China Silent on Burmese Refugees

The New York Times gives an update on the situation of the Burmese refugees who remain in Yunnan after fleeing fighting at home:

Chinese officials imposed an information blackout on Tuesday on the situation along its border with Myanmar and began taking down tents that had sheltered the people — the number has been estimated at up to 30,000 — who fled into China to escape recent fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic rebels.

But news reports stated that many thousands of refugees remained in China, unwilling or unable to return to Myanmar, formerly called Burma, and it was not clear how the Chinese government intended to address their plight.

The Chinese authorities withheld comment on the border situation Tuesday, aside from saying, in a Foreign Ministry briefing, that “necessary humanitarian assistance” was being provided. And they began ordering foreign journalists to leave the area around Nansan and Genma, Chinese towns on the mountainous border where the refugees have been housed in seven separate camps.

See also from Reuters, “Myanmar ethnic offensive tests vital China ties“:

Myanmar’s assault on rebel militias on its remote border appears aimed at herding them into next year’s election process, even if it comes at the cost of vital ties with its powerful northern neighbor, China.

Myanmar’s military incursion into northeastern Shan State shattered a 20-year ceasefire with rebel armies on its border with China and could trigger the protracted instability that Beijing, the junta’s strongest friend, has long feared.

A prolonged conflict that forces more refugees to flee to China would show that the junta is intent on controlling the rebellious region, despite any fallout with China, analysts said.

September 1, 2009 9:02 AM
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