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《35,000 Refugees Trapped on China-Myanmar Border》(2011)  

2011-12-18 03:08:18|  分类: 中国周边事态 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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             35,000 Refugees Trapped on China-Myanmar Border

Laying, a small village on the China-Myanmar border has constantly witnessed many Myanmar residents crossing the border to seek shelter in threes and fours, to escape the endless warfare in Kachin State of Myanmar.  

The Family of Dawn, a Myanmar civil society responsible for refugee work, revealed that, since the military conflicts between Myanmar government forces and Kachin Independence Army on June 9th, 2011, a large number of refugees had been identified along the thousand miles of China-Myanmar border, all the way from Tengchong-Myitkyina road to Laying. The total amount of refugees by the end of November has been estimated to surpass 35,000. 

As for the settlements of refugees, the Kachin Independence Army Laiza headquarters have arranged for more than 21,000 while Maijayang has provided shelter to over 4,000. 1,500 are fleeing to forests and another 6,000 are temporarily living in schools, churches and villages along the border. Besides, over 1,000 enter to Chinese territory through various civil means. 

“These refugees want to go home very much, but fighting are going on in the hills everyday and the number of refugees is growing,” the staff of the Family of Dawn who come to work in the refugee camps in China everyday said, “there are more refugees in Kachin State, and they are in desperate need of food, medicine and articles for daily use.” 

People who are well informed of the situation in Myanmar unveiled that, if Myanmar government army continued to encircled Kechin, there would be more refugees. Taking into consideration of the bitterly cold weather in winter, the lack of clothes, beddings, nutritious food and medicine, the refugees would be faced with tougher situation, and infectious diseases were also likely to spread. Now the Kachin side has been overwhelmed by this problem; if the refugee issue could not be properly solved, there is a great chance that humanitarian crisis would break out along the China-Myanmar border. 

                                                   Refugees in Desperate Need of Humanitarian Aid 

Myanmar military government has been trapped in both domestic and diplomatic predicaments due to the long-term all-out blockade imposed by the West. In order to raise more money and promote economic development, Myanmar has accelerated its pace to cooperate with China in recent years. The hydropower plants in Kachin State, north Myanmar, are the typical examples. 

It is worth noting that in recent years when Chinese enterprises are investing in Myanmar regions under the control of ethnic groups, they could not avoid the interest conflicts between Myanmar central government and the local ethnic armed groups. On June 9th, 2011, Myanmar government army attacked the area controlled by the local ethnic armed forces, the Kachin Independence Army, in the name of protecting the hydropower plants invested by China over Taiping River, a tributary of Irrawaddy River on the Myanmar-China border. The Kachin Independence Army fought back fiercely but did not succeed. The power plant was encircled by the Kachin Independence Army and operation suspended temporarily. All the Chinese staff had been evacuated. 

As a matter of fact, the Chinese electricity enterprises investing in Taiping River hydropower plants have suffered losses for many times. The project to build power plants in Kachin State had been approved by the Myanmar government; however, the Kachin Independence Army kept threatening the constructors with weapons. At last, Chinese enterprise was forced to pay “resource tax” of 15 million RMB. Other forms of blackmailing were countless.  

“Many people do not know the truth or have misunderstandings. It is not that the Kachin Independence Army is blackmailing Chinese enterprises, but that they are building power plants in Kachin State without consulting us, nor do they intend to provide us with some benefits,” an official from Kachin Independence Army claimed, “the situation is very complicated in Kachin. Chinese enterprises cannot solely rely on Myanmar government to do business while ignoring Kachin local forces.” 

In the early stage of the war, it was just the small-size military conflicts between the Myanmar government forces and the Kachin Independence Army. Later on, the conflicts escalated to large-scale civil war between the Myanmar government forces and the Southern Shan State Army, Northern Shan State Army, Karen National Liberation Army and Kayan National Guard. However, all the political games of Kachin Independence Army failed to change the increasingly fierce military assaults of the government forces. With the enlarging scale of the military conflicts between the two sides, more regions and people were influenced and many chose to escape with families.  

