Tag Archives: Naypyidaw

New Kachin Peace Talks Scheduled In Yunnan

A third round of the Chinese-brokered peace talks between the Myanmar government and Kachin groups seeking greater autonomy has been scheduled for March 8th in the Yunnan border town of Ruili, according to the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma. Fighting along the Sino-Myanmar border threatens a humanitarian disaster with an estimated 70,000 Kachins being displaced by the hostilities. Some 11,000-15,000 have crossed into China, though they are unwanted there, and their presence is not officially recognized.

The Kachin refugee support group Wunpawng Ninghtoi (the People’s Light) tells this Bystander that Chinese officials have again in recent days been pressing the refugees to return to the Myanmar side of the border. It also tells us that living conditions for the refugees in China are deteriorating, with many living under plastic sheeting or in makeshift shelters of bamboo or sugar-cane. They are said to be short of food, fresh water and firewood. An outbreak of cholera on the Kachin side of the border is said to have spread into Ruili.

Fighting between Myanmar government forces and the Kachin Independence Army broke out last June, ending a 17-years truce. Beijing, increasingly unsettled by the unrest in its western reaches, does not want a repeat of 2009 when a Myanmar offensive against an ethnic Kokang militia in Shan state forced more than 30,000 refugees to flee into China. The most recent meeting in the talks between the two sides that Beijing has been brokering  was held last month. However, the Myanmar government has not so far been able to reach a peace agreement with the Kachins as it has with nine of the eleven armed ethnic groups in the country that also seek greater autonomy.

1 Comment

Filed under China-Southeast Asia

Thousands of Kachin Refugees Said Still To Be In Yunnan

As many as 15,000 refugees from the fighting in Myanmar’s Kachin province may still be taking shelter in Yunnan province, even though China doesn’t want them there and has denied their presence. The number comes from
Wunpawng Ninghtoi (the People’s Light), a Kachin refugee support group, quoted by the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma web site.

Yunnan provincial and local officials have been pressing the refugees they say they aren’t aware of to return to Myanmar. The aid group says those still in China, spread across 19 camps, are relying on aid from locals and religious groups. On the Myanmar side of the remote, hilly border, there are an estimated 70,000 displaced persons living in camps. International aid agencies have been given only limited access to the area by the Myanmar government. They appear to have been denied any access from the Chinese side, despite reports of a fatal cholera outbreak spreading into Ruili, the Yunnan border town that is a hub for Sino-Myanmar trade.

Fighting between Myanmar government forces and the Kachin Independence Army broke out last June, ending a 17-years truce. Beijing has been brokering peace talks between the two sides. The most recent meeting was held last month in Ruili. However, the Myanmar government has not been able to reach a peace agreement with the Kachins as it has with nine of the eleven armed ethnic groups in the country that also seek greater autonomy.

Beijing, already unsettled by ethnic unrest of its own on its western reaches, does not want a repeat of 2009 when a Myanmar offensive against an ethnic Kokang militia in Shan state forced more than 30,000 refugees to flee into China. It has told Naypyidaw to stem this latest flow of Kachin refugees. “Maintaining the peace and stability of the Chinese-Myanmar frontier region concerns the common interests of both countries,” chief government adviser Jia Qinglin told visiting Myanmar lower house speaker and former third-ranking general in the junta, Thura Shwe Mann (via Reuters).

Beijing also wants the considerable infrastructure projects it is building and bankrolling in Myanmar  to proceed smoothly. Relations between the two countries have got testier over the past year following President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government replacing the long-ruling junta that counted only Beijing and Pyongyang as fast friends. Since then, Thein Sein has started opening up more to the rest of the world and, as he put it in a speech marking the first anniversary of his government, aims to “maintain amity with both East and West”. Myanmar, like Sudan, Syria and the South China Sea, has become yet another place where Beijing is finding its foreign relations to be becoming more complex, and its national interests rubbing up against those of others.

1 Comment

Filed under China-Southeast Asia

Yunnan Denies Knowledge Of Influx Of Kachin Refugees

Thousands of Kachin refugees, mostly women and children fleeing the fighting in northern Myanmar, have reportedly spilled across the border into Yunnan, a situation Chinese authorities have for months being trying to prevent. The reports come via the Kachin Women’s Association in Thailand, which puts the numbers at between 6,000 and 10,000 refugees, and ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian organization, which puts the numbers as high at 25,000 and says they are sheltering in several camps in Yunnan.

