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U.N.: Southern Myanmar faces exodus, 'mass deaths' with military in control

A demonstrator walks near a barricade during an opposition protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on March 27. File Photo by EPA-EFE
A demonstrator walks near a barricade during an opposition protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on March 27. File Photo by EPA-EFE

June 9 (UPI) -- The United Nations says about 100,000 people in Myanmar's Kayah State have fled because of deteriorating security and the humanitarian situation in the country, which has now been under military control for more than four months.

The global body says civilians living in the southern Myanmar border state, adjacent to Thailand, have been targeted by indiscriminate attacks by security forces, which has led to severe displacement.

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Officials said those fleeing are in need of food, water, shelter, fuel and access to healthcare. The United Nations said it's been able to help those seeking safe shelter and persons who decide to stay and wait out the violence.

"Many of them are currently seeking safety in host communities and forests across Kayah and southern parts of neighboring Shan State," the United Nations in Myanmar said in a statement Tuesday.

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"This crisis could push people across international borders seeking safety, as already seen in other parts of the country."

The military junta staged a coup on Feb. 1 and forcefully removed Myanmar's civilian leaders from power, arguing that parliamentary elections last fall were illegitimate. The military has since charged leaders, including head of state Aung San Suu Kyi, with crimes and physically cracked down on opposition demonstrators in streets nationwide.

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The United Nations in Myanmar also blamed security forces for delaying humanitarian supplies in critical areas.

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Tom Andrews, U.N. special rapporteur for Myanmar, warned on Tuesday that the military's suppressive tactics are threatening the lives of thousands of people in Kayah and Karenni states.

"Let me blunt. Mass deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure, on a scale we have not yet seen since the February 1 coup, could occur in Kayah State absent immediate action," he said in a statement.

"Any pressure or leverage U.N. member states can put on the junta must now be exerted so that junta leader Min Aung Hlaing will immediately ... open access roads and allow lifesaving aid to reach those in need, and stop terrorizing the population by ceasing the aerial bombardment, shelling and shooting of civilians."

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