CAM Monthly News Update January 2022

The Situation of IDPs and Refugees in Myanmar/Burma

The most recent UNHCR Myanmar Emergency Regional Update indicated that since February 2021, 25,000 people from Myanmar/Burma have been displaced to neighboring countries. Further, 296,000 have been internally displaced from their homes within Myanmar/Burma, adding to the 370,000 who were already internally displaced prior to the coup. Displacement continues across the country due to violent classes between the Tatmadaw (Burmese Military) and the ethnic armed organizations and the People’s Defense Force (PDF). More recent displacement has occurred in the North-West in the Saigon Region, as well as in Chin State with the mass burning of homes and religious sites. Further displacement has occurred in the South-East in Kayah, Kachin, and Shah States.

According to the Mizoram state official source there are approximately 20,000 Chin refugees who have fled to Mizoram State since February 1, 2021 (UNHCR does not currently have access to Mizoram State). According to a CAM local source there are over 30,000 Chin internally displaced in Chin State. CAM learned the military regime has not granted UN agencies to deliver aid to those internally displaced in Chin State.

Map indicating the scale of displacement in Myanmar/Burma as a result of the February 1, 2021 coup as well as protracted displacement prior to the coup.
Source: UN OCHA Humanitarian Update No. 11
Map indicating scale of displacement in Chin State, Myanmar after the February 1, 2021 military coup as well as protracted displacement prior to the coup.
Source: UN OCHA Humanitarian Update No. 11

Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Myanmar/Burma

In November of 2021, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a country report on Myanmar/Burma providing an updated assessment on the religious freedom in the country following the events of the February 1, 2021 military coup. The report underscores the increase in violent attacks in Chin and Kachin States, which contain majority Christian populations and details the Burmese military’s targeted attacks on churches through air strikes, ground artillery, and setting fire as well as the targeted arrests and murders of Christian religious leaders. The report also outlines the ways in which Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist communities who oppose the Tatmadaw have been violently targeted by the Burmese military. USCIRF urges the U.S. government and the international community to hold the Burmese military through targeted sanctions, re-designating Myanmar/Burma as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), and through the international legal system.

The USCIRF will host a virtual event about the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees, especially with regard to those fleeing religious persecution. The event will take place February 2, 2022 at 11am EST. Attendees must register in advance.

On the morning of December 30th, 2021, the Burmese military burned the offices of the Thantlang Association of Baptist Churches (TABC) and the Thantlang AG Church in Thantlang town in Chin State. According to local sources, 813 of nearly 2,500 buildings, including churches and houses, have been burned down by the military in Thantlang since September 2021. From January 3-5, 2022, the Burmese military proceeded to burn down 123 buildings according to the Thantlang Placement Affairs Committee. This included buildings, houses of civilians and pastors, and religious institutions such as the Methodist Church and staff quarters, the Gospel Baptist Church and staff quarters, and the Johnson Memorial Baptist Church’s staff quarters in Thantlang town. CAM released statements in late December and early January strongly condemning the burning of buildings, especially including churches in Thantlang and urged the international community increase pressure on the Burmese military to cease atrocious actions.

On January 13, 2022 the Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni Progressive Party (KNPP) and Chin National Front (CNF) issued a statement in response to the office of the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Myanmar/Burma after their proposal for a “humanitarian plus” approach in Myanmar/Burma. The KNU, KNPP, and CNF further call on the UN and the ASEAN and international community to declare Myanmar/Burma a “military no-fly-zone”; to institute “safe zones” for the protection of civilians where they can also access humanitarian assistance; to expand humanitarian assistance to civilians in the mainland where the need is urgent, including in Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, and Shan States and the Saigon and Magwe Regions; and to create Humanitarian Corridors for the safe travel of humanitarian assistance to the country and within the country of Myanmar/Burma.

On January 14, 2022, OCHA released the Humanitarian Needs Update that underscores the “…unprecedented political, socioeconomic, human rights and humanitarian crisis” pushing nearly half of the country into poverty and exacerbating basic needs.  The report details that on December 24, 2021, 35 civilians including four children and two humanitarian workers were killed and burned in Kayah State. The report indicates that 320,900 people have been internally displaced in Myanmar/Burma since February 1, 2021, in addition to the 340,000 who were displaced prior to the coup. The challenges of delivering humanitarian assistance to IDPs is underscored. Further, the humanitarian response plan as of the end of the calendar year was only 58% funded, indicating a further need for the international community to scale up their efforts.

