Double Threats of Climate Change and Military Violence

May 18th, 2024  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
Featured image

While the whole of Myanmar is suffering the tangible effects of climate change, they are finding themselves caught in the crosshairs of the military junta’s violence, suffering the devastating consequences of these double threats.

Unprecedented heatwaves and record-breaking temperatures in Myanmar over the past few weeks vividly demonstrate that the climate emergency is no longer a future threat but a present daily reality, unleashing profound and escalating impacts on the people. Such extreme weather events are exacerbating the ongoing junta-caused humanitarian crisis facing Myanmar’s people.

This week, the people of Myanmar find themselves grappling with extreme weather. Six regions, including Magwe, Yangon, Mandalay, Bago, Sagaing, and Ayeyarwaddy, experienced an unprecedented heatwave over the past few weeks. Chauk Township in the Magwe Region made headlines with its scorching temperatures, topping the list of the 15 hottest cities in the world with a recorded high of 47.1 degrees Celsius.

Myanmar’s vulnerability to extreme weather events was starkly highlighted in the 2021 Global Climate Risk Index, where it ranked second most affected by weather-related events, out of 183 countries. Just two years later, on May 14, 2023, Cyclone Mocha struck Myanmar, tearing through Rakhine, Chin, and Kachin States, and Sagaing, and Magwe Regions, severely damaging homes and affecting 1.5 million people. The storm reportedly killed over 455 people, the majority of whom were Rohingya living in precarious settlements within large internment camps lacking adequate disaster preparedness. To make matters worse, the junta has routinely blocked access to humanitarian aid.

While the whole of Myanmar is suffering the tangible effects of climate change, they are finding themselves caught in the crosshairs of the military junta’s violence, suffering the devastating consequences of these double threats. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are enduring the worst of this nexus. Following the failed coup, the military junta’s ruthless “scorched earth” campaign, particularly in central Myanmar—a dry zone where resistance remains steadfast—has forced villagers to repeatedly flee, transforming them into protracted displaced persons unable to return to their homes and heavily dependent on aid.

In soaring temperatures, IDPs in Myanmar endure daily hardships from living in makeshift shelters that provide little relief from the intense heat, and their struggles are exacerbated by the lack of water, which is a recurring experience every hot season. Scarce water and poor sanitation lead to more diseases and infections in IDPs, including water-borne illnesses. In Chauk Township, Magwe Region, where temperatures reached unprecedented heights of 47.1 degrees Celsius, residents battled a multitude of heat-related illnesses, from dizziness and headaches to chickenpox and prickly heat, with some facing the tragic outcome of death.

Meanwhile, in Mon State, IDPs seeking safety at village monasteries also had to confront water shortages. In Mawlamyine Township, Mon State, over 1,500 IDPs have sought refuge in 21 monasteries, while in Chaungzon Township, more than 1,000 IDPs are sheltering in 10 monasteries. At each monastery, the dense population crammed into a single building exacerbates the already intense heat, creating unbearable living conditions, especially for children and elderly people. Compounding this tragedy, movement restrictions by the junta intensify the plight of the displaced, denying them access to essential humanitarian aid and safe shelters in heat-resilient structures.

It is crucial to remember that extreme weather events and disasters are not simply natural occurrences; they are the direct consequences of human actions, particularly rooted in excessive carbon emissions from multinational corporations and rapacious exploitation of natural resources without adequate restoration and rehabilitation efforts. In Myanmar, the convergence of a global profit-driven economy and a historical legacy of natural resource extraction, dating back to colonial times and further exacerbated by the enormous greed of military elites, has led to the relentless destruction of the country’s forests, mountains, other natural resources, and endangered species.

While industrialized nations, alongside a small Myanmar military elite and their cronies, have amassed huge wealth from the extraction of Myanmar’s natural resources, the failure of the international community to fulfill its commitment to limit carbon dioxide emissions and prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius is evident in the recent record-breaking heatwaves that have gripped Asia, Europe, and North America. This highlights the irresponsibility of wealthy nations driven solely by economic interests, pushing humanity perilously closer to environmental collapse. Yet, hope reverberates within the indigenous communities. In Myanmar, many forests and other biodiverse areas thrive within the territories of indigenous and ethnic peoples, who persistently advocate for recognition of their right to self-determination, and practice reverence for their land, practices, and environment.

As the people of Myanmar work towards building a new federal democratic country, it is crucial that the international business community ceases doing business with the illegal military junta. Their businesses not only allow financial flow to the military, but also inflict severe harm on Myanmar’s ecosystem, damaging the future of young generations to come.

Instead, the international community must lend comprehensive and synergic support to federal units, grassroots groups, indigenous organizations, and civil society organizations in their efforts towards the transition and rebuilding of Myanmar. A fundamental step towards justice and equitable solutions can be taken by including Myanmar’s legitimate representatives who truly represent the people’s aspirations, will, and interests at international climate change summits. Recognizing that Myanmar will continue to face increasingly extreme weather events in the years to come, climate policy and disaster response, management, and preparedness must be placed at the center of building a new federal democratic Myanmar.

In the meantime, the international community must step up and increase humanitarian aid for the IDPs, and work in tandem with local humanitarian responders to ensure that aid effectively and timely reaches IDPs who are suffering from the devastating impacts of the climate emergency on top of the military’s ongoing violence, through cross-border channels.


[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

Rohingya in Rakhine State Desperately Need Aid and Protection

By Burma Human Rights Network

War in Western Myanmar: Avoiding a Rakhine-Rohingya Conflict

By Crisis Group

The Human Rights Foundation of Monland Releases a New Report: “Forced to Fight: Military Conscription in Southeastern Burma”

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

IOM Chief Visits Bangladesh, Secures Funding Commitments for Rohingya Refugees

By International Organization for Migration

Statement Welcoming New Zealand’s Parliamentary Motion On Myanmar

By National Unity Government

Notification for Myanmar Nationals Taking Shelter In The Republic of India Due to Security Concerns (1/2024)

By National Unity Government

A Statement On War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Terrorist Military Junta’s Forces in Lethoketaw Village, Myinmu Township

By National Unity Government and Ministry of Human Rights

United States Announces Nearly $31 million in Humanitarian Assistance for Rohingya Refugees

By United States Agency for International Development



၂၀၂၄ ခုနှစ်၊ မတ်လအတွင်း ဖုန်းနှင့် အင်တာနက်ဖြတ်တောက်ခံထားရသည့် မြို့နယ်များ

By Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization

Faulty Transmission: The Myanmar Junta’s Reliance on Global Military Truck Supply Chains

By Center for Advanced Defense Studies and  Justice for Myanmar

Force to Fight: Military Conscription in Southeastern Burma

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

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.”