Indians were the most significant Asian minority in Myanmar until World War II, when hundreds of thousands fled the Japanese invasion; although many returned after the war, the Indian minority never regained its prewar proportions, because after independence in 1948 the government of Myanmar instituted rigid restrictions on Indian migration. The Indian population was substantially reduced between April 1963 and June 1965, when 100,000 were repatriated as part of a program to increase the wealth and holdings of Myanmar nationals. (Indians had dominated Myanmar's commerce.) The government has sought to curtail both immigration and emigration, although as many as 500,000 persons may have left Myanmar during 1962–71. About 187,000 Muslims who fled to Bangladesh in 1978 were repatriated with the help of UN agencies by the end of 1981; they had left Myanmar because of alleged atrocities by its soldiers in Arakan State. They lost their citizenship in 1982.
About 500,000 poor urban residents were forcibly relocated to rural areas between 1989 and 1992. Rural residents are also subject to forced resettlement in connection with counterinsurgency operations.
In 1992, 250,000 Muslim refugees from Myanmar's Northern Rakhine state began arriving in Bangladesh claiming human rights abuses in Myanmar. As of October 1996, around 50,000 of these refugees from were still living in South Bangladesh in five refugee camps. Between 1994 and 1997, some 230,000 of these refugees returned home to Northern Rakhine state. The repatriation resumed in November 1998, following meetings between the UNHCR and Myanmar authorities, but returns were limited to some 450 people due to procedural problems. UNHCR has appealed to the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to accelerate the repatriation process.
In 2000 the total number of migrants residing in Burma numbered 113,000. The net migration rate for that year was 0.1 per 1000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.