Myanmar’s displaced people tell their stories on World Refugee Day

More than 3 million people from Myanmar have been uprooted by conflict.
By RFA Burmese
2024.06.20
Myanmar’s displaced people tell their stories on World Refugee Day A Rohingya refugee girl gestures as she walks through a muddy street at a refugee camp on the World Refugee Day, in New Delhi on June 20, 2023.
Arun Sankar/AFP

More than 3 million people in Myanmar have been uprooted from their homes, most of them due to intensifying conflict in the country’s three-year civil war, according to the United Nations.

They are among the 120 million people globally who have been forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution on this World Refugee Day, marked annually on June 20 – refugees who have crossed borders and internally displaced people who have fled homes but remain within their country’s borders.

RFA Burmese asked several displaced people to share their stories.

Khin Yadana Soe and three families from the Bago region in the south fled to the Thai border town of Mae Sot three months ago when the junta forces entered their village.

 “The fighter jets dropped bombs on the nearby villages, suspecting they were sheltering rebel militia members, and they hit the houses,” she said. “As we lived in a large compound, we feel depressed living here in this narrow space. We are used to living on farms. We also have no jobs here. Only one family member has been able to secure a job but this family has five family members – my mother, my daughter, my husband, my sister and me.”

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Rohingya refugees look through the debris of their houses charred by a fire at the Ukhia camp in Cox's Bazar on June 1, 2024. (AFP)

Khin Maung said he feels sad whenever World Refugee Day comes around. He is one of 750,000 Rohingya who fled violent crackdowns in Rakhine state in 2017 and now lives in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

 “We always feel sad on this significant day. We have no future, with no access to education or a job. The United Nations also needs to consider this matter,” he said. “I wish Bangladesh would help us go back to our own country.”

Aung Myint, who lives in a camp in the western state of Rakhine, said his family had fled their home six years ago.

“We want to go back to our hometowns, but we don’t even have the money it would take to return home,” he said. “We also no longer have our own houses in our hometown. Additionally, we are dependent on the land for our livelihood, and there is no way to access our land. So it will be difficult for us to go back home. If we stay here, though, we have no access to food and drinking water.”

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A newly arrived Rohingya refugee draws water with a bucket at the former Red Cross Indonesia office building in Meulaboh, West Aceh, on March 22, 2024. (Zahlul Akbar/AFP)

A woman in Kachin state, in the north, who had been displaced since 2011 said she “was really hoping to return home, but it seems that the likelihood is even worse. Fighting is taking place everywhere,” she said. “As more people have fled the war, we understand now that we have no realistic hope to return home."

Min Min, who has been living in Thailand's Noh Poe refugee camp for 17 years, said he desperately wants to go to a third country.

“We are living in a very tight camp on World Refugee Day. We have been living here for 17 years, but the situation has not improved at all,” he said. “The project has not worked. We are living at the camp as it is not possible to go back home. So I want to go to a third country.”

A woman from the northern Sagaing region, where some of the worst righting has happened, said that his family is living in the forest. 

“When I came here to escape the fighting, my children couldn't go to school here because they previously attended junta schools. All the displaced people have suffered a lot. We have to work odd jobs on farms. We are facing difficulties getting food.”

A man who fled from Kayah state in eastern Myanmar, said he just wants to go home.

“We had to leave our house, and we could not carry anything. Our property and belongings were stolen. We fled with just the clothes we were wearing, and it was a struggle just to eat. We want to go back home, and hope for an end to ongoing tragedies immediately.”

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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