CHRO

Overview_of_the_Right_to_Education_for_the_Chins_in_Burma_CHRO.pdf

Overview of the Right to Education for the Chins in Burma

According to 2008 figures from the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), there are 109,334 students in Chin State, making up a fifth of the total population of 533,047 in the State.[1] The same statistics show that there are 4,777 teaching staff in Chin State. This means that in theory there is an average of one teacher for every 22 students. However, this is generally not the case especially in rural areas where up to 200 students share a single teacher.[2] Understaffing is a major impediment to access to quality education in the rural areas, which comprise the larger portion of Chin State. In many areas, one school is shared by up to four to five villages in the area.

With only 49 high schools, there is no higher learning institution such as college or university in Chin State. High school graduates must continue their higher education outside of Chin State, an added barrier to educational access for Chin students, as well as, a financial burden for parents with one or more students studying in colleges or universities.

1. Banning of the use and teaching of Chin language in official government schools

Since 1990, teaching of Chin language as a separate subject in primary schools has been banned. Prior to 1988, Chin language was allowed to be taught up to the 4th grade as part of the official curriculum. However, only Burmese is allowed as the medium of communication in school since 1990. Informal primary schools set up by communities in the rural areas which provided learning in Chin language have also been banned since 1998.[3] The only alternative avenue for learning Chin language is the Christian churches, which discreetly run informal classes for Chin children out of the church buildings. However, these kinds of programs are only possible in major towns where the congregations are big enough to be able to provide volunteer teachers, as well as, financially support such initiatives.[4] The restrictions on the use and learning of Chin language has meant that a higher percentage of Chin youths are not able to read or write in their own language.[5] This also means that Chin children are losing part of their culture and traditions that go hand-in-hand with the use and learning of their language.

2.       Educational Incentives to Promote Buddhism

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) openly use state resources to promote Buddhism through the Ministry for Development of Border Areas and National Races and Municipal Affairs, or Na- Ta- La, the commonly used Burmese acronym.

In southern Chin State’s Kanpalet Township the ministry is running a school (Border Areas Ethnic Youth Development Training School), which is separate from the regular public school system. Students wishing to attend the school are required to convert to Buddhism and are accorded free school fees, uniforms and monthly rations.

Since July this year, U Hung Om head of the Na-Ta-La school, has been telling young people [high school male students] to change what’s written on their identity card from Christian to Buddhism.  If they change their religion on their ID card they will get a school uniform for free, a monthly rice and lentil ration.[6]

The SPDC is also providing full scholarships for new Buddhist converts to attend a high school in Mandalay. Graduates of this school are eligible for automatic placement as head or deputy heads of the various government departments at the township level. A senior pastor from Kanpalet recently interviewed by CHRO explains:

They [the SPDC/Na-Ta-La] are basically trying to convert young people to Buddhism.  These students who convert are sent to the school and then as soon as they graduate they are given a position with the local authorities.  If you carry an ID card that says you are a Christian, it’s very difficult to get a job.  But Buddhists enjoy all the advantages.  Even though the Buddhist and Christian populations are more or less equal in number in our area, they are getting these positions and will dominate all the positions of power in our area.  Therefore we will face increasing discrimination.[7]

3. Impediments to Access to Education

(a) Grossly inadequate salary for teachers

In addition to problems with understaffing, teachers are grossly inadequately paid. Teachers must find other alternative means to supplement their income. In Chin State, the monthly salary for a high school headmaster is between 64,000 – 80,000 Kyats (64 – 80 USD), depending on length of service; high school teacher is between 59,000 – 64,000 Kyats (59-64 USD); middle school teachers 53,000 – 59,000 Kyats (53-59 USD);  and primary school teachers 47,000 – 53,000 kyats (47-53 USD) respectively. The Township Education Officer, in charge of the education department in a township, earns 100,000 Kyats per month (100 USD). [8] On the other hand, one 50kg sack of rice costs as much as 35,000 Kyats in the state capital Hakha.[9] To help meet the teachers’ basic needs, some schools resort to collecting compulsory extra fees from students for additional classes after the normal school hours, which usually cover important aspects of the curriculum. In a high school at Rih sub-town of Falam Township, for example, the each student was required to pay 2000 Kyats per month beginning in the 2008-2009 academic calendar year.[10] One parent said:

It is a big extra burden for the parents if they have multiple children attending school. This program has little to do with academic. It is because the teachers need a side income since they cannot survive on their meager salaries.[11]

In Thantlang Township, arbitrarily-set high admission fees prevented many school students from enrolling. Beginning from the 2006-2007 academic calendar year, the Township Education Officer had imposed an admission fee of 3500 kyats for each high school student, 3000 Kyats for middle school student and 2000 Kyats for primary level students. When added with the costs of school uniforms and books, each student spent about 20,000 Kyats (20 USD) per year.[12]

Government employees in Chin State, including teachers, also face arbitrary taxation or pay cuts.

