Nearly 1.7 million new refugees from conflict in Myanmar since coup d’état

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Nearly 1.7 million people have been displaced by conflict in Myanmar since last year’s military coup, bringing the total number of refugees fleeing fighting in the country to more than 3 million, placing a strain on resources in the country. Southeast Asian country.

The Institute for Strategy and Policy, an independent research group, said in a report earlier this month that as of November 2, at least 1,650,661 people had been forced to escape conflict in regions such as Sagaing, Magway, Bago, Chin and Kayah in the more than 21 months since the military took power in Myanmar.

The new refugees join an estimated 497,200 internally displaced people who fled the conflict before the February 21, 2021 coup and at least 1,019,190 who have crossed Myanmar’s borders into neighboring Thailand, India and Bangladesh due to fighting both before and after the putsch. , the group said.

The new total of 3,167,051 represents about six percent of the country’s 54.4 million population.

As the number of refugees continues to rise amid a protracted conflict in Myanmar’s remote border regions between the military and anti-coup paramilitary groups and ethnic armies, local and international aid groups say the junta has denied them access to those in need or hampered efforts to deliver critical supplies to camps for the displaced.

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A refugee in the war-torn township of Kanpetlet in Chin state told RFA Burmese on Wednesday that medicines and food resources in their camp have nearly dried up, putting an already vulnerable population at greater risk.

“We are in a very difficult situation,” said the refugee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fears of reprisals by the military.

“We urgently need medicines for the elderly, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under the age of five.”

According to ethnic Chin human rights groups, the conflict since the military coup has led to more than 110,000 new refugees in Chin state, of whom more than 60,000 have fled to other regions of Myanmar and more than 50,000 of them have crossed to the Indian state of Mizoram to escape the fighting. .

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In Kayin state, the ethnic Karen National Union said daily fighting between the army and its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, had caused at least 186,471 people to flee their homes in the Karen-controlled townships of Hpapun, Kawkareik, Kyainseikgyi . and Myawaddy from August 16.

Meanwhile, more than 130,000 ethnic Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Rakhine state in 2012 and 2017 are in more than 10 displaced persons camps in Sittwe municipality, aid workers say.

Help not provided

The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar led to an agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the junta to facilitate the immediate distribution of aid to refugees in the country through the military regime’s Ministry of International Cooperation at a meeting of May 6 in the capital of Cambodia. Phnom Penh.

Nevertheless, aid groups — including UN agencies and NGOs — say they are not allowed to do that or that the supplies they handed over to the junta under the pretext of security risks are not delivered.

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Attempts by the RFA to contact the ASEAN Humanitarian Aid Coordination Center for Disaster Management via email for comment on why aid has been largely withheld from Myanmar’s refugees went unanswered on Wednesday, as did requests for comment to Ko Ko Hlaing, the junta’s Minister of International Cooperation. .

Banyar, the director of the Karenni Human Rights Group, said the junta’s restrictions have made aid distribution in the country impossible, and advised aid groups to “officially leave Myanmar”.

“Providing humanitarian aid through the countries bordering Myanmar will be more effective,” he told RFA.

Other groups have suggested that ASEAN’s aid agency had overestimated its ability to deliver.

In a November 1 statement, the Thailand-based Border Consortium, which has assisted refugees along the Thailand-Myanmar border since 1984, said the agency has “no experience” of responding to emergencies and claimed that efforts to provide aid to rural Myanmar would remain fruitless without the blessing of the army.

Rohingya migrants are being escorted after their boat carrying 119 people landed on the coast of Bluka Teubai, North Aceh, Indonesia, on November 16, 2022, after surviving a five-week journey at sea. Credit: TBEN

Rohingya refugee arrested

The new figures for conflict refugees in Myanmar came as RFA reporting revealed that between October 17 and November 11, authorities had arrested at least 388 Rohingyas trying to flee refugee camps in Rakhine state and neighboring Bangladesh to Malaysia.

Authorities in Myanmar do not recognize Rohingyas as citizens of the country, despite members of their ethnic group having a long history in Rakhine State, and subject them to discrimination and restrictions on movement.

Among those arrested in the three weeks ending November 11 were 60 members of a group of 80 Rohingyas, including 45 children, whose boat sank near Bogale township in Ayeyarwaddy region en route to the Andaman Sea on October 30, leaving 20 people behind. missing.

A Bogale resident aiding the detained Rohingyas told RFA that the 60 Rohingyas are being held at the township police station on charges of immigration.

On October 20, authorities arrested 117 Rohingyas they say were trying to leave Myanmar for Malaysia at a house in the Yangon region, and 54 Rohingyas – including a pregnant woman – who were planning to travel to the same destination two days later in the near Maubin municipality in Ayeyarwady region.

On November 2, authorities in Kawkareik township in Kayin state arrested 101 Rohingyas trying to flee to Thailand from Buthidaung township in Rakhine state, sources said.

According to data collected by RFA, authorities in Myanmar have arrested at least 992 Rohingyas who tried to flee their homes between December 2021 and mid-October 2022. Among them, 223 have been sentenced to two to five years in prison under Myanmar’s immigration laws. .

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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