According to recent interviews by SHRF, Kokang refugees sheltering in China remain fearful of return, due to killing, beheading and disappearance of villagers caught returning home.
There are still tens of thousands of refugees sheltering along the length of the China-Kokang border, in formal camps set up by the Chinese authorities, as well as in unofficial makeshift camps. Refugees interviewed by SHRF were among about 15,000 refugees staying along a 10-km section of the border directly north of Laogai. They have fled from dozens of mountain villages where fighting continues between the Burma Army and the Kokang resistance army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
Thousands of these refugees had since mid-February been staying in a large camp straddling the border at Maitihe, but on April 15, government authorities from Laogai arrived at the camp and told the IDPs on the Kokang side of the border that they were not allowed to stay there. They were ordered to return to IDP shelters set up in schools in Laogai and Konkyan, and were threatened that if they did not return within three days, they would be assumed to be MNDAA supporters, and would be killed. However, the IDPs were too afraid to return, and most moved to other nearby refugee settlements in China.
Only a few days after the order for the IDPs to return, the Burma Army launched a large-scale offensive against the MNDAA at Nan Tien Men mountain, using heavy artillery. Shells landing on the Chinese side of the border caused over 700 refugees sheltering at Chin Cai Go (the border crossing directly north of Nan Tien Men) to evacuate deeper into China.
Ongoing shelling in the Nan Tien Men area since early May is continuing to instill fear in the refugees. Most are too afraid to even cross back and make brief visits to their homes, due to cases of killing and disappearance of villagers returning across the border. Refugees said that most villages in their area are now completely deserted.
Refugees gave testimony about the following cases of civilian death or disappearance in their villages since conflict broke out in the Kokang area on February 9, 2015:
|1||Feb 12, 2015||Xi Mi Cun village||An elderly villager shot dead in his home by Burma Army|
|2||Feb 14, 2015||Xi Mi Cun village||An elderly blind villager found burned to death in his home|
|3||Feb15-16, 2015||Lao Dong Go village||An elderly villager killed by Burma Army shell in his home|
|4||Mid-March, 2015||Xi Mi Cun village||Four refugees returned to their village: two dead bodies were found in the village, one beheaded; two have disappeared|
|5||April 14, 2015||Nr. Son Shan village||Four returning refugees shot at by Burma Army; three have disappeared|
It is clearly unsafe for these refugees to return home while fighting continues and the Burma Army continues to commit abuses against civilians with impunity. The Burmese military authorities must therefore immediately stop pressuring displaced civilians to return to the Kokang area under the current conditions.
We also urge foreign diplomats, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to publicly raise concerns with the Naypyidaw government about the protection of displaced persons in the Kokang area.
Update by Shan Human Rights Foundation