UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today expressed its continued encouragement and support for the adoption of measures to improve the wellbeing and safety of Myanmar refugees who have been arriving in Thailand since mid-December.
According to official sources, over 9,500 civilians had been forced to flee their homes in Kayin and Kayah states in southeast Myanmar, seeking shelter and protection in Tak and Mae Hong Son Provinces in Thailand. While the majority have returned to Myanmar, UNHCR understands from the Thai authorities that approximately 1,000 refugees remain in Mae Sot, the vast majority of whom are staying in a site in Mae Kone Kane.
While recognising the assistance provided thus far by the Government with the support of local communities, this may not be sustainable nor sufficient for individuals with vulnerabilities and specific healthcare needs.
The situation remains extremely uncertain and volatile in Myanmar. Given the pressing humanitarian needs of the refugees and the continued fighting on the Myanmar side of the border, UNHCR calls on the Royal Thai Government to transfer the group of refugees being sheltered in the ‘temporary safety area’ in Mae Sot, Tak Province, to another location where they can access safer and more dignified temporary accommodation, and receive improved humanitarian assistance.
UNHCR reiterates its readiness to assist the Thai authorities in responding to the humanitarian needs of the new arrivals. To that effect, UNHCR and humanitarian partners continue to request access to the refugee population.
UNHCR also reiterates its call that, in accordance with international law, all those seeking international protection and fleeing conflict, generalised violence or persecution be allowed to cross borders in search of safety, and that they are not forcibly sent back to a place where their lives and freedom could be in danger.