Kachin youths have been going abroad for two reasons--- seeking jobs and refugee status for resettlement in third countries, ever since the ‘Peace Agreement’ was signed between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Burmese junta in 1994.
There are Kachin refugees in Malaysia, Thailand and India. However Kachin youths prefer Malaysia and Thailand for work and seek refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Kachin refugees in the two countries said.
Over 4,000 Kachins, mainly youths have been listed in Malaysia alone by the Kachin Refugee Committee (KRC) in Kuala Lumpur, said a committee member.
For refugees seeking a new life, Malaysia is the best place and Kachins and other ethnics in Burma are entering the country legally and illegally through the Thailand border or the sea route, according to Kachin refugees in Kuala Lumpur.
Kachin youths are seeking third-country resettlement with UNHCR’s refugee status for better education and proper work, said Kachin refugees.
Nhkum Tang Gun, Youth Director of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), who currently leads about 100,000 young people in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State said, “Kachin youths cannot develop their potential because both the ruling junta and Kachin organizations have no time and little investment for the youth. Most youths are exploited”.
Drug addiction is rampant among Kachin youths in Kachin State and Shan State, Tang Gun added.
In Kachin after the 1994 ceasefire agreement between KIO and the junta, civilians find it difficult to eke out a livelihood because the state’s rich natural resources like gold, jade, timber and other minerals are controlled by two groups close to the junta, local companies and Chinese firms associated with these two groups.
A poor education system and an economy in the doldrums in Burma have been forcing Kachin youths and other ethnics in Burma to go to neighbouring countries for work and education.
Meanwhile, the Snr-Gen Than Shwe-led junta is planning to hold countrywide elections before the end of this year and win it under the 2008 junta-centric constitution for legitimizing military dictatorship.