A UN human rights chief has warned of more “death and destruction” in Myanmar – as he praised an exclusive Sky News report that shines a light on the country’s hidden war.
Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, urged the international community to “step-in in a much more significant way” to support citizens fighting against the country’s military junta.
His comments come after an exclusive Sky News report exposed the reality of the conflict, which has been largely hidden because of the junta’s tight control of information, both within the country and to the outside world.
Sky News’s chief correspondent, Stuart Ramsay, however, went inside the secret jungle hospital for the country’s rebel fighters and saw for himself the impact of the fighting.
Responding to the report, in which fighters claimed that they had not received international support, Mr Andrews told Sky News: “I think that the international community is simply not doing enough.
“Yes, there are lots of expressions of concern, but people can’t survive on expressions. They need help and support.”
He said the US and the EU had recently put in place some sanctions on the junta – but that the country was still receiving weapons from outside sources, including both China and Russia.
Mr Andrews said “any prospect” of the UN Security Council taking significant action – including an arms embargo – would be impossible due to China and Russia’s veto.
“Certainly the junta has its friends – Russia and China supplying a significant amount of weapons,” he said.
“But those on the other side are fighting for the people of Myanmar and for basic human rights in Myanmar, they need to have their friends step up in a more significant way.
“I’m afraid there is going to be more death, more destruction, more injuries, more political prisoners, until we sit back down and figure out as an international community the way we can support those people who are courageous people who fighting inside of Myanmar.
“They need friends and allies, and that’s where we need to be stepping-in in a much more significant way.”
Mr Andrews also praised Sky News for its report, adding: “They [the junta] are doing everything possible to prevent the world from seeing these atrocities.
“And I’m so grateful that there are news outlets like yours who are exposing this truth.”
It comes after James Rodehaver, head of the Myanmar team at the UN Human Rights Group, praised the “courageous” report by Sky News.
The report, he said, comes when there are ongoing “difficulties in getting information inside the country” and highlights the lack of international attention given to the situation.
“I think it’s a courageous effort. I think it shows the power of journalism,” Mr Rodehaver said.
“The power of accessing information and the real heroism that it takes to do real, solid, verifiable, investigative journalism in this environment.
“Stuart and his team and the imagery that we’ve just seen here in this remarkable story – I think it shows just how poignant and how tangible it makes the situation in the country.”
Mr Rodehaver said the “crisis in the country has been dramatically under-reported”.
He said: “I think that there are really two sides to this coin. One is that the Myanmar military has been employing a strategy of denying information not only to the people inside the country, but also outside.
“They have done that by targeting journalists and civil society groups.
“They have limited travel and they have gone overboard in terms of cutting off the access of the vast majority of people to mobile data and internet services that are secure.
“So, as a result, it’s very hard to get information from the areas where fighting is taking place and, of course, that is increasingly a very large area because of the scale of the military operations being launched against the people of Myanmar.
“The second side to this coin is, of course, the lack of political attention being played to Myanmar despite several organisations, such as my own, that are reporting constantly on the situation in the country and documenting the human rights violations occurring inside this crisis.”
Despite ongoing efforts to give the Myanmar war more exposure, Mr Rodehaver said there had been little change in international efforts to address the situation.
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He said: “No, it has not changed. We still face massive difficulties in getting information inside the country. It’s a deliberate strategy on the part of the military. They know the power of information and of images.
“The military does not want people to know just how intense the fighting is and just how dangerous it is in the country for the vast majority of civilians and the population of the country.
“That would bring concerns at a political level about the stability of the country and its potential to spill out over the region.”
An FCDO spokesperson said: “The UK is committed to ending the crisis in Myanmar and condemns the military regime’s violence against its own people.
“Since the coup in February 2021, the UK has announced heavy sanctions on the military leadership, led on the first UN Security Council Resolution on Myanmar which urges a de-escalation in violence, and provided more than £120m in humanitarian and development assistance.
“We remain resolute in our support for all those working peacefully towards an inclusive and democratic future for the people of Myanmar.”