Militarization continues to pose the greatest threat to human security in the south eastern states and regions, with more people forced to flee from their homes during the past year than any other since the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) and ethnic community based organizations started documenting displacement in 2002. Read more from their new report.
Today Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) released a new report that shows how during the past year, forced displacement has reached its highest level in ten years. TBBC is a group of 12 international humanitarian NGOs that provide food, shelter, and non-food items to refugees and displaced people from Burma, and engage in research on the root causes of displacement and refugee outflows. In their report, TBBC found that 112,000 people were forced to leave their homes this past year, rising from an average of 75,000 people per year. These numbers don’t even include the 70,000 recently displaced people in Kachin State and Northern Shan State. If they were included, it would mean that the numbers have almost doubled over this past year.
According to the TBBC report, the highest rates of displacement occurred in the areas where Karen State borders Thailand, central Shan State, and the northern Karen areas. A major reason is because of the breakaway faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) that “resumed armed resistance in November 2010, and the resulting conflict led to the displacement of over 27,000 people.” In March 2011, after a ceasefire was broken, over 31,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Furthermore, because of hydro-electric dams and counter-insurgency operations, another 28,000 people were displaced from northern Karen State. “While official figures estimate that a quarter of the nation live in poverty, this survey suggests that almost two thirds of households in rural areas of South East Burma/Myanmar are unable to meet their basic needs.”
As the TBBC report states, there are still “many obstacles to breaking the cycle of violence and abuse.” One such obstacle is that the demand for ceasefire groups to form Border Guard Forces has made conflict and displacement much worse in ethnic areas. Prolonged conflict and militarization has been going on for awhile, and it is clear that it is getting worse. “The paradox of democratic reform coinciding with an escalation of conflict in border areas during the survey period has been due to both domestic attempts to expand the national armed forces’ (the Tatmadaw’s) command structure and regional interests in resource extraction.”
Key Statistics from TBBC Report:
– Total population displaced within the past 12 months: 112,000
– Total IDPs: 450,000
– Population displaced within the past 12 months in Karen State: 36,100
– Total IDPs in Karen State: 106,800
– Population displaced within the past 12 months in Shan State: 52,700
– Total IDPs in Shan State: 145,600
– Number of villages destroyed within the past year: 105
– Total number of destroyed settlements: 3,700
“There are about 100 Tatmadaw troops from IB# 556 active in this area. Every year our villagers have to carry their supplies to the Thailand Burma border. We have to spend more than 10 days to just reach to their outpost at the border. Apart from carrying their rations, we have to take our own food as well. They do not provide anything to us. Whoever cannot go to carry their supplies is fined 40,000 kyat. We villagers here have to pay fees to the Tatmadaw troop regularly. Whenever and whatever they demand from us, we have to pay. If we cannot afford it, we still have to borrow from others and pay.
Karen male, Tanintharyi Township, CIDKP interview, June 2011.
“The Tatmadaw always have activities in and around our village. Whenever they are attacked they come in and arrest villagers and force us to go with them to protect themselves from another ambush. Even though we don’t want to go or are afraid to go, we must go. They take everyone they see including men, women and children. They force us to go in front and in between them as cover so that if they are attacked all of us will die. When we were taken back to their camp, the children were all crying along the way. The KNLA saw the Tatmadaw troops but didn’t attack since there were also villagers, including women and children.
Karen female, Kawkareik Township, CIDKP interview, June 2011.
“Due to the dam, all of my orchards and agricultural fields have been flooded. I have no land to work on now so I have to forage for forest products day by day to earn my living. In addition the Tatmadaw always force us to work for them and demand money from us. So we are in debt now, and it is very hard to repay the loan. We are only just surviving by eating rice soup.”
Karen male, Shwegyin Township, CIDKP interview, June 2011.