Chinese authorities in Yunnan province have indicated they will shutdown 16 temporary camps located inside China along the border with Kachin and Shan states. The camps which are not officially supported by the UN or other major international humanitarian agencies are estimated to house nearly 7,000 people.
Yesterday, refugees at a temporary camp in La Ying, home to at least 2,000 refugees, were told by local Yunnan government officials they must leave or they will be returned by force to Burma.
The Chinese officials told the refugees to go to Loije which is presently controlled by the Burmese government, something the refugees do not want to do.
A list released December 9 by the Kachin relief group Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN) estimates there are presently an additional 4,800 refugees living in eight camps in Nongdao Township in Yunnan’s Ruili district— Nga Nawng Pa, Yang Lu, Nam Gu, Hka Dawng Pa, Nongdao, Lau Htaik, Na Kawng and Naung Taung.
WPN says that an additional 6,000 refugees have taken shelter among the large migrant Kachin population in Yunnan province in cities like Jang Hkong, Mangshi, Ruili (Shweli), Baoshan and Kunming.
In a related development, government officials from China’s Longchuan region met today with representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization at the KIO controlled Ura Bum. Doi Pyi Sa, who chairs the the KIO’s IDP and Refugee Relief Committee (IRRC) said the Longchuan officials expressed their wish to relocate back to Burma all the refugees who have crossed into China. Chinese officials have previously told the KIO to order all the refugees to return to Burma.
Doi Pyi Sa told the Kachin News Group “we will not force refugees to come back to Burma. Let the refugees make own decision about returning home, we were not the ones who suggested they come to China in the first place.”
He added however that “if China does remove the Kachin refugees who are unable to return home for security reasons, the refugees will be relocated to our (KIO) camps.” Supplies in the KIO camps however are running low and many fear the camps cannot support more people.
Many of the refugees who fled into China told the Kachin News Group that they fled to avoid being killed or raped by Burmese government troops. Burma’s armed forces are known to routinely use civilians as porters and human mine sweepers.
Many Kachin had hoped that the Chinese authorities would be kinder to them considering the important role Kachin fighters played in aiding the Chinese anti-occupation forces during World War II. It was largely Kachin soldiers who fought in northern Burma to open up a strategic supply route to China. What became known as the Burma Road was used by the allies to send desperately need assistance to the Chinese resistance fighting against Japan.
This story was compiled by our correspondent in Mai Ja Yang, the second largest town of Kachin Independence Organization in Northern Burma.