Friday, February 13, 2009

Kachin refugee status seekers increase in Burma's neighbouring countries

Written by KNG

The number of ethnic Kachin in Burma seeking refugee status has gradually increased in the two neighboring countries --- Malaysia and Thailand since 2005, said Kachin refugees in the two countries.

Kachin refugees from northern Burma in Malaysia

Till date over 3,000 Kachin refugees and refugee/asylum seekers have arrived in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and in the three refugee camps (Mae La, Nu Po and Umpiem) along the Thailand-Burma border, said Kachin refugees.

There are fewer Kachin refugees and those seeking refugee statuses in Malaysia and Thailand when compared with thousands of refugees from Burma in these countries, said Kachin refugees in the two countries.

According to Kuala Lumpur based Kachin Refugee Committee (KRC), the number of Kachin people seeking refugee status has now risen to nearly 3,000 from some 500 till 2003 in Malaysia. During 2003-2008, over 300 Kachin refugees in Malaysia departed to third countries like Canada, United States of America, Denmark, New Zealand and Norway.

On the other hand, there were no Kachin refugees or those seeking refugee status in refugee camps along the Thailand-Burma border before the year 2000, but there are now over 40 Kachin refugees and some 500 refugees status seekers in these camps, said a Kachin refugee called Lamung Brang Gam who is waiting to leave for a third country for 10 years in Nu Po camp.

About a dozen Kachin refugees from the camps along Thailand-Burma departed to third countries during the past four years, added Lamung Brang Gam.

Most Kachin refugee status seekers in these countries have economic problems in their areas in Burma rather than political problems with Burma's ruling junta, added refugees.

Refugee and refugee status seekers live an unsafe life in Malaysia and Thailand because the two countries do not recognize the 1951 Geneva Convention related to the Status of Refugees.

In Malaysia, refugees and refugee status seekers have to live and work and hide from being sent to jail and are expelled by Malaysian authorities whereas refugees and refugee status seekers on the Thailand-Burma border have to live only in refugee camps, added refugees in the two countries.

For the first time, Kachin refugees started to resettle in third countries Europe and North America after the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) signed a ceasefire agreement with Burma's ruling junta in February 24, 1994.

During the civil war from 1961 to 1994 between the KIO and the ruling junta in Kachin state and Northeast Shan state, thousands of Kachin people had their homes burnt and lost their live stock when the Burmese Army launched operations but they had to hide within the states.

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