On January 14, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) issued a statement underscoring their concern for the lives and security of innocent people in Myanmar/Burma. The CBCM calls on the universal church and donor community to step up their support for the people of Myanmar/Burma and for IDPs to have access to humanitarian assistance within the country.

Gambian Attorney General Dawda Jallow announced that on February 21, 2022 the World Court will hear allegations that the country of Myanmar/Burma committed genocide against the Rohingya. UN investigators concluded the military claim against the Rohingya had genocide intent. In 2019 Aung San Suu Kyi represented Myanmar/Burma and requested dismissal of the case. Now detained by the military, the military formed government is eager to represent the country in place of Suu Kyi as the country’s legitimate representatives.

On January 21, 2022, TotalEnergies and Chevron announced they will be leaving their operations in Myanmar/Burma due to the deteriorating situation and human rights abuses in the country since the military coup. Both companies no longer feel they can contribute to the country or keep their staff safe. TotalEnergies operated the offshore Yadana gas field and Chevron also owned a smaller share of the gas field.  

On January 25, 2022, UN Director Louis Charbonneau published an article in Human Rights Watch Dispatches calling  on UN Security Council member countries to abandon “timid approaches to the Myanmar military’s mounting atrocities” and take tougher action. Charbonneau further called for a Security Council resolution imposing a legally binding UN arms embargo. 

On January 28, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet pleaded with international governments and businesses to take an “urgent, renewed effort to restore human rights and democracy in Myanmar and ensure that perpetrators of systemic human rights violations and abuses are held to account,” underscoring the importance of holding the military account for their actions as necessary for any solution going forward.  

American Baptist Churches USA and the American Baptist Churches Burma Refugee Commission is holding a special prayer service at 9:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday, February 1. This prayer service is being held to observe the anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar/Burma and to pray for the people. Join the prayer service by clicking here.

The United Nations, the United States, and Other International Communities on Myanmar/Burma

In September 2021, the United States government reiterated its strong support for the International Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) and urged member states, including Myanmar, to cooperate and support the IIMM. The United States government indicated that the current and ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar/Burma underscore the urgency of accountability and bringing an end to impunity.

In October 2021, the United States government condemned the attacks in Chin State, calling them “gross violations of human rights” and underscored the need for the international community to hold the Burmese military accountable, including through the preventions of arms transfers to the Burmese military. The United States government called on an immediate end to the violence in Chin State and the Saigon region and reiterated the United States government’s support of the people of Myanmar/Burma and actions that restore democracy.

On October 5, 2021, the Burma Act of 2021 (S.2937; H.R. 5497) was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), House Foreign Affairs Asia-Pacific Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Chabot (R-OH), and Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), which condemns the military coup of February 1, 2021, authorizes targeted sanctions against those involved in the coup, and authorizes a new position at the State Department to promote an international effort to impose and enforce multilateral sanctions and coordinate interagency efforts on Burma. CAM supports the Burma Act of 2021 including the establishment of a Sanctions and Policy Coordinator for Burma, led by a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (CAM has long been advocating to establish a Special Envoy for Burma, who would have similar responsibilities ). CAM further suggests an amendment which would: 1) establish A Federal Democratic Union of Burma; and 2) include engagement with Malaysia and India.

On October 8, 2021, President Biden signed to admit 125,000 refugees for FY 2022. This includes 15,000 refugees from East Asia (mainly Thailand, Malaysia and India).
Africa : 40,000
East Asia: 15,000
Europe and Central Asia: 10,000
Latin America/Caribbean: 15,000
Near East/South Asia : 35,000
Unallocated Reserve : 10,000

UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar, Tom Andrews, recently visited Bangladesh, a neighboring country that hosts Rohingya refugees from Myanmar/Burma. The December 2021 visit was intended to assess the situation of Rohingya refugees due to recent challenges for the Rohingya in Bangladesh. While resources are strained and tensions exist between the Rohingya and Bangladeshi, Andrews reiterated in an End of Mission Statement gratitude and encouragement to the government of Bangladesh for their support for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar/Burma, especially during this critical time. Andrews also urged Bangladesh to address specific issues related to the Rohingya in Bangladesh including security, access to education and healthcare, the creation of livelihoods opportunities, and freedom of movement.

