Despite the fact that thousands of Kachin refugees trapped on the China Burma border are facing increasingly dire conditions relief groups working on the ground say the refugees have yet to receive any assistance from the United Nations and its affiliated agencies.
The refugee crisis on the Burma-China border has escalated significantly since June when the Burmese army launched an offensive against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) ending a 17 year cease-fire.
Doi Pyi Sa, chairman of the KIO’s IDP and Refugee Relief Committee (IRRC) estimates there are now more than 32,000 refugees staying in camps located in territory controlled by the KIO.
La Rip, Cordinator-2 of Laiza-based Relief Action Network for Internally Displaced People and Refugee (RANIR) told the Kachin News Group today, “We have made a request to the Rangoon-based United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), however we have only been told that they are still in discussions with the government to get permission to help Kachin refugees.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights for Burma, said in a report released in October that Burma’s government had refused a UN offer to provide assistance to refugees trapped on Burma China the border.
Quintana wrote “The United Nations approached the government [of Burma], offering assistance to all those in need. According to reliable sources, the government’s position is that assistance is currently provided at the local level, and when needed they will seek further assistance from relevant partners.”
The UN and UNOCHA were criticized in a report released this week by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) over what the group perceives as inaction regarding the growing refugee crisis on the China border. The PHR report called on the UN to "Provide necessary aid to IDPs in Kachin State, and to those displaced along the Sino-Burmese border."
It remains unclear however if UNOCHA will ever get access to the refugees.
At present refugees trapped on the China Burma border are getting by with basic food, clothing and medicine supplied by the KIO. Kachin church groups and other organizations inside Burma are also providing assistance said Doi Pyi Sa. Supplies however are running low as more people arrive on a daily basis.
Doi Pyi Sa said that most of the refugees in the KIO camps have received some assistance however those refugees who have crossed into China have received little or no support.
According to La Rip at present there are 19 permanent refugee camps in KIO territory located along the China border in both Kachin and Northern Shan states, 12 are at the KIO’s capital Laiza and 7 are in Mai Ja Yang. In additional to these camps there are least 10 or more camps that are very temporary and unstable because they are close to the front lines.
La Rip said the relief committee currently provides about $1.50 worth of food per refugee per day however this cannot be sustained due to dwindling supplies.
The UN’s World Food Program and other national and local NGO’s are providing support for the estimated 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are sheltering in Kachin churches in the government-controlled territory in Myitkyina, Waingmaw, Manmaw (Bhamo) and N’Mawk (Momauk).
Doi Pyi Sa also said that within the last two weeks 2,000 new refugees from Manwin area in southeast Kachin State have crossed into China after the Burmese army launched a major offensive near Manwin against the Kachin Independence Army’s battalions 1 and 27.
Doi Pyi Sa added that although the Chinese authorities allowed the refugees to cross the border there are no proper shelters for them and they have received little or no aid.
It is also estimated that during the last two weeks more than 1,000 refugees from villages located between Manwin and Kai Htik in Manmaw (Bhamo) district have fled to the KIO controlled Nbapa village.
This story complied by our correspondent in Laiza, the headquarters of KIO in Kachin State, Northern Burma.