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The forgotten people of Myanmar

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 01 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:0409340
  1. Christelle Evans, third year medical student1
  1. 1University of Southampton

Christelle Evans describes the effect of government oppression, extensive human rights violations, and heroin on the lives of the people of northern Myanmar

Shan state spans 160 000 km2 of northern Myanmar (Burma) and is the home of an ethnic minority numbering about eight million. Under the current military government, these people are denied independence from Myanmar and are forcibly relocated from their rural communities into big cities so that the militia can monitor the activities of their Shan state independence army.1 Shan state is also one of the world's largest heroin producing areas and has experienced a sharp rise in opiate addiction in the past three decades.

Nu Pu Ah refugee camp for people fleeing from the Burmese army.

Shan refugees

In 2003, I visited several communities of Shan refugees in Thailand with a team from my church that visits twice a year to entertain refugee children with stories, games, and crafts making. For political reasons I cannot give details of exactly where we went. As illegal immigrants, the children have little prospect of an education, and the stories of what they had been through were shocking. Many Shan people have fled Myanmar, under threat of relocation or death, to find refuge in the jungle or in northern Thailand. Gaining political refugee status and making a living, however, is not easy unless you can find an employer …

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