Burma's displaced people

FMR 30
April 2008

With the ‘Saffron revolution’ of September 2007, Burma was catapulted into the centre of international attention. It was briefly headline news as people monitored the regime’s response and watched for hints of progress towards democracy and the restoration of rights. With little action on either front (and no visible resurgence of violence or protest), interest has since waned. This issue of FMR aims to help bring the crisis of forced displacement of Burmese people back into the international spotlight.

The feature section on Burma includes 29 articles exploring the extent of the displacement crisis, factors affecting displaced people and the search for solutions. The issue also includes 19 articles on other aspects of forced migration.

Contents

Inge Brees

This issue of FMR aims to help bring the crisis of forced displacement of Burmese people back into the international spotlight.

Douglas Alexander

Last September, world attention focused on Burma’s ‘Saffron revolution’ and its brutal crackdown by the country’s military regime. The protests were sparked by ever-deepening poverty and people’s frustration with years of political repression and economic failure.

Kavita Shukla

In the face of continuing grave violations of human rights by the Burmese government against its own civilians, it is imperative that the international community starts to respond to Burma in terms of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle.

Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan

Burma/Myanmar has suffered from two decades of mine warfare by both the State Peace and Development Council and ethnic-based insurgents. There are no humanitarian demining programmes within the country.

Donald M Seekins

The population of Yangon has experienced coercive resettlement on a truly massive scale under military rule.

David Eubank

Much of what is happening in the conflict zones of eastern Burma is difficult to capture with photos, video and reports. It is a slow and insidious strangulation of the population rather than an all-out effort to crush them.

Karen Women’s Organisation
Jean-François Durieux and Sivanka Dhanapala

Agencies working inside Myanmar to assist forcibly displaced people work within an extremely constricted operational environment. Despite occasional glimmers of hope, carving out sufficient humanitarian space to meet urgent needs remains an uphill struggle.

Ashley South

There is a need for greater understanding and coordination between groups working inside Burma and those operating cross-border.

Poe Shan K Phan and Stephen Hull

Whether in hiding or living under military control, displaced villagers of Karen State and other areas of rural Burma have shown themselves to be innovative and courageous in responding to and resisting military abuse. They urgently need increased assistance but it is they who should determine the direction of any such intervention.

Thailand Burma Border Consortium

Humanitarian agencies and community-based organisations are working in partnership to assist remote communities in the most contested areas of eastern Burma.

Sandra Dudley

Material objects and the physical actions of making and using them are a fundamental part of how forced migrants, far from being passive victims of circumstance, seek to make the best of – and make a home in – their displacement.

Marie Theres Benner, Aree Muangsookjarouen, Egbert Sondorp and Joy Townsend

The participation of affected populations in planning or implementation of humanitarian aid in conflict or post-conflict situations has too often been neglected.

Sally Thompson

In 1984, 10,000 refugees crossed from Burma into Thailand seeking temporary refuge. No one imagined then that refugees would still be arriving almost 25 years later.

Joel Harding, Shane Scanlon, Sean Lees, Carson Beker and Ai Li Lim

Due to the nature of displacement and encampment – resource scarcity, geographic isolation, restricted mobility and curtailed legal rights – refugee victims of crime often have inadequate legal recourse.

Margaret Green, Karen Jacobsen and Sandee Pyne

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has conducted a survey to document the experiences of Burmese people living in border areas of Thailand and assess the degree to which they merit international protection as refugees.

Chen Chen Lee and Isla Glaister

Until the Thai authorities and UNHCR can provide an asylum process that is systematic and fair, as opposed to one that is conditional on particular events and dates, the current asylum system will offer nothing more than pot luck.

Pia Prytz Phiri

The Rohingya refugees from Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar are living in a precarious situation in their country of asylum, Bangladesh, but have seen significant improvements in recent times.

Amy Alexander

Most Chin refugees have never set foot in a refugee camp; they live as urban and undocumented refugees in India and Malaysia.

Nikolas Win Myint

Across Myanmar people are on the move, both inside the country and across its borders, either pushed by necessity or pulled by the prospect of a brighter future. For many, these hopes are at least partially fulfilled. For some, however, this migration brings them face-to-face with exploitation, abuse, disease and even death.

Chris Lewa

Thousands of stateless Rohingyas are leaving Burma and Bangladesh, dreaming of a better life in Malaysia.

