Humanitarian Crisis in Myanmar

April 16th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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“the situation of rural villagers in Karen State has grown more critical, with many villagers now facing severe food insecurity and health issues, including the spread of COVID-19, with little access to external support.”

Karen Human Rights Group

The Myanmar military junta continues to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis throughout Myanmar by burning peoples’ houses and whole villages in Sagaing and Magway Region, launching airstrikes and heavy shelling in Karen State, and launching attacks from helicopter gunships. It is clear that the continued brutality and cruelty they are inflicting on the people of Myanmar will not stop until the military is defeated and the Spring Revolution succeeds. Hence it is vital that supporters in the international community, especially the UN and its member states’ governments do not bestow any legitimacy on the terrorist junta, and provide concrete support to the Spring Revolution.

Information released by Data for Myanmar shows that nearly 5,000 houses in Sagaing Region, including 100 villages, have been burned down by the junta since its attempted coup last February. In Khin U Township, Sagaing Region, 750 houses have been burned down only since March this year as they implement a scorched earth policy to hunt down the resolute resistance forces operating in the area. In neighboring Magway, where resistance to the military has also been fiercely determined, the local Pauk People’s Defence Force ambushed military trucks and seized weapons. In response, the military raided villages, alongside its’ Pyu Saw Htee militia supporters, burned down one whole village in Pauk Township, while the junta launched attacks from helicopter gunships on local villages between Pakkoku and Pauk Townships.

On another front, on the other side of the country, the junta has increased its attacks in Karen State, especially around Lay Kay Kaw near the Thailand-Myanmar border. This has been a site of repeated and extremely heavy fighting since December, as local PDFs alongside the Karen National Liberation Army, have inflicted significant losses on junta troops. As the junta responds with airstrikes and heavy shelling, displacing even more people, the refugees trying to cross the border are often pushed back from the Thai side, leaving them in an extremely vulnerable situation. A Karen Human Rights Group report on the situation between July and December 2021 documented an increase in forced labor and portering, torture, extrajudicial killings of civilians, and the use of human shields by the military, as well as the marked uptick in military offensives. Regarding the humanitarian situation, their report states that “the situation of rural villagers in Karen State has grown more critical, with many villagers now facing severe food insecurity and health issues, including the spread of COVID-19, with little access to external support.”

Given the ferocity and cruelty of junta attacks and the impact this is having on people in Myanmar in terms of the humanitarian situation, it is imperative that the international community helps in several ways, including providing material, humanitarian support through cross-border channels to local communities. The recent blocking by junta troops of a World Food Programme Truck as it attempted to deliver food for IDPs in Magway Region demonstrates how the military junta is simply not willing to allow such assistance to those who desperately need it and the dangers of attempting to provide aid through the very institution that has created the humanitarian crisis.

Furthermore, international governments must not confer any legitimacy to the military junta. It must be stated and reiterated time and time again, that the military does not control the country. Large swathes are under the control of local communities, including ethnic armed organizations’ administrations. The military has no local legitimacy outside its corrupt network of military-affiliated businesses, military families and paid-for local militias and can only use force to impose its will, which has been met with fierce resistance from the people despite the imbalance of materiel. Hence why the decision of the outgoing Australian Ambassador to officially meet with the leader of the junta, Min Aung Hlaing, and receive a parting gift was a sign to the peoples forces of the Spring Revolution that Australia does not care for their struggle. This corresponds with the lack of any targeted sanctions and continued investment by Australia’s sovereign wealth fund with companies that do business with the Myanmar military, showing how out of step Australia is with its traditional allies the US, UK, and the EU, all of which have imposed targeted sanctions. Now that a new ambassador is set to be appointed to Myanmar, they must not present their credentials to the junta.

Additionally the US Congress must pass its proposed BURMA Act 2021, a proposed piece of legislation currently passed by the House of Representatives, and waiting for passage by the Senate. The BURMA Act 2021 provides for increased humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar, which according to Global Witness could amount to over $450million, room to sanction entities and individuals involved with the coup and subsequent violence, for broader support for the democracy movement and calls for national reconciliation and peace process that is inclusive of the Rohingya.

It is clear that the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar is one of the military’s making. Blocking assistance while it continues to shell and launch airstrikes, displacing thousands more each week, killing civilians and attacking medical professionals and humanitarian aid workers is not an entity that can be a vehicle for humanitarian assistance, nor the legitimate authority of the country. The military is losing more control of the country, and extra support for the victims of its violence as well as for the pro-democracy forces, coupled with increased pressure on the junta and its economic interests through targeted sanctions, must be the priority for international supporters of the people’s revolution in Myanmar.


[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

Channel Mandalay TV reporter Win Naing Oo sentenced to 5 years in prison for terrorism

By Committee to Protect Journalists

Global Witness welcomes passage of the BURMA Act by the US House of Representatives and calls on the Senate to follow suit

By Global Witness

Bangladesh: New Restrictions on Rohingya Camps

By Human Rights Watch

Meeks Issues Statement on House Passage of BURMA Act

By House Foreign Affairs Committee

Leader McConnell Meets with U.S. Ambassador to Burma

By Mitch McConnell Republican leader

National Unity Government Statement (8/2022)

By National Unity Government

အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်တပ် အသုံးပြုလျက်ရှိသော လေယာဉ်၊ ရေယာဉ်၊ ရဟတ်ယာဉ်၊ စက်ယာဉ်ယန္တယားတို့နှင့်စပ်လျဉ်း၍ ဆုငွေချီးမြှင့်ခြင်းဆိုင်ရာ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By National Unity Government

NUG Denounces Illegal Claim on Citizenship Status

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Justice)

Statement on Myanmar Military Junta Agent Wunna Maung Lwin’s visit to China

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Transcript of remarks by H.E. Aung Myo Min, Union Minister of Human Rights, National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, at NUG Myanmar envoy visit to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

Announcement in relation to International Aid for Health Care and Humanitarian Assistance

By National Health Committee – Myanmar and COVID-19 Task Force

Networks for Peace

By United States Agency for International Development



Seizing People’s Lives: The unlawful confiscations of civilians’ property by the terrorist military

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

မိသားစု အသိုက်အမြုံ အလုံးစုံ ဖျက်ဆီးခြင်း အာဏာလု စစ်အုပ်စုမှ ပြည်သူ့ ပိုင်ဆိုင်မှုများကို တရားမဲ့ သိမ်းပိုက်ခြင်း

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Resisting the Resistance: Myanmar’s Pro-military Pyusawhti Militias

By International Crisis Group

Myanmar Health Care Workers are Not a Target

By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma

ကျန်းမာရေးလုပ်သားများသည် ပစ်မှတ်များမဟုတ်

By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma

Villager beaten to death by SAC troops after explosion in Kyaukme town

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific (RBAP) Myanmar Emergency – External Update, 6 April 2022

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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.”