In May 2021, Endurance May, (name changed), one of Finnish Refugee Council’s employees in Myanmar, heard rumbling and gunshots in the distance. Moment by moment the sounds intensified and came closer to the city of Loikaw. Endurance May and her colleague decided to escape to a nearby village to stay safe. The same thing happened in January 2022, when Endurance May had to flee again, this time to the other side of the country, all the way to Yangon.
The Myanmar military junta took power in a coup on 1 February 2021. For the past year there has been armed conflict and mass arrests of pro-democracy supporters across the country. The military junta and ethnic armed groups with a new youth group, the People’s Defense Force (PDF), are fighting against each other. The UN estimated that about 285,000 civilians have been forced to flee from their homes inside Myanmar. Since December 2021, the worst violent confrontations have been concentrated in the state of Kayah, among others, and especially in one of the townships of Kayah, where 26-year-old Endurance May was born.
A few years ago, when she started working with FRC, Endurance May moved to Loikaw, and the rest of her family stayed in their hometown. In addition to Endurance May’s parents, the family includes 4 other siblings. When Endurance May had to flee for the first time, she met her family in the same village which many others also sought shelter.
“Some people fled from Loikaw to nearby villages, while others sought shelter in the jungle or churches. Often, however, the situation in the villages is ruthless, because there is scarce water and food, not to mention lack of access for the electricity or internet. However, people wanted to return home as soon as the gunshots quietened down”, Endurance May says.
A month later, the situation in Loikaw seemed to calm down and in June 2021, Endurance May returned to Loikaw and the rest of the family to their hometown. However, Endurance May’s apartment was located in one of the most unsafe areas of the city, so she had to move to the FRC’s office. Instability continued, but Endurance May and colleagues were able to continue work.
However, the situation escalated again in December, when 35 people died in the attack by the military on Christmas Day. The victims included internally displaced persons, children and women, and aid workers. People had to leave Loikaw again in January due to escalated violence, but the flights were full booked, and travel by road only possible by going through Military checkpoints. Eventually, however despite the risks, Endurance May and other FRC’s workers were relocated to another city.
“Me and the most of our family are safe again, but our father stayed in our hometown. We are not able to reach him because the town is under the control of the military”, Endurance May says with concern.
According to Endurance May, the situation in Myanmar is hopeless for the people of the country, especially for the youth. They have no choice but to try to flee – if the escape fails, the young people will be recruited into the military or into their opposition forces, the PDF. There are few jobs, and there is an acute shortage of food, water, and shelter across the country. The UN estimates that up to 2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
“I have never before experienced or heard of such atrocities taking place in our country. In Facebook there are pictures of tortured people and bodies thrown at the roadside. Killing innocent people makes me feel angry but most of all I feel insecure, sad, and depressed. No one knows what the future will bring”.
Like many other young people, Endurance May has considered leaving the country. However, she does not want to leave her family – especially when she is currently the only one who brings livelihood to the family. Above all, she hopes for security in the future and appeals to organizations and people outside of the country.
“Right now, people are just trying to survive. In addition to basic food, young people need support. It is important to strengthen the resilience of young people, but above all we need jobs. I hope the world does not forget the youth of Myanmar”.
FRC is monitoring the situation in the country and will continue the operations when possible to help people in the face of very challenging conditions. Read more about our operations in Myanmar on the website.