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UN special rapporteur for Myanmar warns of ‘mass deaths’ in Kayah State

A United Nations rights expert has warned of mass deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure in eastern Myanmar after brutal, indiscriminate attacks by the military in Kayah State.

Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, called for urgent international action, saying attacks by the military which took power after a February coup was threatening the lives of many thousands of men, women, and children in Kayah or Karenni state.

“Let me blunt,” Andrews said.  “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.”

The plea came hours after the UN office in Myanmar said the violence in Kayah had displaced an estimated 100,000 people, who were now seeking safety in forests, host communities, and southern parts of neighbouring Shan state.

Those fleeing and those in locations affected by the bombing and artillery fire were in dire need of food, water, shelter, fuel, and access to healthcare, the UN office said in a statement.

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“This crisis could push people across international borders seeking safety,” it warned, calling for all parties to take the necessary measures and precautions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the military takeover, with daily protests across the country and fighting in border areas between the military and armed ethnic minority groups. Human rights groups say security forces have killed at least 849 people since the coup and detained 5,800 others.