Last February, political turmoil in Myanmar left thousands scrambling to survive amidst abductions, warrantless arrests, and sexual violence. The consequences of the military coup have worsened issues of food security, inflation, and poverty, on top of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the country, critics of the coup and their families are being pursued by the junta and subject to abduction, torture, and detention. Numerous reports speak of military attacks against civilians, especially in hardest hit areas like the Kayah state.
One of the main challenges is represented by the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Having been forced to flee their homes, IDPs now need shelter, water, food, fuel, and healthcare. Without these essentials, they remain at risk of starvation, disease, and exposure.
In the following testimonies, internally displaced persons in Myanmar reflect on the meaning of home through the memories of what they have left and the objects that came to represent safety in displacement.
“This sling shot is a piece of home for me. Wherever I go, it is always with me. I go hunting birds with this. I free cattle with the help of this sling shot. I feel safe when I hold this and when the danger is about to come, this is the weapon I can use to protect myself.”
“I miss my best friend. Her name is Nan Z. P. and we were very close and shared everything we had. After being an IDP for more than two months, I have never seen or heard news from her. This beautiful pink dress that she gave me is a piece of home and it reminds me of the happy and peaceful time we had together before the coup.”
A refugee returnee, displaced for the second time
“For me, home has never been certain as there are many armed conflicts happening everywhere after the coup. But for us, a cooking pot and a match are a very important piece of the house. Because wherever we are, when we flee from armed conflicts, this pot and a match are necessary for us. We need them to cook food to survive. We can boil drinking water and cook food. And by lighting the fire, match provides us warmth.”
“When I heard the word home, I imagine the tent that I am living in. Even though it has no full facilities like my house from the village, it currently gives us warmth and protects us from getting wet. It has the shadow of home, and it is the present home for me.”
“According to my experience, tarpaulin is a piece of home when we are displaced. We need it to build temporary tent and it’s easier to bring along with us whenever we move. It can provide a place for my family to stay and sleep. It also protects us from the rain and makes us warm.”
My dream of home was not so big
Just a place, my favorite space
Full of love, laughter and bliss
Always praying for the sake
My real home is not so big
It’s not grand and great
Scary sounds waken my deep sleep
Wish my little space would be safe
People say that Home Sweet Home
Is the place where love blooms?
But now, only fear has grown
Where is our Home Sweet Home?