China has forcibly returned scores of ethnic Kachins who have fled Burma, also known as Myanmar, because of civil war.
According to aid groups, up to 10,000 Kachins have sought refuge in the southwestern China. The refugees came after fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burma’s government flared up in the middle of 2011, following a 17-year truce.
Diplomats say the conflict in the Kachin state is one of the biggest tests for Burma's new civilian government, which is in talks with the KIA and more than a dozen other ethnic minority groups. This follows decades of conflict.
Footage filmed in Nongdao in China’s Yunnan province in February shows refugees living in squalid conditions. Hundreds of mainly women and children are shown living in temporary shacks and dormitories.
Chinese authorities forcibly returned at least 1,000 Kachin refugees to Burma’s northernmost Kachin state in mid-August, and plans to deport another 4,000 refugees to Burma, imminently.
Ah Hkawn, a worker for the Kachin Peace Network, an advocacy groups for Kachin people based in Burma, said two of four camps near the border were being evicted.
[Ah Khawn, Kachin Peace Network]:
"It's a lie, they are moving the refugees by force. There are some camps that the Chinese government made agreements with in advance. There are six camps in [Nongdao]. It was agreed the refugees move out after the rainy season. For some camps, it's not convenient to move in the rainy season, so they (Chinese authorities) let them stay and agreed to let them move after the rain. But at the moment, they're moving the refugees immediately, thus destroying the agreement they had.”
Ah Hkawn added that the Chinese authorities do not allow the refugees to take pictures of the destruction of their camps, and they were not allowed to even use their mobile phones.
In June, China's Foreign Ministry denied similar accusations by Human Rights Watch that it had forced other groups of Kachins back into Myanmar, saying the people were not refugees.