WASHINGTON: The UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has warned of "mass deaths" from starvation and disease in the wake of fighting between rebel groups and junta forces in the east of the coup-stricken country, reports AFP.
Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since the February putsch and a brutal military crackdown on dissent that has killed over 800, according to a local monitoring group.Fighting has flared in several communities -- especially in townships that have seen a high death toll at the hands of police -- and some locals have formed "defence forces".
Clashes have escalated in Kayah state near the Thai border in recent weeks.
Locals have accused the military of firing artillery shells that have landed near villages and the UN estimates around 100,000 people have been displaced.
"The junta's brutal, indiscriminate attacks are threatening the lives of many thousands of men, women and children in Kayah state", Tom Andrews said in a statement posted on Twitter Tuesday.
"Let me be blunt. Mass deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure, on a scale we have not yet seen... could occur in Kayah state absent immediate action."
AFP images from Kayah state have shown villagers manufacturing guns in makeshift factories as local defence groups go up against Myanmar's battle-hardened military.