Myanmar IDP Figure Analysis

IDMC estimates that there were up to 662,400 IDPs as a result of conflict and violence in Myanmar as of March 2015.


Among them, 146,500 were in Rakhine state; 98,400 in Kachin and northern Shan states; 3,300 in Mandalay region; and up to 398,000 in the south-east (Shelter/NFI/CCCM cluster, Kachin & Northern Shan CCCM Dashboard, 1 January 2015; UNHCR, 1 January 2015, p.1; Shelter/NFI/CCCM cluster, Rakhine CCCM Dashboard, 1 January 2015; TBC, 6 November 2014, p.1; Karen Rivers Watch, 6 November 2014, pp.2, 7, 11-12; OCHA, 31 October 2014, p.3; OCHA, 30 April 2014, p.1; TBC, 4 February 2014; TBC, 31 October 2012, p.2). In addition, more than 16,250 people were newly displaced in Kachin and northern Shan between January and early March 2015 (OCHA, 27 February 2015; Irrawaddy, 10 February 2015; Irrawaddy, 5 March 2015).

In Rakhine state, the overwhelming majority of IDPs live in camps. Most are Muslims, the remainder are Buddhists. More than 51 per cent are girls and women, with more than 54 per cent children (Shelter/NFI/CCCM cluster, Rakhine cluster analysis report, 1 November 2014, on file with IDMC). In Kachin and northern Shan, 87 per cent of IDPs live in camps, half of them in areas not controlled by the government. More than 52 per cent are girls and women, while more than 49 per cent are children (Shelter-NFI-CCCM cluster, Kachin and Northern Shan cluster analysis report, 1 January 2015, on file with IDMC). The Mandalay IDPs live in camps, while the overwhelming majority of those in the south-east do not (TBC, 31 October 2014). No age or gender breakdown is available for these last two groups.

Natural hazard-induced disasters including cyclones and floods also displace large numbers of people in Myanmar. During the period from 2008 to 2013, the country came tenth worldwide in terms of absolute numbers – 2.67 million people – displaced as a result of disasters. More than 9,000 people per million inhabitants were forced to flee over this period, placing Myanmar 13th worldwide in relative terms (IDMC, 17 September 2014, pp.32-33). In 2014, floods displaced tens of thousands in Rakhine, Kachin, Mandalay and the south-east (OCHA, 31 August 2014, p.2;OCHA, 30 September 2014, p.4; Myanmar Times, 26 September 2014).

Displacement in Rakhine state is the result of inter-communal violence between Rakhine Buddhists on the one hand and Rohingyas and other Muslims on the other in 2012 (ICG, 1 October 2013, p.7; HRW, 1 August 2012, pp.18-19). In Kachin and northern Shan, armed conflict between Myanmar armed forces and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) including the Kachin Independence Army reignited in June 2011 after a 17-year-long ceasefire and has been ongoing since (ICG, 12 June 2013, p.6-8).

In south-eastern Myanmar, protracted armed conflict since 1962 ended with ceasefire agreements the government concluded with many of the main NSAGs in 2011 and 2012 (ICG, 12 June 2013, p.8; Myanmar Peace Monitor, Armed Ethnic Groups; ICG Crisis Watch, 1 September 2013). In September and October 2014, however, there were several clashes in Kayin state’s Hpa-an and Hpapun districts between the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), an NSAG, on the one hand and the Myanmar armed forces and Border Guard Force on the other (Karen Rivers Watch, 6 November 2014, pp.2, 7, 11-12). In Mandalay region, the current IDPs remain displaced as a result of inter-communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in March 2013 (OCHA, 31 March 2013, p.1).

Available data on numbers of IDPs in Myanmar covers people displaced within their own states and regions, but not those who have fled to other parts of the country, including urban areas. There is also little information on the number of IDPs who have returned or tried to integrate locally.

The shelter/non-food item (NFI)/camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) cluster regularly updates data on IDPs in Kachin, northern Shan and Rakhine, based on camp profiling and household surveys conducted in camps, as well as information reported by camp management committees, camp managers, focal people and cluster partners. This data forms the basis of IDMC’s estimates for these areas.

In the south-east, there is no government or inter-agency body monitoring IDPs. Access to areas controlled by NSAGs remains difficult and complicates information gathering still further (UNHCR synthesis report Jan-March 2014, on file with IDMC; IDMC interviews, May 2014). The Border Consortium (TBC), a consortium of international NGOs providing assistance to IDPs in Myanmar in addition to refugees from there who live in Thailand, in past years collected information on the number and situation of IDPs through its partner organisations on the ground. Its 2014 survey of selected villages showed that its estimate of the number of IDPs based on comprehensive data collection in 2012 had likely not fallen significantly (TBC, 31 October 2012, p.2; TBC, 6 November 2014, p.1).

Information that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) collected from local partner organisations from January to March 2014 indicates that the true figure may be lower, although UNHCR’s partners were not able to access all areas included by TBC in its 2012 survey (UNHCR synthesis report Jan-March 2014, on file with IDMC). IDMC’s estimate of up to 398,000 IDPs in the south-east is the result of TBC’s 2012 figure (399,600), qualifying it as the maximum number. More than 5,000 IDPs who returned in 2014 were substracted (UNHCR, 1 January 2015, p.1), while 2,000 newly displaced in Kayin state in 2014 were added (Karen Rivers Watch, 6 November 2014, pp.2, 7, 11-12).

Therefore, the overall number of up to 661,500 IDPs in Myanmar is an addition of numbers of IDPs in different regions that were developed by using very different methodologies – from recent cluster data to information collected more than two years ago and confirmed by current analysis, to information available from media sources.

IDMC uses only the most credible accurate information available. Notwithstanding the caveats and limitations of the source information described above, IDMC believes this to be the best data and is grateful to the partners for sharing it.