Susan Banki and Hazel Lang

In a context where the durable solutions of repatriation and local integration are not available, resettlement has become increasingly attractive.

Karen Women’s Organisation, with Sarah Fuller and Eileen Pittaway

With little support and often under threat, members of the Karen Women’s Organisation have conducted research, provided programmes and support, and challenged the wisdom of international NGOs and UNHCR.

Marc van der Stouwe and Su-Ann Oh

The provision of education in the refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border has evolved over 20 years, adapting its purpose, expanding its reach and improving its quality and relevance.

Patricia Hynes and Yin Mon Thu

Some 174 refugees from the Thai-Burma border have been resettled in Sheffield in the UK between May 2005 and September 2007. Better preparation and more practical assistance could have eased their integration into British society.

General articles

Karen Abu Zayd

Serious deprivations feature regularly in the lives of Palestinians and Palestine refugees. Among them, measures restricting or prohibiting the movement of people and goods stand out as particularly severe – and are in blatant contravention of human rights provisions.

Alex Otieno

Over 300,000 Kenyans were displaced by post-election conflict between December 2007 and January 2008. Kenya needs a coherent policy and capacity building for addressing internal displacement.

Jane Some

An assessment by three agencies has found that the risk of rape and sexual abuse remains high for thousands of young girls and women displaced by Kenya's post-election crisis in January and February.

Maria Beatriz Nogueira and Carla Cristina Marques

The international solidarity and responsibility sharing evident in refugee protection in Brazil contrast sharply with the restrictive trends seen in many other countries.      

Naoko Hashimoto

It has been three years since Japan launched its first National Action Plan of Measures to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Erick Vloeberghs and Evert Bloemen

The Care Full initiative – a joint project of Pharos, Amnesty International (Dutch section) and the Dutch Council for Refugees – seeks to create more awareness of the importance of medical considerations in the asylum procedure.

Claas Morlang and Carolina Stolte

Since 1992, UNHCR has been implementing the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI), a German government-funded programme to provide tertiary education for refugees in countries of asylum. Afghans have comprised the largest group of DAFI students.

Jacob Rothing and Marco Romero

Colombian law protects the fundamental rights of IDPs but the country lacks policies to guarantee respect for those rights. This structural gap is recognised by the Constitutional Court, the highest judicial organism of the state, and recent developments offer hope of change.

Demelza Jones

People seeking asylum in the UK are at great risk of social exclusion but successive government asylum policies have aggravated rather than alleviated this problem.

Simon Addison

Circumstances in Burma highlight the difficulty of maintaining humanitarian space in so-called ‘fragile states’.

Donald Steinberg

Excluding IDPs from peacemaking and post-conflict reconstruction means that the issues of greatest interest to them – resettlement, rebuilding of basic social services, clearance of landmines and security sector reform – are often ignored by the armed combatants participating in the talks.

David Lanz

The UN estimates that there are 2.4 million IDPs in Darfur ­– over one third of the total population. There can be no meaningful peace process without their involvement. Giving IDPs a formal seat in official peace negotiations is problematic but there are other ways to ensure their participation.

Khalid Koser

Resolving internal displacement is inextricably linked with achieving lasting peace.

Diana Barnes-Brown

Despite many challenges, life-saving reproductive health (RH) care can be effectively mobilised at the onset of crises, even when conditions are far from ideal.

Petr Kostohryz

Although the number of IDPs in Azerbaijan continues to be among the highest per capita in the world, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is leaving Azerbaijan in 2008, after 13 years of operations there.

Anne-Sophie Lois

The IDP Voices Project tries to give some idea of the personal reality of the loss of close family members in conflict, the loss of all your belongings and being uprooted from your place of origin.

Alexandra Fielden and Jeff Crisp

A combination of historical trends, the changing policies of governments and renewed efforts by UNHCR have all begun to strengthen the potential of local integration as a lasting solution for refugees.

Disclaimer
Opinions in FMR do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors, the Refugee Studies Centre or the University of Oxford.
Copyright
FMR is an Open Access publication. Users are free to read, download, copy, distribute, print or link to the full texts of articles published in FMR and on the FMR website, as long as the use is for non-commercial purposes and the author and FMR are attributed. All articles published in FMR in print and online, and FMR itself, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) licence. Details at www.fmreview.org/copyright.