UNHCR alarmed at fragile security situation in Rakhine State

Briefing Notes, 22 June 2012

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 22 June 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We are very concerned about reports we are receiving concerning the tense and fragile security situation in the areas affected by the recent violence in Rakhine State. Even though the situation appears calm, we are still getting reports of violence and new displacements.

In the days ahead, anyone fleeing the situation in Myanmar or being pushed back will also face increasingly hazardous and rough seas, with swell heights reaching three to four metres in the northern part of the Bay of Bengal.

Meanwhile, UNHCR aid is reaching affected communities after we re-deployed a team to Sittwe to join other staff who remained in Rakhine State throughout the latest events.

The number of people estimated to have been affected by the violence continues to grow, with latest unofficial estimates close to 90,000, including those displaced and those too frightened to leave their homes. Initial estimates are that many could remain displaced for three months or longer.

There are now more than 70 sites for displaced people, including camps and monasteries. Our staff who have visited camps for both displaced communities in Sittwe have found children, women, elderly people and men sleeping on the ground, desperate for heavy tarpaulins, blankets and mosquito nets. We are also concerned about possibility of outbreaks of disease because of poor water supplies and sanitation at a time when it is raining heavily.

We have already distributed blankets, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting and mosquito nets to more than 4,500 people from our stocks in Maungdaw and Buthidaung. Trucks with similar supplies for a further 9,000 people are on their way to Rakhine State, with first trucks due to reach Sittwe on Sunday. We would like to emphasize that we distribute humanitarian aid impartially on the basis of need, and on the basis of need only, regardless of the background and origin of the victims of the recent disturbances.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangkok: Kitty McKinsey on mobile +95 9 495 94713
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic on mobile: +41 79 200 76 17



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

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

Living Silence: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

"Living Silence" is a photographic exhibition of one of the world's most enduring refugee crises, by award-winning photographer Saiful Huq Omi.

Bangladesh has hosted refugees for over three decades. Today, 28,000 refugees from Myanmar known as the Rohingya - an ethnic, religious and linguistic minority people - are living in the two official refugee camps in the south-east of Bangladesh. Over half of them are children, many of whom have only ever experienced life in the camps. It is estimated that there are a further 200,000 Rohingya living outside the camps, unable to return to Myanmar where they fear persecution and exploitation.

Like refugees around the world, the Rohingya refugees are survivors. They are living in transience, waiting for the day they can go home in safety and in dignity. Until then, like any other people, they aspire to live a life free from violence and exploitation.

Together with other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR provides shelter, water, primary education and health care to refugees from Myanmar in the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps. UNHCR is also working with governments around the world to resettle some of the most vulnerable.

Living Silence: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

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.