KIO Prepares for Return of Refugees

Children shelter at a camp for internally displaced people in Kachin State. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Children shelter at a camp for internally displaced people in Kachin State. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Under pressure from the Chinese authorities, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) says it has agreed to take back about 4,000 Kachin refugees who are currently staying in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Samang Kada Doi Pyi Sa, the chairman of the IDPs and Refugees Relief Committee (IRRC), said that his team will start bringing all of the refugees back to KIO territory tomorrow.

“Our people are suffering both physically and mentally, because they have to come back even though they don’t want to,” he said, adding that China has been pressuring the KIO to repatriate the refugees since July.

Those brought back from Yunnan Province will resettle at the Lana refugee camp, located near Loi Je, about 16 km from the Chinese border. The camp belongs to the KIO, which began building shelters there in July after they held the first round of talks with the Chinese authorities to discuss the resettlement.

“We have already told the people who are in Yunnan that they will have to come back to our land. We told them that if they don’t want to come back, they’re on their own, because we can’t help them if they stay,” said Samang Kada Doi Pyi Sa.

He added that the KIO asked the Chinese to allow them to delay the move until the weather improves, but they were told to bring the refugees back as soon as possible. “We wanted [the refugees] to stay a little longer because it’s the rainy season, but we were told to move them right away,” he said.

Fighting in Kachin State has displaced about 65,000 people, most of whom have remained inside Burma. Despite several rounds of peace talks, the conflict, which began last June, remains unresolved.

Human Rights Watch reported in June that the Chinese authorities were pressuring the refugees to return. The report said that forcing the refugees to return would put them at great risk and created a pervasive fear of forced return among the Kachin refugees who remain in Yunnan.

The refugees said that they had received no humanitarian assistance from the Chinese government and major humanitarian agencies have had no access to them since they began arriving in June 2011.
China is a party to the 1951 Refugee Conventions and its 1967 Protocol as well as other international human rights treaties that provide protections for refugees and asylum seekers.

However, China has no law or procedure for determining refugee status and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not been given access to conduct refugee status determinations; under international law, the lack of a formal recognition mechanism does not negate the fact that someone is a refugee.

IRRC reported that the refugees mainly need food and medical assistance, as the KIO has provided them with shelters already. The UN aid agencies are only able to reach some refugee camps.

The conflict in Kachin State remains unlikely to end any time soon, as the government has ignored a key KIO demand—the withdrawal of troops from KIO territory. With government troops continuing to close in on the KIO stronghold of Laiza, the group has rejected calls for further peace talks.

9 Responses to KIO Prepares for Return of Refugees

  1. A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    It is a shame of U Thein Sein government for not being able to order his army to stop exchange of fires with KIA’s soldiers. How many of Kachin lives have to be given to convince U Thein Sein’s army that the war is no use and it’s time for peace? The government Burma has to put its People lives before winning a battle to occupy any strategic lands of Kachin in order to have upper hand over KIO in ongoing its peace talk with KIO.

    My heart completely goes out to the cause of our ethnics’ suffering and sacrifices in so prolonged – civil war, unfairly waged by succeeded regime of Burma. I hope, in my life time, I will witness the overcoming of all these unbearable torments in victory of the fight for equal right, autonomy, and self determination under the federal system. As I am typing this, I do really feel sorry, angry, frustrated and dying for why, and how the hell on earth, the whole world is not giving more urgently needed-attention to ongoing war in Kachin State, rather than communal riots in Rakhine State.

    A Burmese Freedom Fighter

  2. Given the Burmese opposition to the involvement of the UN and INGO’s in the “Rohingya issue”, people like Quintana from the UNHCR must be totally fed-up with “Burmese ethnic problems”: Kachin, Karen, Wa, Shan, Rohingys, whatever! Besides the Chinese don’t give a damn about the UN (they have veto power in the security council!)
    The KIA is misjudging the shift in Chinese tactics. The KIA used to get along well with the local war-lords in Yunnan, but Peking’s goal is more global. These mega=projects, especially the gas/oil pipeline and the railway are crucial strategic objectives for China, so Peking is working with the Tatamadaw. Remember China has global ambitions and the fate of the Kachin people is not such a “big deal” for them.
    The Kachin have only two choices: Either become an integral part of Burma OR separate and become a Chinese Province. It’s their choice, but they would need Chinese help to separate from Burma, but “sitting on the fence (border)” is not the solution anymore. As I’ve always said: Think Global and stop acting Tribal in this multi-connected modern world.

    • Joining China as a province is not a bad choice to a regular Kachin mentality considering ill treatments from Burmese the last six decades. It will be just like Gen. Aung san has switched to allied only after Mandalay fell. We could always learn something from History

  3. 4000 Kachins seem too much in the eyes of China. How about one million Chinese who bought Myanmar Citizenship Cards from corrupt Burmese Immigration Officers and have both Myanmar and Chinese Citizenship.

  4. Fleeing into China was not the choice of the Kachins but it was caused by the inhuman attack from the Burmese soldiers who raped Kachin women and killed Kachin men. China must lay down something on the table of Thein Sein government to solve this problem politically. So far, we see no positive contribution to solve the problem.

  5. Hahahahaha! Here I come! I am still commanding from behind the curtain. Thein Sein is just my puppet. I will keep calling the shots as long as I live.

  6. This is all about the pipeline politic again playing here, same as Yadana pipeline where the Thai has sacrified Karen people struggle in order to get the gas. The Karen had absolutely trusted in Thai was a big mistake and failure to utilise its chances of power balacing act in the pipeline affairs.
    I do not want to see that happens to Kachin’s struggle again.

  7. Why are we so quiet about Kachin ? I can see no strong effort that both local and abroad media taking place, feels like i am left over too. We have to strong,all of us, and will show that we are adequate. Let’s fight together !

  8. A Burmese Freedom Fighter made a lot of good points. Its actually because of Kachin’s wealthiness and the Burmese Army’s desire to rule the whole country up to my knowledge. There might probably be a lot more behind. Though there are many other diplomatic ways to achieve nation’s union, this tragedy is continuing. I feel pity for the poor Kachin people who got unfairly waged by Succeeded Burmese Military Regime. A lot of people abandoned their beloved land and far worst is family members are living separately. The whole wild world is paying attention to your legacy and prosperity, Kachins so try saving as much as you could.

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