Kachin Independence Army had some connection with the U.S. Detachment-101 Kachin/Jiongpo commandos during the Second World War. The designation of this unit still remained in the U.S. army, so does the 101-Foundation. Therefore, many people inside KIA always insisted that they could receive direct support from the United States.  

On the surface, this round of conflicts came about because of KIA’s resistance to the government’s consolidation request. In fact, the main reason was still the interest disputes, including the control over some hydropower plants.  

Family of Dawn said that, Kachin side did not have sufficient funds and they could only provide the refugees with some basic needs.  

During this period, some Jingpo singer stars from both China and Myanmar have raised money through charitable performances. A Chinese Jiongpo people from Longchuan County said as he visited the refugees, “we are all from the same group; though we feel sympathetic for them, our strength is very limited, so I hope that the government can help them to overcome the difficulties. ” 

Currently, all the placement fees of the refugees are paid by the Kachin side, including those of the over 1,000 refugees in China. 

Among the refugees, those settled in Laiza and Maijayang enjoyed the best conditions while the more than 1,500 roaming about the forests suffered the most. They lived a wretched life, sleeping in the open air in forests, lacking of food, let alone good health care conditions.  

Shi Anda, an expert in Myanmar, suggested that to stabilize the situation in Chinese borders, Chinese government should provide necessary humanitarian care and aid as soon as possible. He added, “In the resettlement spots in Maijayang, some gambling houses constructed by Chinese investors and dormitories were reconstructed into refugee camps. The majority of refugees are women and children and they could barely survive. ” 

“If China worked on these aspects, we could not only show our international accountability, but also win good feelings from the Kachin people,” he further explained, “then in the future, they might be grateful for what China has done and therefore support Chinese investment in Kachin State.”

 

                                                           The Awkward Position of Kachin Army 

“Kachin just wanted to be a highly autonomous region, rather than separating from Myanmar. Some people always draw up rumors with hidden purposes,” an officer from the Kachin Independence Army clarified, “this provides a good reason for the Myanmar government to attack us. Nowhere can we appeal to, but to fight on the battlefields.” 

Previously, though many ethnic armed forces pretended to fight against the Myanmar government forces, it turned out that the Kachin Independence Army was the only one insisting the state of war.  

In early May, 2011, sponsored by the United States and NGOs from the European Union, Lt-Gen Nban La Awng, chief of the Kachin Independence Army, established the Myanmar United Nationalities Federal Council, which governed 6 minority ethnic armed forces (later expanding to 12) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Lt-Gen Nban La Awng maintained that the consultations and dialogues should include participants from the international community, such as the United Nations, ASEAN, China, the United States and India and so on. Days after, Lt-Gen Nban La Awng was invited to visit the United States. During his meetings with representatives from the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, he hoped that the United States could help to solve the ethnic problems in Myanmar while the United States believed that China’s opinions on this issue need to be respected. 

Shi Anda indicated that, these circumstances had raised China’s guard. “The Kachin Independence Army misjudged the situation and believed that the West led by the United States would provide practical support to them; therefore they caused a lot of troubles in the China-Myanmar border.” For example, some trading ports were closed and they were forbidding Chinese merchants to transport bananas planted in Myanmar to China for sale.  

During this round of conflict with the Kachin Independence Army, though Myanmar government forces were responding with great resolution, dispatched troops all across the country and even deployed the Marine Corps, the result however turned out to be dissatisfactory. The Kachin Independence Army, familiar with the local mountainous terrain, managed to defend the crucial areas resolutely, showing no sign of retreat. The two sides scrambled for some key battlefields for many times. According to the statistics released by the Kachin Independence Army, by the end of November, the casualty of the Myanmar government forces had amounted to more than 3,000 while that of the Kachin Independence Army was only over 200. 

