The United Nations refugee agency says it still has not been granted
access to thousands of refugees who fled from Burma into China in
recent weeks. The UNHCR says it is concerned that more refugees might
flee to China if the situation in Burma, also known as Myanmar,
continues to deteriorate.
Thousands of people fleeing from
fighting in the Kokang area of northeastern Burma have crossed into
China's southwestern province of Yunnan. They have been given refuge
by the Chinese authorities.
The UN Refugee Agency says it
appreciates what the government has done in providing emergency shelter
for the refugees and in providing food, clothing and medical care for
around 13,000 refugees who are living in seven camp sites.
But, spokesman Andrej Mahecic says, so far, UNHCR aid workers have not been allowed to see and talk to the refugees.
has called on the Chinese authorities to allow us access to the border
area and has proposed a joint needs assessment so as to offer support
to any possible unmet need," Mahecic said. "We hope this request will
be positively considered as additional displacement may occur in the
region should the situation deteriorate in the Wa State of Myanmar."
of the Kokang residents are ethnic Han Chinese who have lived in the
area for centuries and still maintain ties with China. Tensions
reportedly started to rise on August 7 after Burma's military
government sent 30 police officers into a weapons repair factory in
Kokang. The government reportedly believed the facility was being used
to produce drugs.
Chinese media are reporting that some of the
37,000 ethnic Chinese Kokang people who crossed into China from Burma
are returning home. Mahecic says it is not possible to confirm this
report because UNHCR staff members are not there.
general, most of the refugees try to stay close to their homes and when
they flee, they flee either to the neighboring country or the
neighboring village," Mahecic said. "And, they tend to return home as
soon as possible. So, we are aware that some people are heading back.
We have no indications that people are being forced to return."
UNHCR has proposed a joint mission with Chinese authorities to assess
the needs of the refugees. It says it would like to assist the
government in providing humanitarian aid. The UNHCR says it also is
important to interview the refugees to determine whether any of them
are in need of international protection.