Refugee crisis grips Myanmar 

It was hoped that Myanmar’s refugees would start returning home. Source: Wikimedia

Up to 15,000 Burmese refugees have fled into China in the last month as fighting between the army and rebel groups increases, the UN says.

Access to aid in Kachin and Shan states, which border China, “is getting worse, not better”, said Pierre Peron of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Myanmar.

“Humanitarian access to conflict areas in Kachin and Shan states is currently worse than at any point in the past few years,” Peron explained.

“This has seriously affected the ability of humanitarian organisations to provide life-saving aid to tens of thousands of … conflict-affected people.”

The OCHA estimated that 15,000 refugees had crossed the border and another 2,400 internal refugees were sheltering in the northern Shan State since November 20, when four allied, ethnic minority armies allegedly attacked military and police outposts.

A new joint peace fund management team led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been formed to ensure that funds from international donors intended for the peace process are used effectively and transparently.

Representatives from rebel groups which have and have not signed a ceasefire with the government will join civil servants, military officers and MPs, said the State Counsellor’s Office.

The facts on the ground contrast with Suu Kyi’s hopes for peace.

Many civilians drowned trying to cross the river on the Thai border, the agency reported. Nay Pyi Taw recently banned its citizens from working in Malaysia following Kuala Lumpur’s criticism of its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine State.

Suu Kyi hopes to hold a second, inclusive “Panglong” peace conference in February. She says that ending the many civil wars is her administration’s top priority.

Amnesty International said at the weekend that the treatment of the Rohingya might “amount to crimes against humanity”.

The Tadmadaw claims to have taken control of a tactically significant hill close to the Kachin Independence Army’s headquarters in Laiza close to the Chinese border on Saturday, according to military-dominated state media.

The OCHA said it had unconfirmed reports that government shells had landed on a refugee camp near Laiza leading to around 400 evacuations.

In the west, at least 30,000 residents are said to have fled their homes in Rakhine State, although Bangladesh is turning away boatloads of refugees.

Nay Pyi Taw claims, improbably, that the Rohingya are burning down their own homes.