‘Killings, beheadings, disappearances’ instill fear of return among Kokang refugees

11 May 2015
‘Killings, beheadings, disappearances’ instill fear of return among Kokang refugees
A Kokang ethnic soldier standing guard outside a hotel as journalists and diplomats attend press conference at the hotel in Myanmar-China border town Laukkai, Myanmar on September 9, 2009. Photo: Khin Maung Win/EPA

According to recent interviews by Shan Human Rights Foundation, Kokang refugees sheltering in China remain fearful of return, due to alleged “killings, beheadings 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 Myanmar Army and the Kokang resistance army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), according to a foundation press release on May 11.
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 Myanmar 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, according to the foundation.