The number of displaced people in Myanmar has exceeded 1 million for the first time, as the conflicts stemming from last year’s military coup continue to spread and deepen, the U.N. humanitarian relief agency said yesterday.
According to the latest humanitarian update from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 694,000 people have been displaced by the conflict and insecurity stemming from the military’s disastrous takeover last February. This represents an increase of 127,900 since OCHA’s previous update in mid-April.
The report, which covers the period up to May 26, claims that of this group of 694,000, thousands have been forced to move for a second or third time, while an estimated 40,200 people have crossed the borders into neighboring countries. An additional estimated 346,000 people were displaced by fighting before last year’s coup, mostly due to long-running conflicts between the military and ethnic armed groups that have been struggling for decades for autonomy from the central state.
OCHA also estimates that 12,700 properties, “including houses, churches, monasteries, and schools,” have been destroyed since the coup, up from 8,262 in the last update.
The military’s takeover last year terminated a decade of limited opening, prompting a fierce reaction from the Myanmar population and inflaming dormant conflicts with ethnic armed groups on the country’s periphery. After the security forces crushed mass protests with violence, the opposition reemerged in the form of dozens of locally based People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) that have launched a collective armed uprising against the coup government.
According to the update, the already desperate situation has been exacerbated by an escalation in the fighting between the junta and its opponents. “Various parts of Myanmar have witnessed an escalation in fighting, further entrenching the already fragile humanitarian situation,” the update states. “The impact on civilians is worsening daily with frequent indiscriminate attacks and incidents involving explosive hazards, including landmines and explosive remnants of war.”
The effects of conflict are being compounded by the rising prices of essential commodities, including food and fuel, and the coming of monsoon season, “causing damage to shelters and further compounding existing vulnerabilities.”
OCHA added that funding for U.N. relief efforts is “dire,” and that the funding for the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan is only 10 percent funded, with a shortfall of $740 million. “All clusters are seriously underfunded, threatening their ability to respond to the growing needs and gaps in response,” the report states.
OCHA’s humanitarian updates rarely make for happy reading, but the latest report paints a particularly bleak picture of Myanmar’s trajectory, more than 16 months after the coup. With the conflicts between the military junta and its loose coalition of opponents grinding on, and no negotiated resolution to the crisis likely for the foreseeable future, it is likely that the next update, due later this month, will bear similarly bad – or even worse – news.