UNHCR urges more time for ensuring safety of refugees returning after Myanmar fighting

Briefing Notes, 12 November 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 12 November 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

As of today most of the 15,000 Myanmar refugees who fled into Thailand earlier this week, have returned across the border. Sites in northern Thailand's Tak province have been empty since Wednesday and further south in Sanghklaburi all 3,000 refugees were gone as of this morning. While many have returned to Myanmar others have dispersed and remain on the Thai side of the border. Other still have crossed back into Thailand again because of resumed fighting in some locations. UNHCR is currently working with NGOs and the local authorities to reach these isolated groups and assess their needs.

This morning, our field reports indicated fighting had re-erupted overnight and that there was potential for further clashes in the Myanmar villages of Maekata and Halokani. This was after the Royal Thai Army had given the all-clear for the refugees to return home. In light of the confused situation and the risks to safety, UNCHR is advocating with the Royal Thai Government that refugees be given further time before being encouraged to return home. We are particularly concerned about the safety of some of the returns on 10 and 11 November from Sangkhlaburi as fighting broke out again after refugees had gone back. As of this time UNHCR is not in a position to assess the voluntariness of all returns.

Overall, we feel that cooperation between UNHCR, NGOs, and the Thai authorities to provide assistance to refugees has been good. Although the time that most of the refugees spent in Thailand has been brief, in the three main sites (Mae Sot, Pho Phra and Sangklaburi) all parties coordinated well and necessary assistance has been made available.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Desperation on the Andaman Sea

For days, they were an undertow, an unseen tide of people adrift in the Andaman Sea. UNHCR and its partners had warned that thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis were held captive at sea, then abandoned as their crew fled government crackdowns on smuggling and trafficking networks.

Then a green boat surfaced on TV, packed with emaciated men, crying women and sick children, all dehydrated, hungry and desperate. It gave a face to the problem, then vanished overnight. After five days drifting between the coasts of Thailand and Malaysia, some 400 people on board were finally rescued by Indonesian fishermen in the early hours of May 20.

They are among more than 3,000 lucky ones who have been able to come ashore since May 10 in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where UNHCR is helping to assess their needs. Thousands more could still be stranded at sea. In a welcome statement on May 20, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to bring these vulnerable people to shore - a move that will hopefully end the long nightmare at sea.

Desperation on the Andaman Sea

Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day

UNHCR's Special Envoy Angelina Jolie spent this year's World Refugee Day with Karenni refugees from Myanmar. Some have been in exile in Thailand for 30 years, making this one of the longest-running refugee situations in the world.

On her fourth visit to the refugee camps in Thailand, Jolie met Baw Meh's family, three generations of refugees who have lived in Ban Mai Nai Soi camp since 1996.

The family told Jolie they fled Myanmar's Kayah state thinking they would return home shortly. Eighteen years later, they are still here. Baw Meh, 75, lost her husband last year. He died before he could fulfill his dream of returning home. Some of their family members have been resettled to third countries. Others have chosen to stay. Baw Meh has refused to go, preferring to stay close to her village.

Like many refugees along the border, her family is watching the reform process in Myanmar closely and mulling the prospect of eventual return. "After 30 years in exile, the best solution we can give these refugees is the right and power to choose their own way forward," said Jolie. "This is our chance to get it right, to break the vicious cycle of conflict and displacement once and for all."

Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day

Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across Myanmar's Rakhine state, where some 115,000 people are desperately in need of aid after being displaced during two waves of inter-communal violence in June and October 2012. The displaced, most of them ethnic Rohingya, have sought shelter in temporary relief camps and others remain scattered across the state, living under tight security in their destroyed villages. Conditions are harsh: the camps are overcrowded and some lack even the most basic of sanitation facilities while many of the villages are totally destroyed and running low on water. In one village, more than 32 families were living cheek-by-jowl in just two large tents. The children have no access to education and the newborn and elderly are in a very vulnerable position due to a lack of medical facilities. UNHCR is distributing relief supplies and working with the authorities and partners to improve camp conditions, but international assistance is required.

Myanmar IDPs pick up the pieces in Rakhine state

Displaced women sew up a future in Kachin campPlay video

Displaced women sew up a future in Kachin camp

Conflict in Myanmar's Kachin state has displaced tens of thousands. In the town of Laiza, UNHCR is helping women in Hpun Lum Yang camp to learn tailoring skills as part of a pilot project to foster cohesion among IDP women in the camp and help them find solutions for the practical problems they and their community face.
Myanmar: Olympic Spirit AlivePlay video

Myanmar: Olympic Spirit Alive

The International Olympic Committee and Samsung recently presented sports kits to 20 schools in south-east Myanmar. The lucky children were happy to show off their skills.
By Boat to SafetyPlay video

By Boat to Safety

The recent resurgence in inter-communal violence in western Myanmar, forced hundreds of people to sail to safety on their fishing boats.