Thesis Examination: Impact of COVID-19 and Myanmar’s Political Crisis on Internally Displaced Migrants in Kachin – China Borderlands

June 8, 2023 @ 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm UTC+7
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RCSD is pleased to invite you to participate in a thesis examination, “The Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic and Myanmar’s Political Crisis on the Lives and Livelihood of Internally Displaced Migrants in Kachin- China Borderlands” presented by Labang Roi San, M.A in Social Science, specializing in Development Studies, on Thursday, 8 June 2023 at the Department of Social Science and Development meeting room, 1st floor, starting 1:30 pm, or join online via zoom here

Examining Committee

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naruemon Thabchumpon (Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University)

Lect. Dr. Shirley Worland (Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University)

Asst. Prof. Dr. Chusak Wittayapak (Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University)


The migratory and livelihood practices of Myanmar’s Kachin Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have changed significantly since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 and the subsequent February 2021 military coup d’état in Myanmar. Notably, since the civil war resumed in 2011, the Kachin displaced people have been experiencing the mental trauma of losing their possessions, livelihood uncertainty, a lack of access to healthcare and education, and a low quality of life. Firstly, the pandemic further worsened the economy, health, education, traditional, cultural practices and livelihood activities of these displaced peoples. Then the military coup in 2021 further affected their lives and livelihoods as well as their security. Thus, this research examines the challenges Kachin IDPs and displaced migrants have faced along the Kachin-China border since the pandemic and the coup. To understand this, this qualitative study refers to Henri Lefebvre’s conceptualization of perceived space, conceived space, and lived space through the Kachin displaced people’s livelihood activities, cross-border migration, kinship networks, cultural and traditional activities, and the rules and regulations of the border governors in the conflict-affected areas along the Kachin State in Myanmar and its border with China.

Fieldwork was carried out via online and with the assistance of a research assistant on site in Pa Kahtawng Displaced Persons Camp near Mai Ja Yang Township, Kachin State and online in Zhangfeng, Yunnan State, China. The findings show that the disruption of the pandemic and the political crisis have driven the displaced people to a poor quality of life, and no human security. During the pandemic, the economic situation of the displaced people in the border areas dramatically changed as they lost their jobs, and all the companies and workplaces were closed due to the COVID restrictions. Health is also the main issue during the pandemic and the coup. Not only physical health but also mental health affected the displaced people. Lack of healthcare caused illness among the elderly and children in IDP camps. The displaced migrants face insecure lives and prolonged mental depression and fatigue due to the unpredictable situation they find themselves in with no way to plan. In education, the disruption of lockdown, social distancing, and COVID-19 restrictions affected the meaningful learning and well-being of the students. The Kachin ethnic education department and teachers, and staff are under pressure to provide quality education to all students during the pandemic and the coup. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the Kachin cultural and traditional practices have also changed, and it impacted kinship networks as well.

In addition, a few displaced people who remained to find jobs on the China side also face increased exploitation, discrimination, and depression because of their illegal status and are confined to specific areas. Some displaced migrants with documents can get jobs after lockdown restrictions were lifted, but with reduced income. The displaced migrants without documents are stuck in their relatives’ houses or one particular workplace without a proper job.

Additionally, the Myanmar military coup worsened their lives in many ways, including severe inflation, increased risks of returning to their villages, and personal insecurity. During this emergency, community-based and non-government organizations provide emergency responses and possible solutions for the displaced people. However, it does not cover livelihoods for all.

The study concludes with the recommendation that local and international NGOs cooperate with responsible leaders of the community-based organizations to respond more effectively to long-term lives and livelihood security by creating livelihood opportunities, providing vocational training, and sharing common land for agriculture to secure a sustainable future.



June 8, 2023
1:30 pm - 4:30 pm UTC+7
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Department of Social Science and Development
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Meeting room, Department of Social Science and Development
Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University
A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50200 Thailand
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