(Reuters) – A new task force was launched on Monday to investigate evidence of human rights violations in Myanmar more than five months after the military army ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and plunged the Southeast Asian country into turmoil.
The British-government funded project, Myanmar Witness, said it would be sharing information with the United Nations’ Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which is probing suspected international crimes in Myanmar.
Reuters was unable to reach a spokesman for Myanmar’s authorities for comment.
The new initiative comes as Western countries seek to increase pressure on Myanmar’s military rulers over accusations of human rights abuses, with the United Nations saying more than 880 people have been killed by security forces since the coup – a figure the junta says is exaggerated.
“Myanmar Witness will independently collect, preserve, process, investigate, verify and review incidents of possible interferences with human rights,” the group said.
It said it would encourage submissions from civilians and also independently verify incidents on social media – where Myanmar citizens have posted pictures and videos that appear to show killings, assaults and other abuses.
Myanmar Witness said it had already uncovered and verified evidence of Myanmar army reprisals, shelling of civilian areas and religious buildings and indications of intention to harm, if not kill, demonstrators.
Western countries and rights groups have condemned what they brand atrocities by security forces in Myanmar. The military authorities have said that they have only use force when necessary to counter threats to national security.
(Reporting by Reuters staff; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Nick Macfie)