Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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At Least 15,000 People Flee Myanmar into China as Ethnic Violence Continues: UN

An estimated 15,000 people from Myanmar are crossing China's border to seek refuge over the ongoing ethnic violence.

(Photo : Getty Images) An estimated 15,000 people from Myanmar are crossing China's border to seek refuge over the ongoing ethnic violence.

The United Nations said that an estimated 15,000 people have crossed the border from Myanmar to China in the past month after fighting between government troops and armed ethnic groups intensified.

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According to Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Myanmar, aid access to people affected by the war in the northern states of Kachin and Shan "is getting worse, not better."

"Humanitarian access to conflict areas in Kachin and Shan states is currently worse than at any point in the past few years," Peron added.

In an update on Monday, the OCHA said that aside from the estimated 15,000 new refugees, approximately 24,000 people have also been displaced internally in the northern part of Shan state since Nov. 20. This was after a coalition of four rebel groups attacked military and police bases.

Dozens more have drowned trying to cross the river that separates Myanmar from Thailand in desperate attempts to seek refuge in Malaysia. The Myanmar government has a ban in place stopping its citizens from working in Malaysia.

Weeks of violent clashes and population displacements have already jeopardized Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's chances of bringing peace to the country.

Observers are fearful that her unstable civilian government has no power over the army, which retains political power and is free from civilian oversight. She has been accused of being unconcerned of the plight of the minority Rohingya community, which has been discriminated by authorities for years.

The army said that it would step-up operations in Shan state following the deadly Nov. 20 attack.

According to a Myanmar police official, who requested anonymity, government forces have clashed with armed groups in northern Shan at least 170 times in the past month. Approximately 30,000 people have been internally displaced in Rahkine state.

There have also been crackdowns since nine border police officers were killed near the country's border with Bangladesh. Bangladesh hosts thousands of Rohingya but is now turning away boatloads of fleeing families.

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