Amidst political unrest, thousands flee Myanmar

As the violence between the Tatmadaw and anti-coup rebels continues, thousands have been displaced in Myanmar. Rights groups say that at least 22,000 persons are in need of food and shelter. 

 

Thousands of civilians in Myanmar were forced to flee to neighboring countries, after the conflict between junta forces and defense volunteers escalated. In September, 2021, the shadow government also referred to as the National Unity Government (a coalition of political parties) announced that they will intensify the defensive war. 


According to Save the Children at least 206,000 people were displaced in Myanmar, of which around 76,000 are children. Approximately 22,000 people fled their homes in the country's southeastern Kayah State. Most of them still do not have shelter food, clean water or medical care. 


Some defining events



Several reports of junta forces being involved in cruelty in Myanmar's Chin State and surrounding areas emerged after the declaration of a defensive war by anti-coup dissenters. A 50-year-old taxi driver was allegedly killed after he was picked up and detained at an interrogation centre in Yangon’s Mingaladon Township on 1 October. Besides the accusations of extrajudicial killings, the junta forces have been condemned for torching villages. 


On 5 October, the junta soldiers allegedly set two villages in Sagaing Region’s Pale Township on fire. The incidents of military torching of civilian houses were responded with anti-junta resistance forces burning down police outposts in the region. Two such police outposts were allegedly damaged by volunteer forces on 6 October. The incidents of junta forces storming into different towns and allegedly burning down houses has been happening ever since.  

 

On 13 September, at least 14 houses were allegedly set ablaze by the junta forces in Gangaw Township’s Han Khar. The invasion of the military led by General Min Aung Hlaing in the village of Thantlang left behind trails of debris and bloodshed.  


Government officials in the northeastern Indian state claimed that refugees from Myanmar have been temporarily taking shelter in Hnahthial, Champhai, Lunglei and other parts of Mizoram. Michelle Bachelot, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that Myanmar troops had used weapons against civilians and carried out indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery barrages:


“The national consequences were terrible and tragic. The international community must double up its efforts to restore democracy and prevent further conflict before it is too late,” Bachelot stressed.

Tatmadaw units are known to have consistently used heavy artillery in southern Shan State causing dozens of casualties. Rights groups including the UN, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch blamed the military junta for using civilians as human shields.


Political turmoil

Myanmar is still simmering in political turmoil following the military coup in February. Anti-coup protesters ran a resistance amidst the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The junta forces allegedly caused about 1,120 deaths during the seven-months-long demonstration. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners states that at least 8,000 have been detained since the military seized power in the country. 


In several places including Sagaing which borders Chin State and Magway division, the entire village was burnt by government troops after the junta raided the township of Taze on 23 September. The clashes between the anti-coup dissident groups across Myanmar and the military junta have been escalating in the last few weeks. The frequency of military carrying out airstrikes against armed groups has spiked.


At least 40 soldiers were reportedly killed on 11 and 24 September and over two dozen houses were damaged in Htei Hlaw village on 12 September. The palpable fear in the region was so intense that residents of Hnan Khar, a village in Magaw region’s Gangaw Township, fled for their life. Dozens of were reportedly infected with COVID-19. Even doctors including volunteers delivering medical supplies faced prosecution.


The National League for Democracy (NLD) was accused of “corruption” and using “fraudulent means” to win the 2020 parliamentary elections with a landslide 80 percent majority. Myanmar’s military invoked Article 417 of the constitution to declare “a state of emergency” and subsequently dismissed the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February. 


The condemnations of the military coup were swift and widespread. Several international rights organisations objected to the mass arrest of activists and political leaders. Despite the global outrage, the humanitarian crisis in the country has persisted. 


Over three million people are still in need of protection and assistance across the country, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), noted. Tens of thousands of dissenters, especially labor unions, activists, teachers, government officials, doctors and others actively participated in the demonstrations against the military junta. 


The momentum against the coup first picked up when teachers and civil servants refused to work for the military. The protests were then continued by medics and workers in railways, construction and social welfare sectors. However, the brutal state repression further catalysed the frustration and resistance. 


In its latest statement, the Civil Disobedience Movement group stated “the young people of Myanmar have no choice but to fight back with what they have.” The activist group added that “the international community needs to understand that it is the lack of meaningful outside intervention that has led to armed revolution.” 


 

Edited by Roshni Shroff

Written by Umer Beigh

Cover image illustration by Jyothi Syam

 

Some resources to help you understand the state of affairs in Myanmar: 


Myanmar coup: What is happening and why?


Myanmar political standoff leaves economy in tatters