Further Displacement and Humanitarian Crisis Marks World Refugee Day

June 24th, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  10 minute read
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“the military has blocked humanitarian aid from being delivered to many ethnic areas while deliberately destroying people’s food storage.”

488 Myanmar civil society organizations

This year’s World Refugee Day, 20 June 2021, has been marked in Myanmar by waves of displacement since the military’s attempted coup of 1 February, adding to the already existing huge numbers of displaced people. Furthermore, the Myanmar military, which is causing people to flee their homes all across Myanmar, is weaponizing humanitarian aid in an effort to destroy the resistance of the Spring Revolution. It is thus essential that the international humanitarian community listen to the people’s voices and support local efforts to alleviate the crisis, and not furnish the regime with legitimacy by partnering with them in humanitarian aid provision.

Since the 1 February coup, over a quarter of a million people have been displaced as the regime launches violent attacks on the people and their Spring Revolution. In Karenni State and southern Shan State, 100,000 people were displaced in just a few weeks after local people’s defence forces sought to resist the attempted coup and the regime responded with artillery, airstrikes and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. In Mindat, Chin State, 10,000 out of a population of 11,000 were displaced after junta soldiers laid siege to the town. Airstrikes in northern Karen State in March-April and continuing military offensives have displaced 70,000 people. In Mon State, local human rights organization – the Human Rights Foundation of Monland – in a report released on World Refugee Day documents “a climate of fear cultivated by the junta, leading to a dramatic increase in the internal displacement of civilians across the country.” Furthermore, as the Women’s League of Burma reminded us on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict – 19 June – the Burmese military has been using rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war for decades, and is continuing this practice against detained women and members of the LGBTIQ community since the attempted coup. These are just a few examples of the destruction, violence, and displacement, caused by the regime in order to suppress the Spring Revolution that is aspiring for a federal democracy and overthrow of military rule.

Yet these instances of forced displacement due to violence are familiar to ethnic communities throughout Myanmar. After Kinma Village in Magwe Region was burned to the ground, with 80% of houses destroyed and killing four elders in their 80s and 90s who were too old to flee, propaganda from the junta’s TV channel blamed “terrorists,” claiming that they burned down their own homes. This echoes the claims made during the genocide of the Rohingya, in which authorities claimed that the Rohingya burned their own homes. Similar to the ‘fake rape’ message that was posted on the Facebook page of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s office, the doubting of the Rohingya’s claims’ of violence that was done to them is being realized as a mistake, as more and more people bear witness to the brutality of the Myanmar military. Meanwhile, most of the nearly one million Rohingya refugees remain in overcrowded, underfunded refugee camps in Bangladesh, some of whom are being forced to move to the island of Bhasan Char, an unsafe island prone to flooding and storms.

Not only has the junta worsened displacement, but it is weaponizing humanitarian aid in order to punish those who resist their military coup. As outlined in a statement released on World Refugee Day by 488 Myanmar civil society organizations, “the military has blocked humanitarian aid from being delivered to many ethnic areas while deliberately destroying people’s food storage.” This is in violation of humanitarian law. It is also complementary to the military’s decades-old ‘four cuts’ (Pyat Lei Pyat) strategy, in which ethnic revolutionary organizations are cut off from civilian populations by breaking their links to food, funds, intelligence, and recruits. Destroying aid, or blocking its delivery is a part of the ‘four cuts strategy’, and any international humanitarian partner to the junta must be aware that by partnering with the junta, it is contributing to the weaponization of much needed humanitarian assistance.

Over the past few years, World Refugee Day has been marked by Myanmar civil society organizations urging international donors to continue humanitarian assistance to refugees and IDPs, displaced by armed conflict, and whose voices have often been lost amid the clamour around an elitist, expensive peace process and democratic transition. Despite warnings by local community-based organizations working among refugee communities that their homes were often not safe to go back to, and violence continued or could flare up at any time, resources directed at the ethnic Kachin, Shan, Karenni, Karen, Mon, and other ethnic groups in the north and the east of the country dwindled. The genocidal violence that sent over 700,000 Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh in 2017, however, served as a stark warning of the violence still used against minorities by the Myanmar military. Given the attempted illegal coup of 1 February, and subsequent political, human rights and humanitarian crises that the whole country is facing, it is time for international donors and humanitarian organizations to redouble their efforts in supporting already existing local humanitarian networks, civil society and community-based organizations, and ethnic service providers.

