UN says more than 1 million displaced by civil conflict in Myanmar

The military has hindered or denied independent access to areas not under its control, hampering aid efforts

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Friday, June 03, 2022, 09:52 AM IST
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Rohingya refugees look on in the compounds of a mosque following their arrival by boat in Bireuen, Aceh province on 6 March, 2022 | AFP

The United Nations’ humanitarian relief agency says the number of people displaced within strife-torn Myanmar has for the first time exceeded 1 million, with well over half the total losing their homes after a military takeover last year.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says in a report that an already critical situation is being exacerbated by ongoing fighting between the military government and its opponents, the increasing prices of essential commodities, and the coming of monsoon season, while funding for its relief efforts is severely inadequate. Its report covers the situation up to May 26.

Almost 700,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the toppling of Aung San Suu Kyi's government last year, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said on Tuesday.

Civilian militias have formed to fight back against the coup across the country, and the junta has responded with an onslaught that rights groups say includes razing villages, mass extra-judicial killings and airstrikes on civilians.

The violence has added to an estimated 346,000 people already displaced before the coup.

That includes those affected by long-running conflicts with ethnic rebel groups along the Thai and Chinese borders, and Rohingya Muslims forced from their homes during a brutal 2017 crackdown.

More than 12,000 civilian properties are estimated to have been burned or destroyed since the coup, UNOCHA said, with the approaching monsoon rains threatening more misery for those living in displacement camps.

More than 300,000 of those displaced since the coup were from the northwestern Sagaing region, where fighters clash regularly with the military, it added.

The UN noted that authorities had cut mobile data services across much of Sagaing and neighbouring Magway – another hotspot – and that there were “restrictions” in place affecting the transport of rice, medicine and fuel.

“Reports suggest there remains a dire need for health services, food, and relief items and shelter in these areas,” it said, noting that diplomatic efforts to end the crisis were nearly non-existent, and the chances for peace bleak.

The military has hindered or denied independent access to areas not under its control, hampering aid efforts.

Myanmar’s army in February last year seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering widespread peaceful protests. When those were put down with lethal force by the army and police, nonviolent opposition turned into armed resistance, and the country slipped into what some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said last month that the number of people worldwide forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has crossed the milestone of 100 million for the first time on record. That’s more than 1% of the global population and comprises refugees and asylum-seekers as well as people displaced inside their own countries by conflict.

(with inputs from AP)

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