2 March 2009: Government employees in Chin State have their meager monthly salary cut for as much as 7000 to 8000 Kyats each month. Although unofficial, the cut in salary is affecting all public employees in the State, making it even more difficult for families of government employees to make ends meet. Not practiced in any other States or Divisions within Burma, the monthly salary cut in Chin State is meant to cover the costs of ‘entertainment activities’ for visiting ‘junta dignitaries’ as well as to cover the cost of procuring Jatropha [a type of bio-fuel] and tea seedlings.[13]

(b) Use of students as forced laborers/porters

One of the major impediments to access to education is the Burma Army’s total disregard for students’ educational welfare. Burma army units have regularly used students and children as young as those still in primary school for portering and other forms of forced labor.  This typically happens at harvest time, when villagers are away working in their fields and no adults are available to fulfill forced labour demands.

September 2008: Students studying at a Government High School of Rih sub-town are regularly forced to fence an army camp or work at government-run Jatropha plantations. The forced labor practice using the students started since September of 2008 and happens on every weekend since.  Students are threatened with failing their exams for failure to show up at work, and are caned by the headmaster of the school at the school assembly on every Monday.[14]

On 15 July 2005, Sergeant Tin Soe, Burma army stationary camp commander of Lailenpi army camp, Matupit Township from Light Infantry Battalion 305, conscripted 10 primary school students and five government employees to carry army ration supplies for a 12-mile distance. They were forced to carry 10 tins of rice, 10 bottles of cooking oil, 15 Kg of fish paste and 7 Kg of dried chili.[15]

On 2 August, 2005, Sergeant Thein Win, commander of Sabawngte army outpost from Matupi-based Light Infantry Battalion (304) ordered 18 Sabawngte villagers including 5 teenage girls to transport army goods.[16]

On July 24, 2004, Captain Myo Min Naing of Burma army Light Infantry Battalion 274 forced 21 high school students, including several girls from Sabawngpi High School in Matupi Township to carry army goods and supplies between Sabawngpi and Sabawngte village.[17]

While the Burmese soldiers are mainly responsible for compelling students to perform forced labor, the regime’s township level administrations have also been directly involved in exacting involuntary labor involving students.

An order by U Sai Maung, Chairman of the Tedim Township Peace and Development Council in July 2005 compelled students to perform forced labor to work at government-run tea plantation. Those students who failed to perform the forced labor duty were fined 500 Kyats.[18]

(c) Conscription into the Burma army & militia service

The Burma Army often targets youths and high school students for conscription into the army, as well as, the civilian militia or ‘voluntary firemen.’

In June 2010, CHRO received information about three underage soldiers and several soldiers who are now aged 18, but were underage at the time of their recruitment, currently serving in Light Infantry Battalion 268 based in the Falam area.[19]

Click the link for PDF version or scroll down for text
CHRO_briefing_-_Election_Conditions_in_Chin_State.pdf
Press Release on the briefing is also available here on PDF file
Burmas_electoral_process_marred_by_HRVs_in_Chin_State.pdf

6 November 2010

Briefing: Election Conditions in Chin State

Elections-Related Human Rights Violations

a. Portering

During a trip to assess polling station locations and collect information to compile voter registration lists in the village tracts of Zahnak, Vanzang and Khualhring, a remote area of Thantlang township, a police chief and his subordinates from Thantlang town’s police station ordered local villagers to carry their belongings. The villagers, from Ral Pel, Dawn, Lungding, Fung Kah and Zangtlang, were also forced to provide food during the trip.   Two persons from each village were forced to porter for a day to the next village en route, starting from Dawn village on 7 October. The police chief also ordered local people to provide a horse for him to ride from Zangtlang village.[1]

b. Forced Relocation

On 13 September, the Township Peace and Development Council in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, issued an order to 57 local government staff and their families to move out of state-owned houses in Chin Oo Si block.  No new accommodation was provided and the families were given just one week to comply, or face a fine of 10,000 kyats ($10) for every day that they overstayed past the deadline.  The relocation order was apparently to make way for 40 newly-recruited staff, tasked with working on the elections.[2]

c. Property commandeered

On 26 September, the Director of Education, the head of the Land Registry department and the Chairman of Thantlang Peace and Development Council commandeered a jeep owned by U Pa Luai from Thantlang, without offering him any compensation.  Using the jeep, they transported three ballot boxes and other election materials to Tlangpi village, where they gave training on the election.[3]

