Displacement from Myanmar: How We Got Here and What More Can Be Done



Displacement from Myanmar: How we got here and what more can be done is an expert commentary paper written and published in partnership with the Asia Displacement Solutions Platform (ADSP) as part of their Supporting Humanitarian and Refugee Protection in Asia (SHARP-Asia) Project.

The paper aims to unpack the current situation facing those displaced from Myanmar and offer policy proposals to improve their lives in displacement, while working towards supporting conditions in Myanmar becoming safe for repatriation in the future.

It was written by CPD’s Indo-Pacific Program director Caitlin McCaffrie and Dr Nyi Nyi Kyaw, Research Chair on Forced Displacement in Southeast Asia at Chiang Mai University’s Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development.

Download The Paper

Displacement from Myanmar: How we got here and what more can be done looks at the displacement and forced migration crisis in Myanmar and offers a set of practical policies to address these issues.

What are the key challenges?

  1. Deteriorating Conditions in Myanmar: The situation in Myanmar continues to decline, with escalating conflicts, human rights abuses, and a lack of political stability undermining any prospects for safe, voluntary repatriation. The environment remains hostile and unsafe for returnees, making the idea of going back a distant possibility for many who have fled. This ongoing turmoil not only hampers efforts towards creating a safe space for repatriation but also exacerbates the plight of those still within the country’s borders, further fueling the cycle of displacement.

  2. Inconsistent or Lack of Access to Services for Displaced Individuals: Displaced persons residing in neighboring countries often find themselves in precarious situations due to erratic or entirely absent access to critical services such as healthcare, education, and legal assistance. This lack of support exacerbates their vulnerability, hindering their ability to rebuild their lives in host countries. The inconsistency in service provision can be attributed to various factors, including policy gaps, resource constraints, and varying levels of commitment to refugee welfare among host nations.

  3. Absence of Regional Level Coordination or Leadership on Refugee Protection: There is a significant gap in regional cooperation and leadership concerning the protection and support of refugees. This vacuum in coordinated action leads to disjointed efforts and inefficiencies in addressing the needs of displaced populations. The absence of a unified regional strategy for refugee protection results in missed opportunities for collective problem-solving, sharing of best practices, and mobilizing resources, ultimately impacting the effectiveness of responses to the refugee crisis.


How does the paper recommend addressing these challenges?

  1. Addressing the Enabling Environment and Ensuring Repatriation is Not Rushed: Creating an enabling environment for repatriation involves not only ensuring safety and stability within Myanmar but also guaranteeing that the return of refugees is carried out with dignity, voluntariness, and sustainability at its core. This requires a multifaceted approach, including diplomatic efforts to improve conditions inside Myanmar, the development of clear guidelines for repatriation that prioritize the well-being of returnees, and the establishment of monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the repatriation process respects the rights and needs of the displaced. It is crucial that repatriation is not expedited at the expense of safety and long-term well-being, thereby avoiding the risk of further displacement or endangerment of individuals.
  2. Developing Greater Refugee Protection and Response Capacity at the Regional Level: Strengthening refugee protection and response involves enhancing the capacity of ASEAN countries to provide comprehensive support to refugees, from legal protection and access to services to integration and resettlement options. This requires the development of standardized regional policies that recognize the rights of refugees, capacity building for local and national authorities in refugee law and protection, and the allocation of resources to support refugee services. By bolstering the region’s collective ability to respond to the needs of displaced populations, ASEAN can ensure more humane, effective, and coordinated assistance for those in need.
  3. Better Coordinating Resettlement Programs and Expansion of Resettlement Countries: Improving the coordination of resettlement programs involves streamlining processes for identifying, processing, and relocating refugees to third countries that offer permanent resettlement options. This entails closer collaboration between countries of origin, transit, and resettlement, international organizations, and civil society to ensure efficient and timely resettlement procedures. Additionally, expanding the network of resettlement countries can provide more opportunities for refugees to find safe and permanent homes, alleviating pressures on transit countries and contributing to a more balanced distribution of responsibilities in the international community. Enhancing the coordination and expansion of resettlement options is crucial for providing durable solutions for refugees and for fostering global solidarity in refugee protection.