Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Refugees Flee Myanmar to China as Fight Escalates

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Refugees Flee Myanmar to China as Fight Escalates

Article excerpt

Ethnic Kachin refugees fleeing an intensifying civil war in northern Myanmar have entered southwestern China, according to reports by official Chinese news organizations.

Ethnic Kachin refugees fleeing an intensifying civil war in northern Myanmar have entered southwestern China and are living in hotels and the homes of relatives and friends, according to reports by official Chinese news organizations.

The reports, which appeared this past week, said the number of refugees in China was growing, but did not give estimates. An article published online by People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, said that some hotels near the border between the Chinese province of Yunnan and Kachin State in Myanmar were fully booked.

Officials in one county, Yingjiang, were setting up a refugee camp with running water and electricity in case refugees arrive with nowhere to live, according to the People's Daily report, which was written by a journalist who had traveled to the scene.

A large or sudden increase in the flow of refugees could pose a problem for officials in China, who have already expressed frustration that artillery shells from the fighting in Myanmar were landing inside China.

Since June 2011, when a 17-year cease-fire collapsed, the Myanmar Army has been pressing a campaign against the Kachin Independence Army, which has controlled a large swath of territory in Kachin State and protected it as an autonomous region. The fighting has disrupted Chinese hydroelectric projects in the region and jade mining, an important part of the border trade in Yunnan.

Thousands of Kachin, who are mostly Christian, entered Yunnan after the breakdown of the cease-fire in 2011, and many took shelter in refugee camps. Chinese Christians showed up at the camps to provide aid, as did ethnic Kachin living in China. Last August, officials in Yunnan forced most refugees to leave the camps and return to Kachin State. Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups criticized the evictions. …

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