BRUSSELS, Oct 14 (IPS) – The update on September 26, 2022, of the human rights situation in Myanmar to the UN Human Rights Council says it all: “The people of Myanmar have been caught in a rapid downward spiral, with growing suffering, fear, and insecurity. Urgent action is needed to reverse this catastrophic situation and to restore peace, democracy, and sustainable development”.
Since the military overthrew an elected government on February 1, 2021, and took power in a country ruled by generals for five of the past six decades, the situation for the majority of the population has become increasingly desperate.
The coup, which ended 10 years of provisional democracy initiated by the previous junta, has devastated Myanmar’s economy, leading to mass displacement of people as a result of fighting between armed groups and the military, and relentless bombing on civilian targets of the Burmese Air Force.
- According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a non-profit organization that tracks military action and is frequently cited by the United Nations, 2,343 is the number of opponents of the junta that have been killed since the coup. Killed.
- 1,5,821 opponents of the coup have been arrested by the junta, the AAPP says.
- 160 people were killed in one day on March 27, 2021, as the junta celebrated the annual Armed Forces Day, the bloodiest day in its crackdown on democracy activists.
- According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 1,320,000 people have been displaced by fighting. It is estimated that about 14.4 million people—about a quarter of Myanmar’s population—have been displaced from their homes and are in need of humanitarian assistance.
- 30 is the percentage by which Myanmar’s economy has shrunk as a direct result of the coup, the World Bank says. According to the World Bank, 1 million jobs were lost in Myanmar in 2021.
- Potentially $2.8 billion in economic losses from internet shutdowns in Myanmar by 2021.
- More than 60 is the percentage of the value of the kyat currency that has been lost against the dollar since the coup. Capital flight and a decline in foreign investment & aid, and money transfers have led to a shortage of foreign currency. The military regime’s attempts to restrict imports and ration foreign currencies have boosted illegal border trade with China and Thailand. A widening disparity between Thailand’s and Myanmar’s trade figures suggests that smuggling from Thailand has not only recovered to pre-coup levels, but also appears to have reached an all-time high. This boom questions the junta’s claim of a trade surplus. Moreover, it has been fueled by the regime’s own heavy-handed efforts to control trade.
- Compared to March 2020, poverty is estimated to have tripled. With about 40 percent of the population living below the national poverty line by 2022, nearly a decade of progress in poverty reduction has been undone.
- 18 was the percentage contraction the World Bank predicted for Myanmar’s economy in the fiscal year starting April 1, 2021. Failure to see a substantial rebound in economic growth – with GDP estimated to remain in 2022 at around 13 percent lower than in 2019 – continues to test the resilience of the Myanmar population. Food insecurity is on the rise and households are increasingly resorting to negative coping mechanisms – including reducing consumption and asset sales – in the face of uncertainty.
- The suicide rate has continued to rise since the coup as financial hardship, political repression and the collapse of the health care system are negatively impacting mental health.
- 26 is the total number of years in prison that deposed 77-year-old Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will face if given the maximum sentences in the remaining lawsuits against her.
- Press freedom regresses fast. The country has become a worse jailer of journalists than China. Since the coup, military authorities have arrested about 142 journalists and media workers, an estimated 57 of whom are still in prison in Myanmar, six more than are believed to be imprisoned in China. The junta has forced at least 12 media outlets to shut down, pushing hundreds of media workers to flee the country and revive the exiled media outlets that reported on the country under the last military junta prior to 2011.
- ASEAN is increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress on the Five Point Consensus – a non-binding agreement drafted in April 2021. While many countries have criticized the junta’s lack of “willingness” to comply with the framework, Malaysia has gone a step further and put forward the idea of suspending Myanmar.
Jan Servaes was UNESCO-Chair in Communication for Sustainable Social Change at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He taught ‘international communication’ in Australia, Belgium, China, Hong Kong, the US, Netherlands and Thailand, in addition to short-term projects at about 120 universities in 55 countries. He is editor of the 2020 Handbook on Communication for Development and Social Change.
IPS UN Bureau
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