UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has made urgent calls across the region to offer refuge and protection to all those fleeing Myanmar for safety amid escalating violence in the country.
"It is vital that anyone crossing the border, seeking asylum in another country, can access it," said Gillian Triggs, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, in a briefing in Geneva today.
Shootings by the Myanmar military, which took control of the country through a coup on February 1 ousting the elected leaders, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, have killed more than 500 civilians so far amid protests.
UNHCR said it is shocked by the indiscriminate violence against civilians across the country, in addition to the renewed fighting between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups in some border areas. These events in Myanmar are driving people to flee within the country and across borders.
"It is a proven fact that humane border practices can be upheld amid public health and other border control measures, to ensure that people in need of protection can access territory and asylum."
Gillian Triggs said children, women, and men fleeing for their lives should be given sanctuary. They must not be returned to a place where their lives or freedom may be at risk.
Myanmar's neighbours have a decades-long history of providing protection and assistance to refugees.
"As the situation in Myanmar deteriorates further, we call on states to continue their lifesaving humanitarian tradition of safeguarding the lives of all those forced to flee," she said.
Across the region, UNHCR and partner organisations stand ready to step-up support to national and local authorities to ensure that refugees receive the protection they need, Gillian said.