Myanmar Faces Suffering and Displacement During Christmas and New Year

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – December 16

Humanitarian Crisis Amidst Holiday Season

MoeMaKa, December 17, 2023

Myanmar Faces Suffering and Displacement During Christmas and New Year

While many countries globally celebrate the festive season with joy and tranquility, Myanmar stands in stark contrast. Instead of revelry, the people of several regions are grappling with the imminent threat of conflict, airstrikes, and arrest, compelling them to become war refugees seeking refuge in cities, villages, forests, and mountains.

This is not a novel experience for them. On the eve of Christmas in December 2021, almost 30 refugees, predominantly Christians from Karenni State, fell victim to a massacre near Moso village in Hpruso Township. This incident marked a horrifying occurrence during Christmas, revealing the beginning of war crimes that would plague subsequent years.

In mid-December 2021, hostilities commenced when the military council raided Lay Kay Kaw, a peace city near Myawaddy, Karen State, leading to the arrest of some NLD MPs.

From 2021 to 2023, the Christmas season and the transition into the New Year have been marred by war-induced displacement, loss of lives, and the destruction of homes. In 2023, regions in Northern Shan State, Chin State, Karen State, Karenni State, and Bago Division are witnessing the hardships faced by those fleeing conflict.

In Palaung areas like Muse, Namhkam, and Namhsan, the Palaung State Liberation Front/Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA) is fervently battling to seize cities and military bases controlled by the military council, forcing tens of thousands to flee. The military council, despite abandoning some areas, continues to bombard camps and cities and deploy Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems (MRLS) in certain regions.

In recent days, the TNLA aggressively seized the 105-mile gate near Muse Town, a vital point on the China-Myanmar border trade route. Fierce attacks prompted locals in nearby villages to flee for safety. Although Muse City remains under military council control, concerns loom over potential attacks. In Namhkam city, now under TNLA control, reports indicate airstrikes by the military council and the destruction of numerous homes.

In Karenni State, the KNDF armed forces have been striving to capture Loikaw for over a month, encountering resistance from military council troops. Tens of thousands of urban residents are fleeing to cities in southern Shan State. However, some areas show reluctance or inability to accept these refugees, potentially influenced by differences in religion and ethnicity.

Divergences between those fleeing war in Karenni and local residents might be a contributing factor. Southern Shan State, controlled by the military council, neglects administrative and social assistance to those escaping conflict, treating them as supporters of the enemy.

As the year draws to a close and global celebrations unfold, Myanmar witnesses a poignant contrast. While families worldwide reunite and enjoy the festive season, families in Myanmar are forced to flee, hoping for safety and sustenance. Amidst the holiday season, many have faced arrest, torture, and the loss of loved ones, adding to the tragic toll of war.