Freedom of opinion

a. Forced to join the Union Solidarity and Development Party

In June, A local resident reported that he was summoned to a meeting by the Secretary of his local ward council, Lawngvan.  His photograph was taken, and he was issued a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) membership card without his consultation or consent.  In total, local authorities from Matupi township selected 60 residents from each ward of Matupi town, and forced them to join the USDP.[4]

 

Also in June, the Chairman of Falam Township Peace and Development Council issued an order that one person from every household in Falam town must join the USDP.  When local people tried to defy the order, they were threatened with punishment.[5]

 

b. Army checkpoint designated polling station in Falam town

An army checkpoint in Cinmual ward, Falam town has been designated as a polling station, raising fears that voters will face intimidation from soldiers as they try and cast their votes on 7 November.[6]

 

Election Preparations

a. Inadequate number of polling stations

According to the Polling Officials’ Manual issued by the Union Election Commission, one polling station should be established per 300 registered voters.  In Kalay township, Sagaing Division there are 60 Chin villages, which are home to 76,000 ethnic Chin registered voters.  There are another 110,000 Burmese voters, making a total of 186,000 registered voters in the area.  However, there are only 151 designated polling stations, making an average of more than 1,200 voters per polling station, four times as many as issued in the UEC guidelines.  In Tat Oo Thida and Buda wards in Kalay town, there are 2 polling stations to accommodate 4,079 registered voters, and in Tahan ward three polling stations for 5,604 registered voters.  This raises the possibility of overcrowding and lack of secrecy on polling day.[7]

 

b. Arbitrary designation and punishment of polling officials

In Thantlang township local government employees, including school teachers, have been arbitrarily designated as polling officials and required to attend training without financial compensation or travel allowance.  In Tlangpi village, Thantlang township, eight middle school teachers who are designated polling officials did not receive their salary in September.  This was apparently as punishment because the headmaster of their school, a designated chief polling officer, failed to attend the training conducted by the township election commission.[8]

 

c. Advance voting

In Tedim township, polling officials recently visited the homes of elderly residents who will be unable to go to polling stations on 7 November, in order to carry out advance voting.  In violation of the secret ballot, the elderly were required to inform polling officials of the party of their choice, who then marked their ballot papers accordingly on their behalf, and sealed them in an envelope.[9]

 

Background Information

In Chin State, nine different parties are fielding a total of 146 candidates in Sunday’s elections, for the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House), Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House), and Pyine Hluttaw (State Assembly).  The parties are:

 

Party

Candidates for the Pyithu Hluttaw

Candidates for the Amyotha Hluttaw

Candidates for the Pyine Hluttaw

Total number of candidates

Union Solidarity and Development Party

9

12

18

39

National Unity Party

8

9

17

34

Chin Progressive Party

6

11

14

31

Chin National Party

6

7

14

27

Union Democratic Party

2

3

1

6

National Democratic Force

1

2

0

3

United Myanmar Federation of National Politics

1

1

1

3

 

 

 

Party

Candidates for the Pyithu Hluttaw

Candidates for the Amyotha Hluttaw

Candidates for the Pyine Hluttaw

Total number of candidates

Mro (or) Khami National Solidarity Organization

1

0

1

2

National Democratic Party for Development

0

1

1

2

Totals

34

46

67

146

 

Economic Barriers to Participation

Chin State is one of the most underdeveloped and isolated regions in Burma, with little in the way of road infrastructure, communication systems, healthcare facilities, electricity or running water. 70 percent of the Chin people live below the poverty line; and 40 percent are without adequate food sources[10].  Each candidate had to pay a registration fee of 500,000 kyats ($500) in order to be able to contest in the elections, a significant sum given that the Gross National Income per capita in Burma is around $220.[11] Given the economic situation in Chin State, this fee posed a particular barrier to participation.  In addition, parties were given just two weeks to register their candidates.

 


[1] Rhododendron News, Sep – Oct 2010, CHRO.

[2] Families Forced to Move Out in Election Preparations, Chinland Guardian, 29 September 2010.

[3] Rhododendron News, Sep – Oct 2010, CHRO.

[4] Rhododendron News, Sep – Oct 2010, CHRO.

[5] Rhododendron News, Sep – Oct 2010, CHRO.

[6] CHRO, 1 November 2010.

[7] CHRO, 4 November 2010.

[8] Rhododendron News, Sep – Oct 2010, CHRO.

[9] CHRO, 5 November 2010.

[10] “Humanitarian Situation UPDATE April 2007”, Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar, 2007.

[11] UNICEF, 2008.

