Beyond the Mekong

Dealing With Myanmar’s IDPs: A Conversation With John Murray

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Beyond the Mekong | Society | Southeast Asia

Dealing With Myanmar’s IDPs: A Conversation With John Murray

“Even in a forgotten war, everyone has a right to a home,” says the veteran aid worker.

Dealing With Myanmar’s IDPs: A Conversation With John Murray

Fr. John Murray from Caritas Thailand in Bangkok.

Credit: Morgan Reinwald

Fr. John Murray is an Australian Catholic priest with Caritas Thailand who has worked extensively with refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) since arriving in the northwest border regions almost 20 years ago.

He says the war inside Myanmar remains forgotten in a world overwhelmed by conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine but more has to be done for the IDPs, which the United Nations says number around 3 million people.

That could include taking out 10-year leases on land from the Thai government where proper accommodation and facilities could be built to house those fleeing the conflict, which erupted after Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and his military ousted an elected government in early 2021.

But there are issues, including a reluctance by Thai authorities and the U.N. to classify IDPs who cross the border into Thailand as refugees, which would be appropriate under international law and has muddied the waters in regards to who qualifies for assistance.

There are also new laws under consideration, which would concentrate control of foreign non-governmental organizations with the Thai government, limiting foreign staffing, which could impact funding.

Murray, who studied at universities in Australia and Britain and is a Brother with the Order of St. Augustine, spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt in Bangkok about the lack of young people left in Myanmar, and who fled the conflict and conscription into Thailand or joined the opposition’s ranks.

He also says Min Aung Hlaing cannot win this war given the severe losses his military has suffered since anti-regime forces, including 20 ethnic armed organizations and the People’s Defense Force, launched during the dry season offensive in November.

* Coarse language at around the 15:30 mark.