Myanmar

Country Information

Source
Population UN Population Division (as of 2016)
Number of IDPs (Conflict and violence) IDMC (as of 2016)
New displacements (Conflict and violence) IDMC (as of 2016)
New displacements (Disasters) IDMC (as of 2016)
Refugees UNHCR (as of 2016)

Conflict and violence displacement figures

Latest GRID confidence assessment

Displacement type New Displacement (Flow) IDPs (Stock)
Reporting units People
People
Households
Methodology Registration
Key informants
Media monitoring
Satellite imagery
Registration
Key informants
Geographical disaggregation Subnational - admin 1 Subnational - admin 1
Geographical coverage No No
Frequency of reporting Every month Every month
Disaggregation on sex No Yes
Disaggregation on age No Yes
Data triangulation Some local triangulation Some local triangulation
Data on settlement elsewhere No Partial
Data on returns Partial Partial
Data on local integration No Partial
Data on deaths No No
Data on births No No

Latest GRID figures analysis

IDMC’s Myanmar estimates draw upon several sources of data which relate to IDP caseloads in different parts of the country. These figures include significant displacement in the Southeast of the country based on data collected in 2012

Download extended figures analysis (PDF, 44 KB)

Latest GRID stock figure by year of data update

Disaster displacement figures

New displacements

Events timeline

Overview

The displacement situation in Myanmar is characterised by statelessness and protracted internal displacement. After decades of armed civil war, the nationwide ceasefire agreement in 2015 and the formation of a new government in 2016 significantly changed the country’s political landscape. However, high levels of disaster risk, weakly regulated and non-inclusive development investments, and continued military interventions and violence, particularly in the northeast, will continue to generate many new displacements every year.

Drivers of displacement

Political and inter-communal conflict and disasters create large numbers of new displacements in Myanmar on a regular basis. In several regions of the country, the contexts and causes of conflict and disaster intertwine to such an extent that it becomes difficult to distinguish displacement triggers. In addition, significant displacement has also arisen in the context of new development investments in agribusiness and industrial development. The resulting losses of productive land, of access to natural resources and of livelihoods generate displacement, as does increased exposure and vulnerability to natural hazards.

New displacements regularly result from disasters, as all major natural hazards affect the country to some degree, putting Myanmar at the greatest risk of disaster in Southeast Asia. Regular, widespread flooding and localised landslides are the most devastating hazards and cause the most displacement. The risk of displacement related to disaster is thus driven less by exposure than by high levels of vulnerability.

Conflict takes on different forms in Myanmar, with armed hostilities, political and inter-communal violence, and ethnic conflict all contributing to ever-growing displacement figures. Myanmar’s military has been engaged in armed conflict since the country gained independence in 1948, with more than 30 ethnic insurgent non-state armed groups emerging over the last 70 years. The military dictatorship of the last two decades ended in 2015, when the country’s first contested national election since 1990 resulted in a victory for the National League for Democracy. The Panglong Peace Conference brought together almost all ethnic armed groups for the first time, and a peace and reconciliation process is under way.

The continued marginalisation and displacement of minorities such as the Rohingya, however, created new tensions and conflicts. In Rakhine state, chronic poverty and competition for resources, combined with historical religious and ethnic tensions between the Rohingya and Rakhine’s Buddhist majority, led to inter-communal violence in 2012. The government has no policies to address the marginalisation of the state’s Buddhists, who fear that the growth of the Muslim population will marginalise them even further. In the absence of a programme to tackle the existing deprivation suffered by all of Rakhine’s inhabitants, tensions between the two communities worsened. Large numbers of Rohingya have fled across the border into Bangladesh, where they are facing renewed displacement in the form of forced returns as the government seeks the repatriation of all Myanmar nationals who have taken refuge in Bangladesh since the 1970s.

The country faces a multitude of social, political, economic and environmental challenges that continue to fuel the risk of displacement by conflict and disaster as well as development investment. New land laws and economic policies passed in 2011 and 2012 have enabled the development of special economic zones (SEZs) and the acquisition of fertile lands for large-scale agribusiness, and the plans for those projects are already threatening to cause new displacements. In order to attract foreign direct investment, the government has offered tax holidays, income tax relief, exemption from customs duties and multi-decade land leases. As a result, investments are made without consideration of the impact on local communities, creating the risk of significant displacement, and without attention to recent experience of devastating cyclone impacts in high-risk areas.

