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U.N. human rights expert calls for punitive measures against Myanmar junta

Burmese protesters demonstrate against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Sunday. Security forces continue to crack down on demonstrations against the military coup. Photo by Xiao Long/UPI
Burmese protesters demonstrate against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Sunday. Security forces continue to crack down on demonstrations against the military coup. Photo by Xiao Long/UPI | License Photo

March 4 (UPI) -- A day after military junta forces killed at least 38 protesters in Myanmar, a U.N. human rights expert urged the U.N. Security Council and its member states to impose far-reaching punitive measures against the military's senior leaders, associates and military-owned companies.

Ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss the situation in the Southeast Asian nation, Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, published a 52-page report on Thursday, describing the military junta as illegal, illegitimate and responsible for wide-ranging human rights violations against peaceful protesters.

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"Every day the military junta in Myanmar unleashes more brutality on peaceful protesters who are standing up for justice, human rights and democracy, defending their nation against this illegal military coup," Andrews said in a statement accompanying the report.

Since the military seized power in a coup on Feb. 1, arrested civilian leaders and declared itself the State Administrative Council, it has committed murder, arbitrary detention, beatings and probable enforced disappearances, the report states, adding it has also passed laws to suppress freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the right to privacy.

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"The coup completely overturned the rule of law in Myanmar," it said.

Since the coup, millions of people have taken to the streets in a civil disobedience movement, demanding the release of all those who have been detained, the abolishment of the dictatorship and the reinstatement of democracy, among other demands.

The protests have been met with escalating violence with at least 23 deaths reported by Monday, the report said.

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On Wednesday, U.N. special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said 38 had been killed a day prior and that the stability of the region was slipping into a "real war."

More than 50 people have been killed and more than 1,500 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup, according to data from Myanmar's Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Andrews, in his report, urged the U.N. Security Council to impose a global arms embargo, targeted economic sanctions, deny recognition of the military junta and to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation.

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He also called on member states to establish a multilateral coordinated sanctions regime targeting senior junta leaders, their associates and sources of funding, including military-owned assets such as the state's oil and gas company, as well as join the 41 other nations that have placed arms embargoes on Myanmar.

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The report states that the civil disobedience moment has been "remarkably effective" and that the nation's disparate population has "never been more unified" but they require the support of the international community.

"While the future of Myanmar will be determined by its people, the international community must act urgently and decisively to support them," Andrews said. "The stakes could not be higher."

Britain, Canada, the European Union, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States have imposed varying degrees of sanctions against Myanmar since the coup.

On Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security imposed trade restrictions on Myanmar in response to the escalation in violence, putting in place restrictive export controls over sensitive items.

It also added export controls to Myanmar's Ministry of Defense and Home Affairs and to its associated corporations, the Myanmar Economic Corp. and Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd.

"Commerce is reviewing potential additional measures as warranted by the military's actions," the department said in a statement. "The U.S. government will continue to hold perpetrators of the coup responsible for their actions."

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, told reporters Thursday the U.S. continues to urge the Myanmar military to use "maximum restraint" against protesters, stating there will be additional action by the United States against the junta.

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"This latest escalation in violence demonstrates that fact of the junta's complete disregard for their own people, for the people of Burma," he said referring to the country by its former name. "It is unacceptable, and the world will continue to respond. The United States will continue to respond."

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