Last Updated 02 Mar 2020

Displaced People

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Myanmar is a country located in Central Asia that has experienced massive refugee migration in the last two decades. The displacement of Myanmar nationals, specifically the Rohingya Muslim group, is mainly due to three factors. Firstly, these residents have fled to other countries and even continents in order to avoid further conflict within the state (UNHCR 213). The nature of conflict is based on human rights abuses, while others are centered on religious differences.

It should be understood that Myanmar has been mainly run by the military for at least 30 years and any rebellious acts against these forces immediately result in massive killings and other forms of persecution (UNHCR 59). In addition, the principles and beliefs of the Muslim Rohingya group are largely different from that of the military. Thus, to these refugees, migration appears to be the only solution for safety and ultimately, survival. There are reports that describe entire villages burned down by highly aggressive members of the military.

Two of the most documented villages in Myanmar that have experienced massive migration are the Kanyi and Karen villages. The closest country to Myanmar is Thailand and thus this neighboring country has seen a great influx of refugees in the last few decades. Thailand has been very supportive to displaced Myanmar nationals as they fully assist in providing shelter to these helpless individuals. Unfortunately, refugees from Myanmar often reach Thailand in a very deplorable state, as they have traveled by foot or by sea for several days or weeks to simply cross the border.

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To date, there are approximately 200,000 Myanmar refugees who currently reside in camps around Thailand, with most of them having settled there almost 20 years ago. Other Myanmar refugees have moved to Bangladesh for temporary shelter, as there were particular groups in this country that has close linguistic ties with Myanmar. By the 1990’s, approximately 270,000 refugees have been documented to move out of the northern state of Rakhine in Myanmar and were directed to two Bangladeshi refugee camps, namely Nayapara and Kutupalong.

The current government of Myanmar has earlier expressed their refusal to include the Rohingya group as their citizens and would only recognize this as an ethnic group. Fifteen years later, most of the Rohingya refugees have returned to Myanmar, yet a small portion of this population made up of around 26,000 refugees have continued to refuse to return to their home country. Since Bangladesh is also a developing country, the exile of these Myanmar citizens was not as simple as could be imagined.

These refugees had to adapt to their new environment for the next 15 years and eventually, through the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, these individuals were transferred to Ontario, Canada. Other Myanmar refugees have also been reported in Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines and the United States. Another reason for displacement of Rohingya Muslims is political, wherein this indigenous group was poorly treated simply for the reason that they have are considered to have no social status in Myanmar.

The military government considers this group at stateless and that they have no capacity to pay for the issuance of Myanmar identification cards, which is the requirement for citizenship in the country. Another cause for displacement of Myanmar nationals is environmental disaster, such as the tsunami that was generated after an earthquake that occurred in the Pacific Ocean in 2004 (UNHCR 11).

The strong waves emanating from the earthquake resulted in a tsunami that left Myanmar, India, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries under water for several months. Myanmar residents were thus pushed to move to higher ground and farther from the sea, in order to avoid any additional effects that may come after that strong earthquake. The tsunami of 2004 has resulted in the migration of the Myanmar nationals to neighboring countries such as Thailand, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

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