Humanitarian Crisis in Myanmar

Nina Z.

Over the last decade, Myanmar has continued its shift from a military dictatorship to a democratic government. One example of this transition is the gradual allowance of freedom of the press, along with the release of many political prisoners. Despite those efforts to move towards democracy, military leaders maintained power and influence over the country and continued its genocide on ethnic minority groups. In 2017, around 700,000 Rohingya (a group of an ethnic minority group) people were forced to flee to nearby countries due to the genocide led by the military. This event foreshadowed the end of the already-endangered democracy in Myanmar.

On February 1st of 2021, the previous Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu and the National League for Democracy (NLD) was overthrown by a military coup. The military commander-in-chief Min Anu Hlaing seized power and named himself the Chairman of the State Administration Council. Daily protests against the new government happened across the country, protests that, on many occasions, became violent. During the first four months after the coup, security forces in Myanmar killed over 800 civilians and arrested almost 6000. Since February of 2021, around 200,000 civilians have been displaced due to the fear of being persecuted and the instability of the new government that includes constant military attacks. The new government treated citizens who did not agree with them in the same way as they previously dealt with certain ethnical groups-- without respect. The pre-existing violence against ethnic minority groups continues to worsen. 

(Civilians fleeing towards states, UNHCR)
 

 

Most of these refugees attempt to flee to other countries surrounding Myanmar, including India and Thailand. This sudden displacement disrupted civilians living in border areas and put pressure on its infrastructures and resources. Cross-border aid and the refugee's living conditions in those neighboring states are also in crisis. Thai officials have refused to provide cross-border aid to Myanmar, and its refugee camps have inhumane living conditions. Many countries, like India and Malaysia, have also threatened to deport Myanmar citizens who fled the country before the coup. Malaysia alone received around 150,000 refugees from Myanmar and deported more than 1,000 Myanmar citizens back in the first weeks of the coup. Other countries, such as China, have closed their borders due to COVID-19 safety regulations.

What has been done to attempt to stop this humanitarian crisis?

The international community recognizes the security and humanitarian impacts of the coup and its influence on bordering countries. In April 2021, a Five-Point Consensus was agreed upon at the ASEAN summit. The Consensus called for five steps to be taken immediately, including the cessation of violence and the beginning of political talks. Still, due to the incorporation of Min Anu Hlaing, the process to officiate this consensus has been slow. 

Unfortunately, existing humanitarian programs in Myanmar are unable to help its citizens escape its current crisis. They have been experiencing funding gaps before 2021, and the severe cash shortages further prevent them from accessing funds.

International aids are also struggling to reach those in need. Currently, transportation is hindered by past regional restrictions due to the deteriorating security situation. A safe passageway for civilians is desperately needed. Current humanitarian operations show that, without this step, any aid will have little effect on the crisis.
 

Work Cited

“Issue Brief: Dire Consequences: Addressing the Humanitarian Fallout from Myanmar's Coup - Myanmar.” ReliefWeb, reliefweb.int/report/myanmar/issue-brief-dire-consequences-addressing-humanitarian-fallout-myanmar-s-coup.
“Myanmar's Humanitarian Crisis: What Role for the International Community?” EIAS, 20 Aug. 2021, eias.org/policy-briefs/myanmars-humanitarian-crisis-what-role-for-the-international-community/.