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China 'forcing Kachin refugees back to Burma'

image captionKachin refugees have been living in makeshift camps in Yunnan, China since last year

A human rights group has called on China to stop forcing Kachin refugees fleeing conflict in northern Burma out, saying they face abuse and violence.

Human Rights Watch accused China of forcing at least 1,000 refugees back to Burma in the past week.

There are plans to deport another 4,000 from makeshift camps in Yunnan province, the US-based group said.

Fighting between the Burmese army and Kachin rebels broke out last year, ending a 17-year truce.

By turning away the refugees, China is ''flouting international legal obligations'', a spokesman for the rights group said.

"China should urgently change course and provide temporary protection for the refugees in Yunnan Province," said Bill Frelick, the group's refugee program director.

The refugees who were deported had been living in makeshift camps in Yunnan since June 2011, the group said in a statement.

It also said that China has refused UN and international aid agencies access to about 7,000 to 10,000 Kachin refugees in the province.

In June, HRW released a 68-page report saying that Kachin refugees in China had limited access to food, shelter, sanitation and education for their children.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by fighting between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). There have been many reports of human rights abuses.

The conflict is being seen as one of the biggest tests facing Burma's new civilian government as it attempts to reform the country, says the BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing.

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