HRW frets over Myanmar's ethnic strife

June 26, 2012 at 11:03 AM
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BANGKOK, June 26 (UPI) -- Members of an ethnic group from Myanmar are at risk of being returned to Myanmar from China where they face an uncertain future, Human Rights Watch said.

Sophie Richardson, director of Chinese policy at Human Rights Watch, called on Beijing to offer temporary protection to Kachin refugees in China's southern Yunnan province.

"China has no legitimate reason to push them back to Burma (known also as Myanmar) or to leave them without food and shelter," she said in a statement from neighboring Thailand.

Human Rights Watch, in a 68-page report, said as many as 10,000 Kachin refugees have fled conflict and abuses in Myanmar since June 2011.

Kachin rebels and other ethnic groups are battling for more self-rule. Myanmar's President Thein Sein has tried to broker peace agreements with ethnic rebels but talks with the Kachin group have so far failed.

Clashes in Kachin state, in northern Myanmar, broke out in April, leaving at least 31 people dead. Ethnic conflict in the region broke out last year for the first time since a peace deal was brokered in 1994.

Myanmar has earned praise from members of the international community for embracing democratic reform. Some countries who've eased sanctions on Myanmar said a number of human rights concerns remain, however.

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