Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding in Myanmar: A Call for International Action

Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding in Myanmar: A Call for International Action
Myanmar, by Hensteen, via Flickr, 2007


Alexandra Posta

East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence


The situation in Myanmar has reached a critical juncture, with recent clashes escalating in the northeast and southeast regions, displacing over 48,000 people from their homes within a week (OCHA, 2023). The conflict has not only disrupted vital transport links but has also led to significant challenges in delivering humanitarian aid to affected areas.

Recent reports indicate that an alliance of rebel groups has seized towns in northern Myanmar, causing the military to acknowledge the loss of at least three towns (OCHA, 2023). Critical infrastructure, such as bridges, has been destroyed, impeding access to essential services and hindering relief efforts. The flash update from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) underscores the immediate need for secure and unimpeded humanitarian access to deliver timely assistance to affected populations (OCHA, 2023).

The human rights situation in Myanmar is rapidly deteriorating, as underscored by Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews, who describes the crisis as "exponentially worse" (UN News, 2023). This deterioration is exemplified by incidents such as the military's actions in Nam Neang village, where soldiers, under Lieutenant-General Aung Aung's command, surrounded a temple, killed those seeking sanctuary, and shared the gruesome act on social media (Al Jazeera, 2023). Such atrocities are clear violations of international law and underscore the urgent need for accountability.

Research by the Security Force Monitor reveals a disturbing pattern, linking low-level soldiers accused of human rights abuses to their commanding officers and beyond (Al Jazeera, 2023). The study, "Under Whose Command?," spanning 12 years, exposes a systematic chain of command responsible for disappearances, killings, rape, and torture across different regions of Myanmar (Al Jazeera, 2023).

The escalating conflict in Myanmar not only poses a grave threat to the fundamental rights of its citizens but also raises profound concerns regarding adherence to international humanitarian law. The reported atrocities, including civilian deaths, displacement, and destruction of vital infrastructure, constitute egregious violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of person, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Furthermore, the military's actions, exemplified by the Security Force Monitor's findings, underscore a blatant disregard for the principles of distinction, proportionality, and protection of non-combatants outlined in international humanitarian law. The deliberate targeting of religious compounds and the use of social media to showcase heinous acts further accentuate the urgency for international intervention to halt the ongoing human rights crisis in Myanmar and ensure accountability for those responsible under established legal frameworks.

The international community must respond swiftly to address the unfolding crisis in Myanmar. The blatant disregard for human rights, as evidenced by the Security Force Monitor's report, demands a comprehensive and coordinated effort to hold those responsible accountable. The United Nations and relevant international bodies should take immediate action to ensure the safety and well-being of the affected population. The gravity of the situation necessitates a unified global response to prevent further loss of life and uphold the principles of human dignity and justice.


UN News. (3 October 2023). Sharp uptick in fighting in Myanmar, UN humanitarians report. Available at https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/11/1143212.

Aljazeera. (1 November 2023). Myanmar military’s human rights abuses a ‘system exercised from the top’. Available at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/1/myanmar-militarys-human-rights-abuses-a-system-exercised-from-the-top.