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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/6/13

Burma: Conflict and human trafficking on the Kachin-China border

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The Kachin Womens Association Thailand (KWAT) launched a new report, Pushed to the Brink Conflict and human trafficking on the Kachin-China border, Wednesday at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok. 

The two speakers, Ms. Julia Marip and Ms. Seng Shadan called the government to end all military aggression, beginning withdrawal of troops from Kachin region, and enter into political dialogue with the Kachin Independence Army. Besides, they demanded letting humanitarian aid agencies to freely access and provide aid to IDPs in Kachin-controlled areas. Additionally, the panelists also claimed to facilitate passes for IDPs along the China-Burma border allowing any IDs to pass the border areas.  

According to the report, Burma Army offensives against the Kachin Independence Army since June 2011 and widespread human rights abuses have driven over 100,000 villagers from their homes, mainly in eastern Kachin State. The majority of these refugees have fled to crowded IDP camps along the China border, which receive virtually no international aid.

Desperate to earn an income, but with little or no legal option to pursue migrant work in China, many cross the border illegally. Their lack of legal status renders them extremely vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers, who use well-trodden routes to transport and sell people into bonded labor or forced marriage as far as eastern provinces of China.

Push tens of thousands of people to Chinas doorstep, deprive them of food and status, and youve created a perfect storm for human trafficking, said Julia Marip, KWAT spokesperson.

Without establishing a peaceful environment in the area, the question of human trafficking on the Kachin-China border may not be resolved, she said.

The report highlights 24 cases of actual or suspected trafficking from Kachin border areas since the resumption of fighting in June 2011, mostly involving young women and girls displaced by the war, who have been tricked, drugged, raped, and sold to Chinese men or families as brides or bonded laborers for as much as 40,000 Yuan (about $6,500 USD) per person. Some ended up as far east as Shandong and Fujian provinces.

Far from seeking to provide protection to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and mitigate trafficking risks, the Burmese government has continued to fuel the war, block humanitarian aid to IDPs in Kachin controlled areas, and even attack and destroy IDP camps, driving refugees into China. It has also closed some of the immigration offices on the Kachin-China border which could provide border passes for refugees to legally seek work in China, the report says.

Given the Burmese governments policies of military aggression and blocking humanitarian aid to displaced Kachin, KWAT is extremely disappointed in the US government decision to elevate Burma from its bottom ranking in the 2012 Trafficking in Persons report. Burmas much-proclaimed anti-trafficking task forces are invalid on the Kachin-China border.

The Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) signed a preparatory agreement on 30 May, 2013 that aims to decrease military concerns in Burmas Kachin state and northern Shan state. It is designed to avoid additional conflicts while efforts are proceeding to reduce hostilities, according to a peace-broker.

During an interview with the Democratic Voice of Burma on 30 May, Hla Maung Shwe, a member of the EU-funded Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), said that the agreement includes provisions to hold political discussions between the government and the KIO in the near future. Nevertheless, the agreement did not extend to a full-scale ceasefire.

The government of Burma has released a number of statements indicating its willingness to reach an agreement with ethnic armed groups and political opponents, both domestic and exiled. Unfortunately, those offers have been considered contradictory.

Ethnic minorities have suffered five decades of brutal military offensives in the name of national security. Attacks on these rural civilians continue on a regular basis. There is a constant demand from Burmas ethnic groups for the government to allow its people equal political, social and economic rights. The Constitution must guarantee the right of self-determination and of equal representation for every ethnic group in the Parliament. It should also include provisions against racial discrimination.

KWAT is urging the international community to tackle the trafficking issue in Burma as well as providing immediate humanitarian aid to Kachin IDPs. The Association also wants to push the Burmese government to begin a genuine process of political reconciliation to end the long-lasting conflict.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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