In December 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a Southeast Asia trip indicated that the U.S. government is exploring additional actions against the military junta in Myanmar/Burma. This statement came after the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada imposed sanctions programs targeting Burmese military responsible for violence and repression.

On December 27, 2021 President Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 into law, which included a bipartisan Burma amendment led by Senator Mitch McConnell. The amendment requires senior officials in the State Department, USAID, Treasury Department, and the Defense Department to present to congress within sixty days a strategy to impose costs on the military junta, legitimize representative organizations like the National Unity Government, restore democratic governance, and foster national reconciliation.

On December 28 and 29, 2021 the U.S. State Department and the UN Security Council, respectively, released a statement condemning the violence in Kayah State that killed  at least 35 people including four children and two staff of Save the Children on December 24, 2021. Both statements calls for an immediate end to the violence. The U.S. further called on the international community to do more to advance an end to the atrocities in Burma including through ending the sale of arms to the military.

CAM’s Advocacy Activities

The Chin Association of Maryland, Inc. (CAM) will be sending out a newsletter each month, providing critical updates regarding the emergent situation in Myanmar/Burma. As this is CAM’s first Monthly News Update, we also included events from October, November, December, in addition to January. In February, we will focus only on the events in February.

In October, CAM released After the 2021 Military Coup in Myanmar/Burma: Challenges for Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees, a detailed account of the emergent situation in Myanmar/Burma after the military coup of February 1, 2021.Over the past few months CAM has been busy conducting briefings with various members of congress. These include with Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) as well as the offices of Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Representative Andy Harris (R-MD), Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Senator Jerry Moran (R-MO), Representative Tom Maliknowski (R-NJ), and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). CAM is requesting the U.S. to do more to stop the atrocities against the people of Myanmar/Burma including the burning of churches and houses, and to allow UN agencies to deliver aid to displaced persons including in Chin state.

CAM also briefed UN Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights in Myanmar/Burma, Tom Andrews.

CAM continues its advocacy in support for the Burma Act of 2021 and suggested to include the principal of federalism as an amendment to the bill.

Join CAM in our Advocacy Activities!

Join CAM’s efforts in advocacy by writing a letter to your congressman/woman and ask them to support the re-establishment of democracy in Myanmar/Burma and to support civilians in the country. You can also write a letter to Secretary Blinken urging the following:

1. To put pressure on the Burmese military

a) to allow the UN agencies including UNHCR to go to Chin State to deliver humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons in Chin State, Burma, especially in Thantlang townships. We learned that UNHCR has sought a travel authorization from the military to travel to Chin State, but the military has not granted it.
b) to permit the UN agencies to establish offices in Chin State immediately, especially UNHCR in Hakha, the capital of Chin State.
c) to halt the inhuman acts and also hold accountable the military  who committed crimes.

2. To engage India to allow UNHCR in New Delhi to register over 20,000 newly arrived Chin refugees in Mizoram State, India and also to deliver aid to both the refugees and the local communities that are welcoming them.To learn more ways to advocate with CAM, click here.

About CAM

The Chin Association of Maryland, Inc. (CAM) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization based in Ellicott City, Maryland.  CAM empowers the Chin communities in Maryland to be successfully integrated into American society. CAM also advocates for durable solutions for Chin and other refugees and internally displaced persons, and religious freedom and human rights in Burma. In 2020 and 2021, CAM produced three reports: After the 2021 Military Coup in Myanmar/Burma: Challenges for Internally Displaced Persons and RefugeesUnsafe: Chins Seeking Refuge in Malaysia; and New Delhi, India; and Unprotected: Chin IDPs in IDPs in Chin and Rakhine States, Myanmar/Burma.Chins, virtually all of whom are Christians, are an ethnic nationality from Burma. They became Christians primarily due to the missionary efforts of the American Baptist Churches USA. They are a major recent U.S. refugee group that fled from Burma to neighboring countries to escape ethnic, political and religious persecution by the Burmese military since 1962. In 2001, about 1000 Chin asylees came to the U.S through Guam, resettling largely in Maryland, Indiana, Florida, and Texas. Since 2002, the U.S. has resettled many more Chin refugees coming through Malaysia and India. Chins now number 70,000 across the United States, with about 5,000 making Maryland their home.