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UN envoy says ‘deeply concerned’ about escalating violence in Myanmar

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows burnt vehicles in eastern Myanmar’s Hpruso township in Kayah state, December 24, 2021. (File by AFP)

The United Nations (UN) special envoy to Myanmar has expressed deep concern about the escalation of violence in the country, calling for a ceasefire between the military junta and rival armed groups on the New Year.

Noeleen Heyzer, Myanmar’s new envoy, said in a statement on Monday that she is “deeply concerned by the continued escalation of violence in Kayah State and other parts of Myanmar.”

In her first statement since taking on the role, Heyzer also urged "all parties to... allow humanitarian assistance to be provided to those in need, including those forced to flee the violence," and for all sides to come to a New Year ceasefire.

A day earlier, a UN official said he was "horrified" by credible reports that at least 35 civilians had been killed and their bodies had been burned in an attack on Christmas Eve in eastern Myanmar.

Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian affairs chief, condemned the massacre and called on Myanmar’s authorities in a statement to investigate the deadly attack against civilians that took place in Kayah on Friday.

Photos on social media showed two burned-out trucks and a car on a highway in Myanmar’s Hpruso township in Kayah, with the charred remains of bodies inside.

Griffiths said two humanitarian workers from the aid organization Save the Children were missing after their private vehicle was attacked and burned.

There have been fresh clashes in recent days between armed militia groups and the military junta in Kayah, which has sent thousands fleeing into neighboring Thailand.

Myanmar's notorious junta launched a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists following a coup in February 2021 that overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Since the coup on February 1, protesters have been demanding the restoration of civilian rule and the release of Suu Kyi and her associates, who remain in the custody of the military.

Myanmar’s junta, during the rule of Suu Kyi, who was supported by the West, had been accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims and other minority groups in the country.

Nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees remain stuck in squalid, crowded conditions in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh after members of the Muslim minority were forced to flee their homes in 2017. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, raped, tortured, or arrested by the junta forces, according to the UN, which has described the community in the western state of Rakhine as the most persecuted minority in the world.

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