The junta’s weaponization of humanitarian aid underscores the need to support cross-border assistance to local humanitarian organizations and bypass the corrupt, hungry dogs of the Myanmar military. Working together with the junta will only legitimize their coup and aid them in their attempted domination of the Myanmar people. By partnering and deepening support for local organizations, providing timely and flexible assistance, as well as collaboration with the ethnic armed organizations and the interim National Unity Government, must be the strategy of the international humanitarian community. Neighbouring countries such as Thailand must also allow refugees to cross the border to seek sanctuary, and allow humanitarian and UN agencies access to these populations. By following these recommendations from Myanmar civil society, not only can material support be provided through legitimate and effective humanitarian provision, but it signals support for the people’s struggle for federal democracy against the very institution that is at the root of violence and displacement that Myanmar’s people, especially ethnic minorities, know so well.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Stop the Weaponization of Humanitarian Aid by the Myanmar Military Junta

By 488 Civil Society Organizations

Unprovoked shooting by the Junta since the coup

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict Myanmar women need safety and accountability

By Asia Justice and Rights and Other Myanmar and Regional Organizations

UN: New resolution against violence in Myanmar must prompt global arms embargo

By Amnesty International

Myanmar: As Aung San Suu Kyi goes on trial, ASEAN’s indecision is enabling military rampage

By Amnesty International

Statement of ARNO on the NUG policy Position on Rohingya in Rakhine State

By Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

Chinland Defense Force ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် ၅/၂၀၂၁

By Chinland Defense Force

Kanpetlet CDF မှ အသိပေးတင်ပြခြင်း

By Chinland Defense Force

The Third Amendment to the Public Debt Management Law

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

EU Statement – United Nations General Assembly: Meeting on Myanmar

By Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations – New York

On World Refugee Day, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland Condemns the Forced Internal Displacement of Civilians in Burma with Release of Briefing Paper on Humanitarian Crisis

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Myanmar: Stop Holding Family, Friends Hostage

By Human Rights Watch

Bharat Electronics Limited partners and shareholders must act now to stop transfers of military technology to Myanmar junta

By Justice For Myanmar

Deadly reprisals: regime steps up attacks on civilians in retaliation for conflict losses in northern Burma

By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

KHRG’s Statement on World Refugee Day

By Karen Human Rights Group

KHRG’s Statement on International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

By Karen Human Rights Group

Malaysia welcomes the adoption of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on the Situation in Myanmar on 18 June 2021

By Malaysia (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

H.E. Dr Sasa, Union Minister of the Ministry of International Cooperation and Spokesperson of the National Unity Government of Myanmar welcomes with deepest gratitude the response of the world leaders of the G7 Summit

By Ministry of International Cooperation Myanmar

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေငြာချက်အမှတ် (၅/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Health)

National Unity Government Press Release (5/2021)

By National Unity Government

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ CDM အောင်မြင်ရေးကော်မတီ ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၁/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government

National Unity Government Announcement No.7/2021

By National Unity Government

Joint Statement on World Refugee Day 2021

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Ministry of Women, Youths and Children Affairs)

Statement by Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations after adoption of the draft resolution (A/75/L.85/Rev.1) at the 83rd Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly

By Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations

Letter dated 17 June 2021 from the Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations, H.E. U Kyaw Moe Tun, addressed to the Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Antonio Guterres

By Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations

Protect Shan State’s lifeblood, Save the Salween River

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

UN in Myanmar Alarmed at Sharp Deterioration of Human Rights Environment

By United Nations Myanmar

US Campaign for Burma on Statement World Refugee Day

By US Campaign for Burma

Remarks at a UN General Assembly Briefing on Myanmar

By United States Mission to the United Nations

Statement on International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

By Women’s League of Burma



Airstrikes Kill in Karenni State While An Estimated 100,000 Flee

By Free Burma Rangers

Displacement on the Rise: A Crisis in Mon State, Karen State and Tanintharyi Region

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

UN Shared Rohingya Data Without Informed Consent

By Human Rights Watch

Bharat Electronics Limited Supplying Technology to Myanmar Since Attempted Military Coup

By Justice For Myanmar

Deadly reprisals: regime steps up attacks on civilians in retaliation for conflict losses in northern Burma

By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

Scaling up the U.S. Response to the Coup in Burma

By The Heritage Foundation

Myanmar: Humanitarian Snapshot, June 2021 (covering conflict-affected areas under 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan)

By UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific (RBAP) Myanmar Emergency – External Update, 15 June 2021

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNGA: Seventy-fifth session Agenda item 34 Prevention of armed conflict

By United Nations General Assembly

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”