The United Nations Refugee Agency on Friday called on China to grant it access to refugees who fled fighting in northeastern Myanmar into southern China.
“UNHCR 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 for any possible unmet needs,” said Andrej Mahecic, spokesman for the agency.
“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,” he added.
Thousands of refugees streamed across the border into China in recent weeks as the ruling junta launched an offensive in Kokang, a mainly ethnic Chinese region in Myanmar’s troubled Shan state.
The UNHCR said it has received reports that China had provided shelter, food, clothing and medical care for the refugees.
It noted that Chinese media has reported that some 37,000 of these ethnic Kokang people have began returning home to Myanmar.
Mahecic said the agency had no indications that the refugees had been forced into returning, but stressed that it is awaiting a response from China regarding its request for access to the refugees.
Myanmar said on Thursday it has arrested 51 people for theft in the Kokang area, sentencing almost half of them to two years’ hard labour.
Meanwhile, China on Tuesday urged Myanmar to maintain peace in the region.