Chinese authorities hit back at media, including DVB, who have reported that China has blocked access to camps at the Sino-Burmese border and sent Kokang refugees back to the troubled region despite fears for their safety.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the information office of Lincang municipal government in Yunnan Province said, “A large number of Burmese residents have entered Lincang District since conflict in the Kokang region broke out. The local government has made a great effort to ensure those civilians have a place to live with proper physical and medical help, as well as ensuring peace and order at those temporary shelters.”
The regional office said local authorities had set up seven temporary shelters to host displaced Kokang families, adding that others had sought refuge with relatives or friends on the Chinese side of the border or were staying in hotels.
An earlier statement by the Lincang office had estimated that more than 60,000 civilians had crossed the border from Burma since the armed conflict between Kokang rebels and Burmese government forces broke out on 9 February.
Tuesday’s statement hit back at allegations, presumably in the media or online, that authorities are blocking aid to refugees.
It also dismissed suggestions that a pregnant woman had died in a camp because local police blocked volunteers from transporting her to hospital. It said that a 75-year-old Burmese woman had died of natural causes and a 42-year-old “drug-taking” Burmese man had died in a shelter in the Maidihe area of Nansan Township.
The statement also dismissed accusations “that local officials are kicking out Kokang refugees”, however it confirmed a “tightening of border management in order to control the recent influx of refugees”.
Citing a report in DVB on Tuesday, which said that access to Kokang refugee shelters had been restricted by local authorities, the Global Times, a Chinese state-run daily, confirmed that “tightened measures had been imposed on non-locals” in accessing border areas as of 26 February.
“Strengthen border management and control is necessary. If anyone can across the border easily it would result in social and other security risks,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed police representative as saying. “After a war breaks out, it is very natural to strengthen border controls … but some civilians behave petulantly. They take [alternative] trails to cross the border. Sometimes, they do not listen to the advice of the armed police and insist on returning to Kokang.
“Strengthening border controls is really the job that Myanmar authorities should be doing,” the report concluded.
The newspaper reported that China is catering for about 14,000 civilians from the Kokang region in temporary shelters.
Writing on the official website of the Kokang rebel group Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army, or MNDAA, Peng Rende, the son of the man believed to be commanding the rebel faction, Peng Jiasheng, said, “Every Kokang civilian who was forced to leave their hometown badly wants to go back … But when we can return depends on the sincerity of the Burmese army and government, which must agree peace with all ethnic groups and give them the true rights of autonomy.”