Reuters news agency reports Yunnanese authorities denying any knowledge of an influx of refugees. There has been no independent confirmation to date. Kachin refugee aid organizations have previously said that there are 19 refugee camps in China, though China does not acknowledge their presence.

The conflict between Myanmar government forces and the Kachin Independence Army has already spawned makeshift refugee camps housing upwards of 40,000 along the Myanmar side of the border. Large international relief agencies have not been allowed access to the area by the Myanmar government. Local aid groups say food is in short supply in the camps with the onset of winter weather and that outbreaks of dysentery and cholera are being seen. One child is reported to have died from cholera. One report says cholera has also been seen in the Yunnanese border town of Ruili, reinforcing fears of a potential humanitarian disaster in the region.

The fighting broke out after a 17-year old ceasefire broke down last June. It has continued despite last December’s order by Myanmar President Thein Sein to his military to end operations.

Meanwhile, Chinese-brokered peace talks are making slow progress. Two rounds of talks have been held over the past two months in Ruili. But no agreement has been reached between the Myanmar government and the Kachins similar to the preliminary peace deals struck between Naypyidaw and eight of the 11 ethnic groups in Myanmar seeking greater autonomy. A third round of talks due to have taken place last weekend didn’t happen because of disagreement between the two sides over where to meet.

1 Comment

Filed under China-Southeast Asia

Naypyidaw Orders Halt To Fighting Along Sino-Myanmar Border

Myanmar President Thein Sein has reportedly ordered a halt to the government’s military offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) along the border with Yunnan. Fighting has intensified since a 17-year old truce broke down in June. Tens of thousands of ethnic Kachins have been displaced, sending up to a reported 7,500 unwanted refugees across the border in to Yunnan and threatening a humanitarian disaster on China’s southwestern doorstep. Chinese authorities in border towns have started encouraging Kachin refugees to return home. Naypyidaw allowed a small U.N. relief convoy through to the border town of Laiza on Monday, the first international aid to get through to the region in a couple of months.

Naypyidaw similarly stopped its offensive against ethnic Shan further south last month. With sporadic fighting continuing in Kachin despite the order to cease fire except in self-defense, one question now is how far the writ of the civilian government in Naypyidaw runs over the military’s commanders on the ground. Another is whether Naypyidaw will be prepared to drop its refusal to put greater autonomy for the region on the agenda of its formal ceasefire talks with the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization.

With several Chinese-backed hydropower dams being built in Kachin, including the controversial and now halted Myitsone Dam on the headwaters of the Mekong, Beijing badly needs an outbreak of peace in this gateway to Southeast Asia.

3 Comments

Filed under China-Southeast Asia

Humanitarian Disaster Looms Ever Nearer On Sino-Myanmar Border

Sang Gang internally displaced persons camp, Kachin State, Myanmar

We are getting new reports of intensified fighting between Myanmar government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) just over the border from Yunnan. With it, a growing number of displaced locals are threatening a humanitarian disaster on China’s southwestern doorstep.

The number of refugees housed in makeshift camps along the border, such as the one at Sang Gang shown in the picture above from Human Rights Watch, is said now to approach 35,000, with international aid agencies having little or no access to the area. It is two months since Naypyidaw last let the World Food Program and Oxfam deliver supplies to the refugee camps. The same month Beijing beefed up its own forces on the Yunnan side of the border to prevent the trickle fleeing into China turning into a flood.

Last month, the Myanmar government held a round of Chinese-brokered talks with the political wing of the KIA in Ruili, the railhead on the Yunnan side of the border. These appear to have achieved little more than promises of a political dialogue on behalf of a civilian government in Naypyidaw. For all its putative signs of engagement with the outside world and steps towards democratic reform at home, the government appears to have little control over the army commanders conducting the fighting on the ground in Kachin province. Meanwhile, the humanitarian disaster that Beijing fears on its doorstep gets ever closer, while the peace necessary to restore China’s commercial activities in northern Myanmar recedes.

Update: Mizzima News, a Burmese exiles’ newspaper based in Delhi, reports that Chinese officials today told 2,000 refugees who crossed the border from Kachin province to stay with relatives in Yunnan to return home. The newspaper also puts the number of refugees in the camps on the Myanmar side of the border at 45,000. Meanwhile, Burma News International says that there are 16 temporary camps on the Yunnan side of the border, housing 7,000 refugees.

4 Comments

Filed under China-Southeast Asia