Kachin IDPs Return to Camps After Being Denied Entry at Chinese Border

By Lawi Weng 13 January 2017

RANGOON — More than 4,000 Kachin IDPs returned to Zai Awng, Magayang and Hkau Shau camps after China denied them entry at the border, according to the Joint Strategy Team (JST) supporting the internally displaced people.

“China is a big nation. They need to respect human rights on an international level. They should protect the people who have no protection from fighting,” JST spokesperson Gum Sha Awng said at a press conference in Rangoon on Friday,

But according to Kachin aid workers, China may be under pressure from the Burmese government not to accept IDPs at the border.

“China will not accept IDPs from Burma without having an agreement from the Burmese government,” said Maran Jaw Gun, from the Nyein (Shalom) Foundation, at the press conference.

The IDPs were in critical condition after spending days trekking to and from the Chinese border, according to JST members.

“Our first concern was their safety and security. The second concern was food, and the third was for their health,” said Gum Sha Awng.

Among the 4,000 IDPs were about 800 children who had put their studies on hold in order to get to the border.

“They slept on the ground during winter, which is very cold. There were elderly people and pregnant women in the group as well,” said Gum Sha Awng.

The JST provides support for more than 100,000 Kachin IDPs, often bringing aid from China.

The Burma Army has blocked the transportation of humanitarian aid for Kachin IDPs from the UN and Kachin aid groups since last year, according to the aid workers.

The JST includes members from Bridging Rural Integrated Development and Grassroots Empowerment (BRIDGE), the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), Kachin Relief and Development Committee, Kachin Women’s Association, Kachin Development Group, Karuna Mission Social Solidarity, Metta Development Foundation, Nyein (Shalom) Foundation and Wunpawng Ninghtoi.

Fighting intensified between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army after the Union Peace Conference was held in August. The Burma Army has seized at least seven mountain bases since December, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Rights activists condemned the actions of the Burma Army at the press conference.

“If the military had not launched an offensive in the KIA area, there would be no fighting. The KIA is acting defensively,” said Maran Jaw Gun.

A short video clip of IDPs evacuating their camps and being ousted at the Chinese border was shown at the press conference.

The video shows IDPs in makeshift shelters, cooking food on the side of the road, and using fire as a heat source. The people had no motorized transportation and traveled on foot all the way to the border.

One female IDP spoke in the video clip and accused Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of cooperating with the Burma Army, and bullying the ethnic Kachin and other ethnic groups.

Some IDPs raised the question of whether they were citizens of Burma or just temporary residents, as the government did not protect them.

“The government has a duty to care for its citizens, but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government ignores Kachin IDPs,” said one of the displaced individuals.