Myanmar under the military junta has seen a two-fold increase in poverty and the breakdown of its public health system since the February coup last year, the UN’s top human rights body said Thursday, calling for a “coordinated fashion” to curtail economic engagement with the regime in the Southeast Asian nation.
“Curtailing the Tatmadaw’s economic interests and, in particular, its access to revenues and foreign exchange are essential elements of preventing the further spiral of human rights violations,” Nada al-Nashif, the acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the 51st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, using the official name of the country’s armed forces.
The military rules the Buddhist-majority country under the State Administrative Council (SAC).
Presenting the outcome of a fact-finding mission on Myanmar (FFM), al-Nashif said the UN team observed that over half of all school-aged children have not accessed education for two academic years.
The FFM called for targeted measures against key entities that facilitate the Tatmadaw’s continued access to foreign currency, including national oil and gas company Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, which generates approximately 50% of the country’s foreign currency earnings.
In addition, the report pointed out that the military has open access to foreign exchange held in overseas accounts of state-owned banks, calling on UN member states to implement additional sanctions.
“Despite the dramatic economic, political, financial and social deterioration in the country, the military’s SAC continues to prioritize military operations by increasing defense spending and reducing budget allocations to education, health and social protection,” the report said.
The report said around 2,299 people, including 188 children, have been killed since the Tatmadaw launched the coup last year. It added that nearly 30,000 buildings, including whole villages, schools, churches and places of worship and other protected objects, have been burned to the ground.
“We urge all businesses active in Myanmar or sourcing from the country to take steps to ensure their operations do not economically benefit the military, including by conducting ongoing and transparent heightened human rights due diligence,” the UN report said.
However, it called on companies disinvesting or decoupling from supply chains in Myanmar to take “responsible measures to best protect the interests of their employees and consumers.”
Urging the international community to act in a coordinated fashion to financially isolate the military, the UN human rights body called for consultation with civil society and the wider democratic movement, including the National Unity Government, which was established by the democratically elected politicians removed from office in last year’s coup, representatives from ethnic and religious minorities, and trade unions.