24 December 2021 - Myanmar

PEOPLE RUNNING FOR THEIR LIVES FROM ARMED CONFLICT, AIRSTRIKES, IN MYANMAR NEED PROTECTION – HUMANITARIAN GROUPS

Press release

An escalation in the armed conflict in Myanmar in recent days, including airstrikes, has forced thousands of people to flee into Thailand, prompting a group of humanitarian organisations on Friday to call on the Thai government not to  turn away people running for their lives.

Since Dec. 15 an escalation in violence in Kayin state in southeastern Myanmar has displaced about 10,000 people, including children, from their homes in the town of Lay Kay Kaw and nearby villages, with about 3,900 crossing the border into Thailand. The conflict has led to an unknown number of civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.

The displaced people are currently seeking safety in a variety of temporary, makeshift sites in fields and forested areas without adequate shelter, schools or places of worship.

Save the Children joined forces with 14 other organisations to call on the Thai government to keep their borders open to people fleeing the violence after reports that about 1,000 villagers, including children, were prevented on Dec. 22 from crossing the river into Thailand.

“(The Thai government) should stop pushing back people seeking refuge in Thailand or attempting to cross the border as their lives are in danger,” the agencies said in a joint statement, adding that COVID-19 should not be used justification for blocking people leaving unsafe and dangerous situations.

“Fighting, shelling and airstrikes continue in Kayin state, including in the areas where people have fled. Any returns must be truly voluntary, based on informed consent and carried out in safety and dignity.”

A joint statement by several foreign embassies in Myanmar, including the EU, US and Britain, released on Facebook said the recent “indiscriminate attacks” in Kayin state, including the shelling of villages, were a violation of international Humanitarian Law that must stop.

The humanitarian organisations called for everyone attempting to cross the border to be treated as potential refugees under international law and to allow the United Nations and aid organisations to access the displaced civilians so that they can provide life-saving aid, especially to the most vulnerable groups including separated and unaccompanied children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

They also called on the Royal Thai Government to work with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member states to urgently find political and diplomatic solutions to address the root causes of the conflict in Myanmar.

“Save the Children condemns these attacks in the strongest possible terms. We once again call on all parties to the conflict to end this violence immediately and to keep civilians and their property out of harm’s way. Families and children have not only been through the trauma of having to flee their homes but now they are being denied lifesaving assistance. This follows a worrying trend of increased security restrictions that are hindering humanitarian aid.”

Escalating conflict, ongoing political and economic turmoil since a military coup on Feb.1, and the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating for children in Myanmar. Access to health and education is extremely limited, and millions of children are in danger of going hungry. 

Save the Children and its partners in Myanmar and Thailand are providing food assistance and essential items to families who need it most. It provides life-saving health and nutrition services, as well as getting children back into learning and supporting them with their mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Link to the joint statement

The signatories of the statement are:

Adventist Development and Relief Agency

Asylum Access Thailand

Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons

COEER Foundation

Handicap International

International Rescue Committee

Jesuit Refugee Service Thailand

Right to Play

Ruammit Foundation-DARE Network

Save the Children

Pestalozzi Children's Foundation

Stateless Children Projection Project III

Terre des Hommes Germany The Border Consortium

WEAVE Foundation

 

For further enquiries please contact: