UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today emphasized the need for urgent protection and assistance for refugees who have fled intensified fighting in and near Lay Kay Kaw, Kayin State, Myanmar, and who have crossed into Thailand. UNHCR, together with partners, reiterates to the Royal Thai Government its readiness to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance and protection support to the new arrivals.
According to the Royal Thai Government, some 3,900 Myanmar nationals have fled across the border since 16 December. They are currently being hosted in several locations in Mae Sot district. It is also reported that some individuals who fled Myanmar in the past several days have since returned.
Fighting and shelling continue across Myanmar, including in the areas from which the newly arrived refugees fled. UNHCR is concerned for the welfare of these civilians and has approached the Thai authorities with offers of assistance, including the provision of emergency relief items. To further support the ongoing humanitarian response, UNHCR and NGOs have requested urgent access to the refugees to ascertain and deliver to them the necessary humanitarian and protection assistance .
Thailand has a decades-long tradition and experience in providing international protection and assistance to fleeing persons seeking asylum, including those from Myanmar. UNHCR reiterates its welcome of the previous assurances provided by the Thai Prime Minister on Thailand’s preparedness for a possible influx of refugees, including his assurance that those seeking refuge would not be forcibly returned.
UNHCR continues to advocate in accordance with international law that persons seeking international protection and fleeing conflict, generalized violence or persecution be allowed to cross borders in search of safety, and that they may not be forcibly sent back to a place where their lives and freedom could be in danger.