“Before that, the West, both the United States and Europe, had put pressur on Myanmar government forces as it assaulted the Kachin Independence Army and even had some contacts with the latter,” Shi Anda said, “However, due to the improvement of relationship between the Myanmar government and the West and that the Myanmar government accepted some suggestions from the West to ease the conflicts, the position of Kachin Independence Army was becoming increasingly awkward.” 

On November 19th, 2011, U Ohn Myint, special envoy of the Myanmar President Thein Sein and the Minister of Rail Transport, met a delegation consisting of ethnic armed forces of Shan, Karen, Kayah, Chin and Kachin. Both sides agreed to sign ceasefire agreements or hold further peace negotiations before the agreement. In addition to the peaceful agreements signed with The United Wa State Army and the Mongla-based Army (officially named the National Democratic Alliance Army), currently there was only group left to start the peace talks with, New Mon State Party. It would not take too long, either. 

Shi Anda concluded that it was a historical trend for the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar government moving towards peaceful talks, though the process would not be easy and the disputes between the two sides were still large. 


                                                                                  Civil War since 1962 

Myanmar was independent from the British Commonwealth in 1948. On February, 1962, an ethnic army led by Zau Seng and his brothers Zau Tu and Zau Dan came to the mountainous areas in Kachin, Northern Myanmar and declared the establishment of “Kachin Independence Army”. An independent Kachin Independence Organization and political party named Kachin State National Congress for Democracy (KNCD) were formed as well, aiming for the independence of Kachin State. 

This was not the first time that refugees caused by the wars between Myanmar government forces and Kachin Independence Army fled to Chinese borders. On May, 1987, the government forces embarked the largest encirclement and suppression in history on Kachin Independence Army. Owing to the anti-counteraction policy adopted by the incumbent leaders of Kachin at that time, the “central government” of Kachin was forced to retreat to a small town within hundreds of meters’ distance from Yingjiang County of Yunnan Province, China. It was the unexpected summer jungle storms that hindered the further attacks of the government forces, and the “central government” of Kachin was thereby able to survive. 

On March, 1989, the largest domestic anti-government armed force, “Myanmar Communist People's Liberation Army”, disintegrated. The main weapon supplier of Kachin Independence Army was cut off. Fully aware of the unfavorable situation, Kachin Independence Army agreed to conduct ceasefire negotiations with the Myanmar government. The two sides signed Ceasefire Agreement on February, 1994. 

Shi Anda continued, “After the truce between Kachin Independence Army and the government forces, the latter was coveting the land and underground treasure of Kachin. For example, the Kachin State is home to Burma jade. The most precious emerald with the world’s best color texture was produced in Mokaung. Since the last war, the exploration and marketing of Burma Jade has fallen into the hand of the Myanmar government. ” 

Currently, except for the large cities like Myitkyina and the main roads in the cities, the entire Kachin State is under the control of Kachin Independence Army. With the long history of conflicts and wars and large amount of casualties, the feud between the two sides is too deep. In the formal documents of Kachin government can we still find the records how the government forces had crudely treated Kachin women. It was difficult for both sides to take the initiative to compromise, unless one side is overwhelmingly defeated on the battlefield. 

However, the domestic situation of Myanmar was affected by the change of international world anyway. Before the official visit of Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State on November 30th, President Thein Sein expressed his wish to hold the “Second Panglong Conference” and desired to achieve an all-around national reconciliation through peaceful negotiations. But he never mentioned the date when the government would suspend military operations towards the Kachin Independence Army. The thunders of guns in the mountains of Kachin State never stopped and it could even be heard a few miles near the China-Myanmar border lines.       (YinHongwei)

《35,000 Refugees Trapped on China-Myanmar Border》(2011) - 尹鸿伟记者 - 尹鸿伟的新闻博客

                         (A Kachin child at a temporary shelter for refugees in Laiza, Kachin State. )

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