The problem of war refugees, which is the main issue the entire country is confronting

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – January 03 Scenes
MoeMaKa, January 04, 2023

The problem of war refugees, which is the main issue the entire country is confronting

I think that the problem of war refugees throughout Myanmar is the biggest problem after the military battles to achieve the victory of the revolution.

During the Myanmar civil war that started shortly after independence in the post-World War II period, there were widespread war refugees. There were also war refugees during the civil wars in the 1950s and 1960s between ethnic armed groups, the Communist Party, and the military. Similarly, in the 1970s and 1980s, wars erupted in Bago Yoma, Shan State, and Karen State, resulting in a large number of war refugees. The political history of Myanmar was combined with the history of war refugees.

Until the end of the Masala era, war refugees in those days had to deal with it on their own because there were few humanitarian aid organizations and little media coverage of the incident during that period. They did not build and manage temporary camps, which are now called “war evacuation camps,” but lived in monasteries and forests and returned to their hometowns when the situation allowed.

The problem of war refugees in Karen State resulted in the construction of refugee camps on the border of Thailand, a neighboring country in the region, in the 1990s, and the establishment of hundreds to thousands of refugee camps. There are still camps where refugees have been living for decades. In the decade between the 2010 election and the 2020 election, peace talks did not reach the level of repatriation of war refugees of the 1990s.

Again, there are still thousands to tens of thousands of refugee camps in the north and northeast of Myanmar. In June 2011, gunfire erupted in the area due to clashes between the KIA and the military resulting in war refugee camps along the eastern part of Kachin State and border areas between Northern Shan and Kachin such as Bhamo, Mansi and Namhkan for decades. After the 2021 military coup, many new armed groups wielding military path and new territories appeared before the problems of war victims could be solved, and hundreds of millions of war refugees have risen rapidly in more than a year in Karenni State, Chin State, Magway Division, Sagaing Division, and Karen State.

In its strategy of fighting the war, the military council intentionally makes civilians flee the conflict so that the community cannot support the armed forces. The military council is employing a strategy that includes not only fleeing as war refugees but also cutting off food and medicine supplies so that these necessities do not reach the battlegrounds, and the consequences can be clearly seen in Karenni and Rakhine states.

Many of the ethnic armed groups decide to stay with the status quo because the local population is harmed in such a situation, or because the local people in the area where they are based are held hostage, so they choose to defend rather than attack.

In an effort to overthrow the military council by armed means to regain power and win, there may be a question of how to prevent the refugee problem from becoming a consequence of the armed conflict or how to change the military strategy and tactics to reduce this problem that seems to be hindering the revolution. The ethnic armed organizations have chosen to move their liberated areas and headquarters near the border.

On the other hand, there may be an idea that it is impossible to avoid this situation, as rural areas and cities will also suffer with the eradication of the dictatorial military. However, the main source of funding for the armed struggle is not aid from a foreign government or mining resource and if it is an armed revolution that depends on the support of the public, it is necessary for the public to be able to survive and eat. It may be difficult to continue the fight with the majority of people living in war-torn refugee camps.