Myanmar refugee crisis haunts U.N.

Nov. 14, 2012 at 10:30 AM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- The United Nations is ready to support countries willing to open their borders to people fleeing violence in western Myanmar, a spokeswoman said.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that as many as 8,000 people have fled Myanmar since March. At least 75,000 people were displaced internally following violence between Muslim and Buddhists communities in the country's western coastal state of Rakhine.

Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the refugee agency, called on neighboring countries to open their borders to those fleeing Myanmar by sea.

"We are calling on countries in the region to strengthen burden-sharing in the face of this growing humanitarian emergency," she said in a statement. "We stand ready to support states in assisting and protecting these individuals."

In the last two weeks, two boats that left the western Myanmar coast sank with an estimated 240 people on board. More than 40 of those were rescued, though the United Nations said there were reports of many bodies in the water.

Myanmar declared a state of emergency for Rakhine following the latest outbreak of violence, which left at least 89 people dead.

The country, known formally as Burma, received international praise for recent democratic reforms, though concerns remain about the country's national security.

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