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No ‘refugee crisis’ on Sino-Burma border: Chinese official

(Mizzima) – A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman has commented on the issue of ethnic refugees in China and an emerging humanitarian crisis along the Chinese-Burma border.

Many ethnic refugees flee armed clashes by crossing the Chinese border. Photo: MizzimaA transcription of a press conference on February 10 was released on Wednesday by the Xinhua news agency, quoting the ministry spokesperson.

Asked about reports of Burmese fleeing to Yunnan Province in massive numbers to escape the fighting, he said: “Some media reports saying that large numbers of Myanmese ‘refugees’ have swarmed across the China-Myanmar border have been verified as not true.

“Recently, due to the sporadic exchanges of fire between the Myanmese government and specific local ethnic armed forces, some Myanmese inhabitants in the border area entered China temporarily for the sake of safety. They go back to Myanmar once the situation calms. These people, with the number far less than reported, are not refugees,” the statement said.

He said “as a friendly neighbor of Myanmar, China upholds the spirit of humanitarianism in dealing with this case and provides living necessities to these people.”

The armed conflict between the government and ethic forces is “Myanmar's internal affair,” he said, and China urged all parties to resolve the issues through peaceful negotiations and consultations in order to maintain peace in the China-Burma border area.

Mizzima reported in January, quoting a Christian aid group, that the number of Burmese refugees arriving in Yunnan Province had increased dramatically. As the weather turns colder, the refugee camps are experiencing a shortage of bedding, food, shelter and medical supplies, said one Christian aid worker.

The aid worker told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that he went to one camp with 5,000 people in it. Asked if the Red Cross was helping with the relief effort, he said: “So far all the work has been done by Christian organizations inside China and efforts from nongovernment voluntary groups who are concerned with such things.”

The U.S.-based ChinaAid, a Christian NGO, said that the situation is rapidly worsening, and warned of a potential humanitarian crisis in the area.

“Right now there are at least 25,000 refugees on the Chinese side of the border, the majority of them from the Jingpo ethnic group with Burmese nationality,” ChinaAid founder Bob Fu told RFA. He called on the international community to push for access to the area along the Sino-Burmese border and to donate basic supplies.

RFA, in calls to the Yingjiang County government civil affairs bureau, said it was not able to confirm the statements of large numbers of refugees or a refugee crisis.

“I don't know about this,” a Chinese official was quoted as saying. “If I, a county government official, don't know about it, then how would the local people know about it?”

ChinaAid said armed clashes have been concentrated since January 1 in an area about 90 kilometers [56 miles] from China’s Yingjiang County and 170 kilometers from the border city of Ruili, both near southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

A statement said that around 25,000 of an estimated 40,000 refugees displaced along the border area had crossed unofficially into Yunnan Province.

When contacted by Western media, Chinese officials in the area have consistently reported that the number of Burmese fleeing the fighting by crossing the border are far below the massive numbers reported by aid groups.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 February 2012 14:48 )  
The Kachin’s last stand
Since October this year, Burma has been in a state of civil war, with fighting between Burmese military and armed ethnic rebels. The ruling junta started a crackdown on these armed groups.

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