Post-coup violence has pushed the number of displaced people in Myanmar to more than one million for the first time, the United Nations said, warning of “dire” conditions as the monsoon approaches and fighting rages.
Almost 700,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the toppling of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government on February 1, 2021, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said on Tuesday.
Civilian militias have formed to fight back against the coup across the country, and the military government has responded with an onslaught that rights groups say includes razing villages, mass extrajudicial killings and air attacks on civilians.
The violence has added to an estimated 346,000 people already displaced before the coup.
That includes those affected by long-running conflicts with ethnic rebel groups along the Thai and Chinese borders, and Rohingya Muslims forced from their homes during a brutal 2017 crackdown.
More than 12,000 civilian properties are estimated to have been burned or destroyed since the coup, UNOCHA said, with the approaching monsoon rains threatening more misery for those living in displacement camps.
More than 300,000 of those displaced since the coup were from the northwestern Sagaing region, where fighters clash regularly with the military, it added.
The UN noted that authorities had cut mobile data services across much of Sagaing and neighbouring Magway – another hotspot – and that there were “restrictions” in place affecting the transport of rice, medicine and fuel.
“Reports suggest there remains a dire need for health services, food, and relief items and shelter in these areas,” it said.
Diplomatic efforts to end the crisis are moribund.
A “consensus” brokered last year by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations aimed at facilitating dialogue between the military and its opponents and the delivery of humanitarian aid has been largely ignored by the military government.
In March, military government chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the military would “annihilate until the end” its opponents.
More than 1,800 people have been killed and nearly 13,000 arrested in the military’s crackdown on dissent since the coup, according to a local monitoring group, and more than 100 journalists have been arrested.
On Friday, a court in Myanmar sentenced former leader Aung San Suu Kyi to five years in jail after finding her guilty in the first of 11 corruption cases against her for allegedly accepting gold and cash payments totalling $600,000.
She has denied the charges, calling the allegations “absurd”.