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UN & Myanmar Strike Deal Possible Refugee Returns

UN Refugee Arm And Myanmar Strike Deal To Build Conditions For Possible Returns

The United Nations refugee agency has reached an agreement with Myanmar's Government to begin measures to create the necessary conditions in the country's east to allow the large-scale return of refugees from neighbouring Thailand.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters today at the body's headquarters in Geneva that up to 130,000 people are waiting in Thai refugee camps to return to Myanmar. An estimated 600,000 others are internally displaced within Myanmar.

But Mr. Redmond said the situation along the Myanmar-Thailand border is not yet conducive to refugee returns pending an "acceptable settlement" emerging from ongoing talks between the Government and rebels.

Under the agreement announced today, the agency will start providing assistance in health, education and community services, as well as local infrastructure. Initially the agency will operate from its office in the Myanmar capital Yangon and use locally active non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

"Years of conflict and insurgency have had a serious impact on basic facilities and infrastructure in the area and communities are not in a position to absorb possible large numbers of returnees without international assistance," Mr. Redmond said.

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