Decades of armed ethnic clashes and conflict between government forces and various non-state armed groups have caused large-scale internal displacement in Myanmar. DRC focuses its efforts in the areas most severely affected by displacement; Rakhine, Kachin and the Southeast. DRC has been operational in Myanmar since 2009, and since June 2012 broadened its presence via the Danish Demining Group (DDG) - DRC’s division for Mine Action. The overall objective of DRC’s presence is the promotion and protection of durable solutions for vulnerable populations including both conflict and disaster-affected people, internally displaced and returnees.
In Rakhine state, in western Myanmar, inter-communal violence erupted in June 2012 and triggered a spiral of violence leaving more than 130,000 people displaced in temporary camps. The root causes of the conflict include political, social and economic marginalization and widespread ethnic discrimination. Acts of violence, mainly between Buddhist and Muslim communities, reflect increasing Burman-Buddhist nationalism and rising animosity towards Muslims in general. Approximately 80% of the internally displaced people are located in Sittwe and Pauktaw townships, which are the main operational areas to DRC, and a total of 58 IDP sites remains registered. An estimated 100,000 conflict-affected people in surrounding communities have also suffered from restrictions and lack of access to basic services. DRC has become a key NGO on issues of internal displacement in Central Rakhine, delivering Shelter, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services, distribution of Non-food items, protection assistance and camp management.
In Kachin state, the northern region of Myanmar, long-term political and economic constraints and presence of extensive natural resources in the area have fueled decades of civil conflict. The collapse of a 17-year ceasefire agreement in June 2011 reignited fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Organization, an ethnic insurgent non-state armed group. Continued armed clashes and widespread trafficking in the area raise serious concerns about protection of civilians and humanitarian access. So far, the conflict has led to internal displacement of 120,000 people, living in and outside of camps. More than 100 camps and make-shift settlements are scattered in the border area to China and an unconfirmed and fluctuating number of persons have fled over the border for temporary sanctuary. Access to camps in certain areas is difficult despite alarming needs and landmine contamination is widespread. DRC assist the internally displaced populations in the camps and makeshift settlements in both Government Controlled as well as Non-Governments Controlled Areas and seeks to facilitate safe and sustainable return of affected population to their villages. DRC’s activities include shelter, livelihoods, protection, including child protection, anti-trafficking, Mine Risk Education, Victims Assistance, and Community-Driven Safety, Protection and Development.
In Kayah state, in the Southeast, conflict between government forces and various armed opposition groups has been ongoing for decades and has led to numerous areas being deemed unsafe due to mine contamination and occasional violations of ceasefire accords. The protracted nature of hostilities has resulted in the destruction of homes, community, public infrastructure, and rendered most basic services. The situation creates a real barrier to the safe return of the 230,000 displaced people in the South Eastern Myanmar, and the approximately 109,000 refugees residing in Thailand. Dialogue is ongoing between the governments of Thailand and Myanmar on prospects for a return movement, meanwhile some spontaneous return is taking place. DRC monitors returns and implements community projects, conduct Mine Risk Education (MRE) as well as cross-border cooperation with organizations in Thailand.
When conditions allow, DRC also provides early recovery assistance to help communities bounce back after conflict and disaster. Reconstruction is accompanied by interventions such as alternative livelihoods support, cash grants and trainings aimed at increasing communities’ resilience in the face of recurring disasters and armed conflict.