Displacement and Poverty in South East Burma/Myanmar
(Updated November 2012)
The most significant impact of ceasefire agreements for local communities in contested areas so far has been a substantial decrease in armed conflict and attacks on civilians. Roving counter-insurgency patrols into remote areas have also decreased which has resulted in some improvement in civilian access to fields and markets. However, skirmishes have not stopped which is due primarily to the lack of troop withdrawals from sensitive areas and the lack of clarity in arrangements for the transport of supplies. There has also not yet been any significant improvement in the protection of human rights, with forced labour, extortion and land confiscation still widespread to accommodate Tatmadaw troops and new investment interests in border areas.
The Border Consortium’s (TBC’s) community-based partners have documented the destruction, forced relocation and abandonment of more than 3,700 villages since 1996, but no further villages were displaced in South East Myanmar between August 2011 and July 2012. While over 10,000 people are estimated to have been forced from their homes in the South East during the past year, this represents a significant decrease from the average rate of 75,000 people displaced each year since 2003.
This year’s field survey estimates that there remain at least 400,000 internally displaced persons in the rural areas of 36 townships in South East Myanmar. Approximately 37,000 formerly displaced persons attempted to either return to their villages or resettle in surrounding areas between August 2011 and July 2012. However, the sustainability of these movements remains in doubt due to ongoing concerns about physical security and livelihood opportunities.
Since 2010, poverty assessments have been conducted with over 4,000 households spread across twenty-one townships. Analysis of standard poverty indicators has been disaggregated to the township level to provide baseline data for South East Myanmar which was not previously available.
The survey suggests that 59% of people in the rural communities of South East Myanmar are impoverished. Findings suggest that 47% of households surveyed cannot prove their citizenship status, 73% lack access to safe drinking water, 49% lack access to sanitary latrines and 33% of children between five and twelve years of age are not regularly attending school. A high level of subsistence agriculture is reflected by only 10% of rural households having access to farm machinery and 30% reporting no access to cash income during the previous month. Access to food is poor for more than half of the households in rural areas and only 45% of households have an adequately nutritious diet. Apart from the usual shocks to livelihoods like natural hazards and illness, 16% of households reported that military patrols had restricted access to fields and markets during the previous six months.
Impoverishment is particularly severe in the conflict-affected townships of Kyaukkyi and Shwegyin in Bago Region and Thandaung in Karen State. Food consumption analysis indicates that the diversity, frequency and nutritional value of food consumed by the communities surveyed in these townships was almost universally inadequate. Extreme coping strategies such as reducing food consumption by reverting to rice soup, selling assets and spending entire days without eating were extremely high in Kyaukkyi and Shwegyin.
For more information please refer to our 2012 survey on displacement and poverty.