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UN probe finds 'dramatic increase' in Myanmar war crimes

Members of the Myanmar army patrol in Yangon on April 13, 2023. (AFP)

The United Nations says it has evidence that Myanmar's military has been "committing increasingly frequent and brazen war crimes" since they took power in a coup d'état more than two years ago.

UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) said in its annual report on Tuesday that "the number of incidents bearing the hallmarks of serious international crimes" had surged since the coup.

Myanmar has been ravaged by deadly violence since the coup deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February 2021. Ever since the junta unleashed a bloody crackdown on coup opponents that has triggered fighting across swaths of the nation.

The UN report pointed among other things to indiscriminate aerial bombardments, the burning of villages and mass killings of civilians and detained combatants, as well as torture and horrific sexual violence.

"Every loss of life in Myanmar is tragic, but the devastation caused to whole communities through aerial bombardments and village burnings is particularly shocking," said Mechanism chief Nicholas Koumjian.

He said the team is "building case files that can be used by courts to hold individual perpetrators responsible."

The IIMM also said it was investigating rampant sexual violence committed during the bloody crackdown on Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya community.

"Sexual and gender-based crimes are amongst the most heinous crimes that we are investigating," said Koumjian.

He said the crimes were "pervasive during the Rohingya clearance operations" that in 2017 resulted in the displacement of nearly a million people.

Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh and India back then.

The Rohingya case is now the subject of separate proceedings before the International Criminal Court and for "acts of genocide" before the International Court of Justice.

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