Malaysia/Thailand: UNHCR working closely with governments

Briefing Notes, 27 September 2005

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 September 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Given the current sensitive situation in southern Thailand, UNHCR has decided to withhold any public pronouncement on the status of the 131 southern Thais currently in Malaysia. We believe any such public declaration on these individual cases would just complicate an already difficult situation. UNHCR has been working closely with both governments, and they are also cooperating with each other to calm this situation. We are confident that both governments are working in the best interests of the 131 Thais, and that the temporary stay already granted by Malaysian authorities on purely humanitarian grounds provides the necessary safeguards at this time.

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Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

Over 2,000 refugees from Myanmar have crossed the border into Thailand in recent months. Most claim to be fleeing renewed conflict and human rights abuses in Kayin state, Myanmar. The mainly ethnic Karen refugees say their houses and villages have been burned and civilians killed. Many were weak upon arrival, suffering from illnesses such as malaria, after a long, dangerous journey to the camps through heavily mined areas. The refugees have been arriving at government-run camps, mainly in the Mae Hong Son area in northern Thailand.

UNHCR is working with the Thai government and non-governmental organisations to ensure the new arrivals are admitted to the camps and provided with adequate shelter and protection. Shelter has been a major issue as the capacity in many refugee camps has been overwhelmed. In a breakthrough in mid-May, Thai authorities agreed to build proper houses for the new arrivals.

There are currently 140,000 refugees from Myanmar living in nine border camps in Thailand, many of them have been there for up to 20 years.

Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

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