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UN expert calls for action to avoid mass deaths in eastern Myanmar

The UN's top expert on human rights in Myanmar warned Wednesday of "massive loss of life" due to starvation and disease in eastern Kayah state as junta forces continue a deadly crackdown. 

"The junta’s brutal, indiscriminate attacks are threatening the lives of many thousands of men, women and children in Kayah state," Tom Andrews said on Twitter. "Let me be blunt. Mass deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure, on a scale we have not yet seen since the February 1 coup, could occur in Kayah state absent immediate action"

He condemned the junta's indiscriminate attacks against civilians. 

"More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and villages to escape bombing raids and artillery fire by junta forces in Kayah state. Many have been forced into neighboring forests without food, water, and shelter," he said.

Andrews urged all regional actors and NGOs to take action to avoid a "catastrophic loss of life" and said: “It has been reported that junta forces are stopping aid from reaching these desperate people by setting up military blockades and laying landmines on public roads."

"Now more than ever, the international community must cut off access to the resources the junta needs to continue these brutal attacks on the people of Myanmar," he added.

Amid continuing chaos in Myanmar since the military coup, the junta launched a brutal crackdown on civilians in various areas of the country and Kayah has become the epicenter of recent violence.

The military, or Tatmadaw, overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, detained her and other leaders of the National League for Democracy party, then cracked down with lethal force on anti-coup protesters.

Suu Kyi's party won a second term in November, but the military said rigging in the polls forced it to seize power.

Kayah state has been the epicenter of fierce fighting between the military and a regional armed resistance group since May 21, when troops opened fire in residential areas of Demoso and arrested 13 people.

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