Nearly half a million Myanmar refugees, church voices concern

Light of truth

Church officials have expressed concern over the rising numbers of refugees from Myanmar and internally displaced people within the country itself as highlighted in a recent UN report. By the end of 2016, refugees from Myanmar rose to 490,300, up from 451,800 the previous year, making it the eighth largest refugee producing country in the world, said the UN’s refugee agency in its annual global trends study released on June 20. Father Thomas Htang Shan Mong, director of Myanmar Catholic bishops’ office for peace building and justice, blames a range of political and economic factors for the rise in refugees, as reported by the UN. “There has been 70 nearly years of conflict and unrest in Myanmar, especially in ethnic areas,” Father Mong told. Bangladesh hosts 276,200 Myanmar refugees while Thailand looks after 102,600, Malaysia 87,000, and India 15,600.

The UN report said there are more than 375,000 internally displaced people in Karen, Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan States in Myanmar. In Kachin and Shan States, more than 100,000 displaced people remain in camps since renewed fighting erupted between the military and the Kachin Independence Army in 2011. In 1991, a large scale Rohingya exodus began and Caritas partnered with the Bangladeshi government to assist the refugees. Gomes said Caritas could no longer assist the Rohingya because it became — from the government’s point of view — a politically sensitive issue. While the Bangladeshis were relatively warm towards the refugees they have become stricter in recent years. The UN’s report said that were 65.6 million displaced people worldwide in 2016, an increase of 300,000 from the previous year. The figure includes 22.5 million refugees, the highest number in modern history

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