Myanmar currently ranks 136th among the 176 countries in Transparency International’s corruption index. In an environment where governance concerns about corruption and state impunity continue to exist, economic development is unlikely to yield significant development benefits. The country also faces the risk of economic losses from disasters equivalent to 30 per cent of its annual capital investment. If Myanmar continues to invest without regard for disaster and the related displacement risk, this already unsustainable level of risk will grow exponentially.

Patterns of displacement

Myanmar regularly ranks among the top ten countries in terms of new displacement caused by disasters. Flooding affects large parts of the country on a seasonal basis, with monsoon rains in mountainous and delta areas from mid-May to October, poor drainage systems in cities, river erosion and dam bursts in rural areas displacing hundreds of thousands of people each year.

In many areas, floods affect already fragile communities that have suffered from years of conflict, easily triggering new displacements. This has been the case in Rakhine state, which hosts large numbers of people displaced by inter-communal violence. Similarly, displacement in the south-eastern states of Kayin, Mon and Shan, and in the Bago and Tanintharyi regions, has been triggered by floods, conflict and land grabs (OCHA, 30 September 2013).

Across the country and over decades, the military (known as the Tatmadaw) forcibly relocated civilians from ethnic minority groups in the eastern and south-eastern border states and regions. The Tatmadaw’s relocation orders were usually given at short notice, preventing many from taking their belongings with them before their homes were burned down. The depopulated villages were declared “free-fire zones”, and people who stayed on beyond the relocation deadline faced serious protection risks.

The states of Rakhine, Shan and Kachin regularly suffer from active conflict and large numbers of new displacements. Many IDPs have been displaced several times, in some cases across the border into China. Although eight non-state armed groups signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government of Kachin state in 2015, renewed clashes in the summer of 2016 escalated the conflict further and caused cross-border displacement in early 2017 as IDPs temporarily entered China to escape the violence. In Rakhine, military campaigns continue to displace large numbers of already vulnerable people, creating severe food insecurity and protection concerns.

In those three states, the majority of officially recorded people displaced by conflict live in camps, but a significant number are also hosted by local communities and monasteries. Displacement in Shan is often temporary, with many IDPs returning home after short periods of time. Roughly half of the displaced people are located in areas outside of government control, meaning that international humanitarian agencies have little access to them.

Conflict and violence in the southeast has created the most protracted displacement situation in the country, with the majority of IDPs living in the areas most affected by armed conflict, specifically in the states of Shan, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin and Mon, and in the Bago and Tanintharyi regions. In addition, a potentially large number of IDPs may choose not to identify themselves in order to avoid being recruited or targeted by armed groups.

Priority needs and vulnerabilities

Ethnic minorities have been disproportionally affected by the impacts of conflict and by the related human rights violations. Remnants of armed conflict such as landmines and unexploded ordnance add to the obstacles IDPs face in returning home.

Muslim IDPs in Rakhine state face particular challenges due to their legal status vis-à-vis the government They have little or no access to healthcare (only two of the state’s six hospitals treat Muslim patients), education or places of worship. IDPs also face difficulties in accessing clean water and sanitation in Kachin and Shan, where temporary water and sanitation infrastructure lacks regular maintenance and operational support. The Rohingya are considered the world’s largest group of stateless people. As a result of their statelessness, they face severe restrictions on their movement and cannot access basic services and livelihoods.

Women and children represent a large proportion of IDPs in Myanmar and are especially vulnerable. Women in camps are particularly exposed to sexual violence, as shelter and sanitation facilities cannot provide adequate privacy. Unaccompanied children are most at risk of being exploited and are in need of education. In addition, displaced Muslim children and youths in Rakhine have little or no access to formal education because they are not allowed to leave their camps.

As a result of movement restrictions and limited income opportunities, life-saving food assistance is still needed for IDPs, returnees, relocated people and other people affected by conflict in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan. Despite serious concerns about civilian safety, most protection activities remain suspended across northern Rakhine.

Selected references

Myanmar Humanitarian Needs Overview, 2017

Myanmar HDX, 2017

IDMC overview, 2014

Myanmar national framework for community disaster resilience

Myanmar disaster risk profile