissed those allegations.

Citizens have responded to the coup with protests, which the military has tried to suppress. The ensuing violence has drawn international condemnation, including from Canada and the UN Security Council

Situation 'getting worse' 

As the UN's special rapporteur, Andrews's job is to report on the situation in Myanmar, and to make recommendations based on what he learns. 

He said the Security Council must do more.

"Things are horrible, they're getting worse, and my recommendation is to take action," Andrews said, describing what's happening on the ground as "crimes against humanity."

He called for the Security Council to cut off the flow of revenue and weapons to Myanmar, and to refer the case to the International Criminal Court.

"Short of that, countries could gather together … and work as a co-ordinated whole of countries who are willing to stand up for the people of Myanmar," Andrews said. 

He acknowledged that some countries including the U.S. have already imposed sanctions on Myanmar, but said nations must link up their efforts.

WATCH | What will it take to end the violence in Myanmar?

What will it take to end the violence in Myanmar?

2 years ago
Duration 1:22
Maung Zarni, the founder of Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia, says the international community cannot depend on the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the crisis in Myanmar because of China's and Russia's respective interests in the country.

He said he's hopeful the U.S. will step up and take a leadership role in bringing countries around the world together.

But with Russia and China's history of vetoing UN Security Council resolutions, that could be difficult, says Maung Zarni. 

The Burmese activist and founder of Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia, a group advocating for democracy in the region, said people in Myanmar are tired of hearing what the Security Council has to say.

"We have seen [the] Security Council fail and fail again, and it is failing now," he said.

And while the U.S. has an "extremely critical" role to play, he argued that world powers do not typically intervene in issues of human rights unless doing so aligns with their own strategic interests.

"Once the U.S. or any other [power] feels that its interests are at stake, then we will see the situation where military intervention is possible," he said.

Written by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Amanda Grant and Paul MacInnis.

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