Aid Groups Say China is Expelling Kachin Refugees

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 5:00 am (UTC-5)
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Refugee aid workers say China is ordering hundreds of refugees who fled fighting between Burmese government troops and Kachin rebels to return to Burma.

The aid workers say at least 2,000 villagers have been displaced by the Burmese offensive against rebels of the Kachin Independence Army, which began earlier this month. Most have sought shelter along the Chinese border in hopes the army will not risk firing artillery so close to their northern neighbor.

The relief groups say most refugees have been refused admission to China but that some elderly Kachin and women with children were allowed to cross the border last week. But they say China is now ordering them to return to Burma because fighting has died down in their villages.

Help for the refugees is being organized by a handful of small, mainly Kachin organizations. One group told VOA's Burmese service they are short of food and shelter for the refugees, and especially concerned about the possible spread of disease.

China denied last week that it was turning back refugees at the border, but it has not commented on the latest reports.

The Kachin Independence Army, like several other ethnic militias in Burma, signed a cease-fire agreement with the central government several years ago. But those agreements began to break down in 2009, when Burma demanded that the militia groups come under central authority and serve as part of a national border guard. That prompted some militias to resume fighting.