Burmese (in Thailand and Bangladesh)
Prolonged conflict in Myanmar (Burma) has caused one of the most protracted refugee situations in Asia. For over a half a century, the Burmese military has waged war against many of the country’s numerous ethnic nationality parties and minority groups who seek greater autonomy. The protracted conflicts in Myanmar have produced huge numbers of internally displaced persons and at least four separate but related protracted refugee situations in neighbouring Thailand, Bangladesh, India and Malaysia. Despite recent moves to liberalise Burma’s political system, large numbers of refugees continue to flee the country.
Over 140,000 Burmese, mostly Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan, among others previously living in the eastern borderlands of Myanmar, are presently confined in camps in Thailand. Many have been displaced since the mid-1980s. In addition, there are probably at least 300,000 refugees outside camps in Thailand, including 250,000 Shan refugees.
In the northern Rakhine state near the border with Bangladesh, the Burmese army has pursued a policy of discrimination against the Muslim Rohingya populations during the past several decades. In two separate refugee exoduses in 1978 and 1991, over 250,000 Rohingyas fled their homes to Bangladesh on each occasion. Currently, some 27,000 Rohingyas remain in refugee camps in Bangladesh, while an estimated 200,000 Rohingyas live outside the camps.
The military has not only rendered the Muslim Rohingyas stateless, but in many instances has systematically crushed the cultural, religious and ethnic aspirations of other minorities, such as the Chin who live in the Chin state near the border of northeast India. These policies have led to repeated waves of refugee flows of Chin people to India in recent decades. Finally, tens of thousands of Burmese refugees of all ethnic groups have also sought asylum in Malaysia. In their desperate attempt to reach Malaysia, thousands of Rohingya have set sail in unsafe wooden trawlers from both Bangladesh and northern Rakhine state. Recently, there has been fighting between ethnic minorities and the Burmese military along the border with China, causing thousands to flee to the People's Republic of China.
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