Local Chinese authorities have requested that Kachin refugees staying in the Nongdao district of Yunnan Province go back to Burma as soon as possible, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has responded by building a new camp in its territory to house the displaced families, say aid workers based in the area.
“The authorities from Shweli (Rulili in Chinese) requested that the KIO move the displaced people out of the area. We are planning to relocate them to the Lana Zup, which is currently controlled by the Kachin Independence Army's (KIA) Brigade 5,” said the head of the KIO’s Refugee and IDP Relief Committee, Salang Kaba Doi Pyi Sa, when reached for comment today.
In anticipation of the move some refugees have decided to risk a return to their original villages rather than wait to go to Lana Zup camp, which is under construction and should be ready soon. Since last Thursday 20 out of 123 families living in the Law Hpai Camp crossed back into Burma with some going to Man Wing, according to Hkun Htun, a member of a local relief group operating in Nongdao.
Many of the families looking after older relatives decided to move first, according to Hkun Htun.
During a recent meeting between Chinese authorities and KIO officers from the group's eastern region, plans for the safe return of the families were discussed said Seng Li, an officer from the KIO’s Eastern Region Administration office.
After consulting the KIO Central Executive Committee, it was decided that the KIO Eastern Region Administration would take responsibility for the relocation effort. The officers informed the Chinese authorities and agreed facilitate their move to a new camp in KIO territory, said officer Seng Li.
“Given the recent upheaval in Kachin State, the [Chinese] government has been somewhat lenient and allowed the Kachin refugees stay in China for over a year" said Seng Li. According to Seng Li however the level of tolerance has now changed and the Chinese want the people to move said Seng Li.
Although a new camp and school are being constructed in Lana Zup, many refugees are reluctant to move there because the location is far from employment and also far from the the refugee's original villages.
“The Lana Zup Camp is really far from the Nongdao area, which is very close to their original villages in Kachin state. From Nongdao, it’s very easy to cross the border to visit their villages and pick vegetables; therefore, they don’t want to move to Lana Zup, which is 16 miles from Nongdao,” said officer Doi Pyi Sa.
It is estimated that about 10,000 Kachin refugees are currently living in temporary camps on the Chinese side of the Kachin border. Prior to the conflict major towns in China including Ruili (Shweli) and Tengchong were also home to a large undocumented migrant communities and large numbers of refugees have taken shelter in these areas too.