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Camp Closures: Current Status (April 2023)

June 20th, 2023  •  Author:   Center for Operational Analysis and Research  •  3 minute read
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In October 2022, this analytical unit reported several State Administration Council (SAC) orders to close IDP camps in Rakhine, Chin, and Shan States, with most deadlines given as the end of that month. Responses to the SAC’s closure orders, some of which were detailed in a November 2022 follow-up report, varied widely depending on context. In February, this analytical unit spoke to IDP camp leaders, residents, and other sources near IDPs about the status of several specific camps in Kachin State, who described mounting pressure from General Administration Department (GAD) staff to close IDP camps there. IDPs, camp leaders, and communities living in these four states proposed diverse theories about the SAC’s orders, including that the SAC wanted to cut off the potential flow of aid through IDP camps to the Arakan Army in Rakhine and (southern) Chin States; that the SAC wanted to disperse IDPs in order to undermine both the ability of Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) to fight in Northern Shan State, and community support for those same EAOs; and that the SAC was moving IDPs as a tactic in negotiations about territorial control with certain EAOs in Southern Shan State. The SAC may also be attempting to reduce the official number of IDPs in order to posture to international observers that the situation in Myanmar is improving under the leadership of Min Aung Hlaing, and that the military is successfully consolidating control.

In areas with current or potential camp closures — Rakhine, southern Chin, Northern Shan, Southern Shan, and Kachin States — key concerns reported by IDPs remain the continued tensions between armed actors in IDPs’ areas of origin or locations to which they might feasibly relocate. These tensions have persisted, posing the same challenges to returning or resettlement now as they have in the past, and in many cases perpetuating conditions that caused initial displacement — in some cases, over a decade ago. Over the course of discussions between this analytical unit and camp stakeholders since September 2022, tensions have remained high in Rakhine State, fighting is still ongoing between the SAC and Kachin forces in the Kachin State townships with the most IDPs, the SAC (sometimes alongside the Pa-O National Army) has continued to clash with Karenni forces near Southern Shan State’s border with Karenni State, and a medley of armed actors (including the SAC) have intermittently fought in Northern Shan State, where a diverse array EAOs jostle over areas of control. Other concerns reported by IDPs include unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination, presence of armed forces near return or relocation sites, lack of arable land and other livelihood opportunities, destroyed homes and land, and a lack of support to rebuild lives.

This update is based on a small set of the camps in Rakhine, Chin, Shan, and Kachin States, and findings should not be assumed to be comprehensive or representative. The value of the qualitative approach is in the context-specific knowledge it provides; this snapshot illustrates perceptions of community members from a broad cross section of the local context, and the range of responses taken by displaced communities to the developing situation.

For further analysis, detailed response implications, and recommendations for humanitarian responders regarding the SAC’s push to close formal IDP camps across Myanmar, please refer to the first report in this series: Situation Update: Camp Closure Crisis

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