GENEVA (AFP) - – The UN refugee agency said on Friday that most of the 15,000 people who fled from Myanmar earlier this week have returned from Thailand despite renewed post-election fighting near the border.
A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Adrian Edwards said fighting reportedly erupted again overnight after the Thai army cleared their return, with the potential for more clashes around the Myanmar villages of Maekata and Halokani.
"As of today most of the 15,000 Myanmar refugees who fled into Thailand earlier this week have returned across the border," Edwards told journalists.
Sites in northern Thailand's Tak province emptied by Wednesday while all 3,000 refugees further south in Sanghklaburi had disappeared by early Friday, he added.
"In the light of the confused situation and the risks to safety, UNHCR is advocating with the Royal Thai government that refugees be given further time before being encouraged to return home," Edwards said.
UN human rights experts on Friday expressed concern about the impact of the earlier fighting and reiterated calls for the release of "over 2,200 prisoners of conscience" including jailed opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
"The elections were billed as one of the final elements of the so-called seven-step roadmap to democracy," the four experts said in a joint statement.
"However, the renewed clashes and resulting humanitarian crisis as civilians fled to a neighbouring State highlight the many unresolved challenges that Myanmar faces," they added in a statement.
"True democratic transition will require genuine dialogue with all stakeholders including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the various ethnic minorities that were excluded from the electoral process."
The statement was made by the Special Rapporteurs on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, on the right to freedom of opinion, Frank La Rue, on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggyawas, and the chairman of the working group on arbitrary detention, El-Hadji Malick Sow.