“‘Heping’ (meaning peace in Chinese) sounds nice and I am considering naming my son Zhang Heping,” said Zhang Shijie, a Myanmar national from Kokang now living in a temporary refugee camp here in a border town in southwest China.
He was preparing firewood for cooking while his wife, who was still in her puerperal period, was resting with their newly-born son in a tent made up of bamboo and plastic sheets.
On Feb. 9, heavy fighting broke out in Zhang’s hometown between government forces and a Kokang ethnic force named the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, forcing large numbers of residents to flee and cross the border into China’s Yunnan province.
More refugees flocked to China after a state of emergency was signed into effect by President U Thein Sein on Feb. 19 in the the self-administered zone with a martial law that entrusted full administrative and judiciary power of Kokang to the military authorities.
In Kokang, the Zhangs used to earn a living by growing crops and tea. Following escalation of the warfare in their hometown, Zhang came to Zhenkang, accompanied by his then eight-month pregnant wife, his mother, two children and a brother-in-law.
“My son has been taken good care of by doctors since his birth. They are very professional,” said Zhang’s wife, Xiaoshui, who could not hide her happiness when looking at her baby sleeping sound in the swaddling.
It was Dao Wenqin, a nurse for the gynecology and obstetric department of Zhenkang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital now working at a relatively large settlement camp for Myanmar refugees, who helped in the delivery of Zhang’s baby son.
Recently, a large number of refugees from Kokang, including some pregnant women, have been received in Zhenkang, Dao said.
Since the start of the annual Spring Festival holiday season in mid-February, a total of four babies have been born in the settlement, said Dao.
One of the mothers was sent to hospital due to difficult delivery but fortunately both she and her baby were well because of the timely treatment, she added.
Noting that there are 1,400 people, mostly women, children and seniors, living in the settlement, Dao said she and her colleagues are also living there to look after the refugees.
As China and Myanmar are immediate neighbors, some Myanmar residents fled to China in wake of the outbreak of violence in Kokang even without taking necessities with them.
Duan Zhengqiang, a Red Cross worker guarding the entrance of the settlement, said Zhenkang County, with an eye to taking better care of the Myanmar refugees, has set up settlement camps where the refugees were concentrated, and the camps are ready to receive refugees 24 hours a day.
Located not far away from the China-Myanmar border, the settlement that Dao and Duan work in sits on a flat ground in a mountainous area with 200 blue-roofed disaster relief tents orderly arranged into 10 groups.
The whole settlement is divided into separated areas for different functions including housing, catering, washing, garbage disposal, medical service and entertainment.
Duan said he has not gone home since the establishment of the settlement, and now works rotating shifts with scores of colleagues. They work 12 hours a day without a day off.
“We are so short-handed that we cannot go home,” Duan said. “We will continue to stay in our places even if there is only one refugee living in the settlement.”
Jiang Sanzhu, 94, who was strolling leisurely while enjoying the sunshine, is the oldest resident in the settlement but keeps a good health as evidenced by his sharp eyes and ears as well as his resonant voice.
Noting that he came to Zhenkang along with his six family members ahead of the Spring Festival, Jiang said in a grateful tone that they would have not known what to do if it were not for the Chinese government providing them with food and sheltering.
Jiang said that although there is no need to worry about food and drink, he still hopes that the warfare could be put to an end soon so that they could return home.
Also coming from the war-torn region, Wang Jinlan, holding her one-and-half-year-old son in her arms and watching her husband and neighbors playing card games, said she fled with her two sons two days before the Spring Festival, as firing of artillery was heard near her home, a tile-roofed house in wooden structure.
Back in Kokang, the Wangs used to grow tea to make a living and earn about 3,200 U.S. dollars a year — a middle-level income locally.
In the settlement, rice, potato, carrot and cabbage are served on a daily basis and meat is served every other day.
Despite being satisfied with the food there, Wang, noting that many of her fellow countrymen coming together to China have already returned home, said she also wants to go back.
“However, our safety is more secured in China,” she said. “I cannot take any risks because my kids are still too young.”
Inside the settlement, some young children were playing around the tents. Some were taking care of their brothers or sisters, while others were helping keep the fire for cooking.
Those innocent kids, with their eyes curiously on the hustle and bustle of the outside world, are yet to understand the true meaning of war.
May there be no war in the world, and may there be a world of peace for the kids, said Zhang. Enditem