US urges China to protect Myanmar refugees

The U.S. is urging China to offer temporary protection to ethnic Kachin (ka-CHIN) refugees who have fled conflict in northern Myanmar and not force them back.

Human Rights Watch says China recently forced at least 1,000 Kachin to return to a combat zone and plans to deport 4,000 more.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell on Thursday urged China to abide by its international obligations on treatment of refugees.

He told a news conference: "The U.S. believes that refugees should only return home by their own choice and in conditions of safety and dignity."

Kachin rebels have been fighting for more autonomy for decades. A 17-year cease-fire broke down last year, and clashes with government forces have displaced tens of thousands. Rights groups say Myanmar forces have committed serious abuses against civilians.