Mass displacement worsens as junta not held to account

June 19th, 2023  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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The worsening displacement and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar will endure if the international community continues to fail to respond and hold the military junta accountable for its heinous crimes. The catastrophe in Myanmar needs to be immediately addressed in an effective and concrete manner by respecting and supporting the voices of the people on the ground

Relentless attacks by the military junta throughout Myanmar in the past few weeks have caused the already dire displacement and humanitarian situation further devastation inside the country. The root cause of the displacement has been the Myanmar military and its decades-long oppression in ethnic minorities areas, which have expanded to Bamar-majority areas in central Myanmar following the attempted coup. Its ongoing atrocity crimes are only deepening the humanitarian crisis. Without immediate and concrete actions by the international community to hold the military junta accountable for its atrocities, it will only be emboldened to continue heinous crimes with blanket impunity.

In southeastern Myanmar, fighting between the junta and democratic resistance forces in Thayatchaung Township of Tanintharyi Region has displaced more than 5,000 villagers since 8 June 2023. Junta soldiers not only launched targeted attacks against the resistance forces, but also indiscriminately used at least 30 villagers as human shields, including children and elderly people. A little further north, on 7 June 2023, the junta’s deliberate artillery shelling on villages in Kyaukgyi Township, Bago Region, has displaced over 10,000 people. Due to their protracted displacement, in an area of 4,000 acres people cannot grow their crops, thus risking shortages of food supplies for conflict-affected populations. With the monsoon season already starting, displaced people who are already acute needs for shelter, food, medicines and other essentials are made even more drastic and urgently needing emergency support.

Similarly, in central Myanmar, which has become the stronghold of people’s revolutionary forces, the military junta’s intensifying attacks have spiked the number of displaced populations. On 9 June 2023, junta troops launched both aerial and ground attacks in Salingyi Township of Sagaing Region displacing, an estimated 5,000 people from ten villages. Hundreds of houses were destroyed due to the junta troops’ torching of people’s homes following the attacks. On 9 June, the junta troops entered a village in Khin-U Township, also torched villagers’ houses and took their properties and livestocks, including 50 sheep and six cows. These incidents are examples from merely the past few weeks of the junta’s nationwide terror campaign against the people of Myanmar.

Such destruction of properties and food storage and looting of livestocks, on top of the junta’s use of artillery shelling and airstrikes in parallel with arson attacks to intentionally target civilian areas have been a pattern, as the resistance movement has continued to gain momentum on the ground. Local communities and vulnerable populations have faced fresh and protracted displacement over the past two years, with at least 1.5 million displaced since the attempted coup. This is in addition to the existing number of displaced populations in ethnic regions and refugees in neighboring countries like Thailand and Bangladesh prior to the military’s attempted coup. Such acts of the military junta are not stopping any time soon.

While the escalation of atrocity crimes against civilians continues, the junta has started processing the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, starting with its “pilot project”. Meanwhile, in Rakhine State where Rohingya refugees are supposed to return, the junta blatantly continues to block the life-saving humanitarian assistance from reaching populations devastated by Cyclone Mocha in areas under its control. The situation and conditions are clearly not ready for the Rohingya’s safe, voluntary, sustainable and dignified return.

Given the current humanitarian crisis – caused by Cyclone Mocha and the junta’s ongoing atrocity crimes against the people – the “pilot project” reeks of the junta’s routine manipulation tactic to falsely claim legitimacy and the classic weaponization of aid. Recently, the Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, has called on Bangladesh to urgently stop the repatriation project. He stated, “Conditions in Myanmar are anything but conducive for the safe, dignified, sustainable, and voluntary return of Rohingya refugees.” Despite this, Bangladesh and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are allowing the junta to move forward with its plan. Furthermore, according to news agency, RFA, the UNHCR has cut food rations for the 23 Rohingya refugees who registered for repatriation although the return has not taken place yet. This action is clearly a proof of UNHCR’s complicity in the pilot project, and the repatriation will not be voluntary.

The worsening displacement and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar will endure if the international community continues to fail to respond and hold the military junta accountable for its heinous crimes. The catastrophe in Myanmar needs to be immediately addressed in an effective and concrete manner by respecting and supporting the voices of the people on the ground. The Spring Revolution, the democratic resistance movement and the people’s determination for federal democracy will continue despite the junta’s ongoing brutal attempt for power grab.

It is time for the international community to support the Myanmar people in the realization of their will for a federal democratic country. The international community must take all actions possible to bring about the end of the military junta by dismantling this criminal institution and holding the junta leaders to account by international law. Meanwhile, the international community must support and partner with local responders and ethnic humanitarian organizations to deliver the desperately-needed humanitarian assistance, without channeling it through or partnering with the junta, to ensure humanitarian support reaches the displaced populations in time to save lives.


[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

ASEAN Chairman’s Statement on ASEAN’s Humanitarian Response to Cyclone MOCHA in Myanmar

By Association of Southeast Asian Nations

TJC withdraws Burmese gems from sale

By Burma Campaign UK

Further Cuts to Rohingya Food Aid Will Devastate Refugees

By Burma Human Rights Network

Failure of latest UN Special Envoy on Myanmar must lead to complete end of mandate

By Chin Human Rights Organization, Karen Peace Support Network, Progressive Voice

နောက်ဆုံးခန့်အပ်ထားသည့် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံဆိုင်ရာ ကုလသမဂ္ဂအထူးသံတမန်၏ ကျရှုံးမှုက ထိုရာထူးတာဝန် အပြီးတိုင်အဆုံးသတ်ရေးသို့ ဦးတည်ရမည်

By Chin Human Rights Organization, Karen Peace Support Network, Progressive Voice

Myanmar: Lawyers Face Harassment, Arrests

By Human Rights Watch

JFM calls on Israel’s Attorney General to take urgent action following application for criminal investigation into CAA Industries

By Justice For Myanmar

Statement on Russia interfering in Myanmar’s political issues

By National Unity Consultative Council

Denouncement of the Genocidal Military Junta’s Aid Manipulation and Urgent Call for International Intervention in Cyclone Mocha-Affected Myanmar 

By National Unity Government (Ministry of International Cooperation Myanmar)

Bangladesh must suspend pilot project to return Rohingya refugees to Myanmar: UN expert

By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights



Burmanisation and Buddhisation: Accelerating the Decline of Religious Rights in Myanmar

By Asia Centre

Six Villagers Killed in Three Days

By Free Burma Rangers

“Our Numbers Are Dwindling”: Myanmar’s Post-Coup Crackdown on Lawyers

By Human Rights Watch

Summary of SAC human rights violations in Karenni State and Pekhon Township (May 22–Jun 4, 2023)

By Karenni Civil Society Network

Deadly Encounters: Killings of civilians by armed actors in Southeast Burma (October 2022 – April 2023)

By Karen Human Rights Group

KNDF’s Message On 2nd Anniversary Of Establishment – Issue 107

By Myanmar Peace Monitor

Airstrike and massacre in Pinlaung

By Myanmar Witness

On-The-Ground in Burma: Issue 28

By U.S. Campaign for Burma

Myanmar Landmines / ERW Incidents Information (January – April 2023)

By United Nations Children’s Fund

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.”