CHRO Statement to the 22nd Session of UNWGIP

Statement presented to:
UNITED NATIONS
Economic and Social Council
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Sub-Commission on the promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP)
Twenty-second session19-23, 2004
Geneva, Switzerland
By: Chin Human Rights Organization
Topic: Conflict Resolution and Indigenous Peoples
Intervener: Kenneth VanBik

Dear Chairperson and members of fellow delegates for  Working Group on Indigenous Populations,

First of all, allow me congratulate you for your reelection as the Chairperson of this Working Group.I also would like to thank you for this opportunity to present the plight of my Chin peoples on this occasion.I am Kenneth VanBik and I represent Chin Human Right Organization. On the one hand, I agree with you that the root cause of conflict in many indigenous areas is due to the State’s refusal to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. On the other hand, I have reservation on your paper paragraph 18: “the colonization of indigenous territories also negatively affected indigenous peoples in many other ways. Indigenous populations severely diminished in number during the colonial period as a result of forced labour, warfare, malnutrition due to the destruction of the natural environment, diseases and even calculated extermination”

The reason for my reservation is that you did not specifically mention the continuation of such colonial practice in many modern States. Today some States in Asia continues the practice of the colonisers, perpetrating many atrocities against the indigenous peoples, as in Burma. For examples, forced relocations and cultural genocides have been deliberately executed by the military junta in Chin States. By cultural genocide, we mean incidents such as the denial of native language teaching in our own local schools as well as the declaration of Burmese as the only official language in our Chin communities.Religious oppressions also have been occurring in Chin State. Pulling down many crosses and replaced them with pagodas in Chin hills by the Burmese military regime is a reflection of such religious oppression and persecution.These kinds of atrocities inevitably lead to violent confrontation and armed conflict up until today.

Due to the above mentioned atrocities and human rights violations committed by Burma military regime, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights decided to nominate a Special Reporter on Burma in 1992 in order to monitor situation of human rights in Burma and submit his/her report to United Nations General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights. The resolution is extended every year and the year 2004is not an exception because the human rights situation in Burma remains the same.

In 1994, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to resolve the conflict in Burma. In that resolution, the UNGA strongly urged to have a tripartite dialogue among the major political players in Burma: indigenous leaders, democratic opposition led by the Noble Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and the military regime. In order to implement this resolution, the UN General Secretary appointed His Special Envoy to Burma in 1995.

As of today, the effort of the Special Envoy has not eased the conflict in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house-arrest, and the military  junta continued its own agenda against the will of the people of Burma as well as that of international community.

For an alternative means to resolve conflict in Burma, I strongly support  for “the establishment an international body to adjudicate or advise on disputes between indigenous peoples living within the borders of a modern State and non-indigenous institutions, including State institutions” (Paragraph 77). Thank you.

CHRO Presentation at the United States Department of State  
The Chin Human Rights Organization had met with the United States Department of State on April 2, 2003. In the meeting, three bureau; Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights And Labor, Bureau for Migration, Population and Refugees, The Burma Desk Officer for The US State Department

April 21, 2003

First of all on behalf of the Chin Human Rights Organization we would like to express our gratitude for the opportunity to meet with the State Department of the United States of America. We are particularly appreciative of the fact that the meeting encompasses Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Bureau for Migration, Population and Refugees, and Burma Desk Officer of the State Department.

The statement issued by the State Department in the Country Reports of Human Rights Practice and International Religious Freedom Reports which touched on the present human right situation in Burma is encouraging to the continued movement for democracy and human rights in Burma. We are deeply indebted and grateful for the longstanding supports of the United States for Human Rights and Democracy in Burma.

In the past few years, in Burma, there’s been some “improvement” seen in the area of human rights situation: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and some political prisoners have been released; the International Committee for Red Cross and International Labor Organization have been allowed to be present in the country; the Amnesty International was once allowed in last February to visit the country. As clearly pointed out, however, in the statement of the Amnesty International, there is still much more to be done for human rights condition especially in the ethnic national areas of the country.

Burma continues to be ruled by the military junta and the Chin along with other opponents of the regime, continue to face a multitude of human rights violations. Under Burma’s military regime, the Chin along with other ethnic group in Burma are not only facing gross human rights violations, but they are also losing their culture, literature, customs, and traditions. This situation has resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis, both inside and outside the country.

Approximately 50,000 Chin refugees, of men, women and children have sought refuge in India. Of these, only about one percent has legal recognition by the UNHCR and a great majority of them are at risk of deportation by the authorities under which they live. Thousands more are scattered throughout neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand while a great number of them are internally displaced. Their humanitarian need is of great urgency.

That human rights violation seems to be more rampant in the non-Burman ethnic regions is evidenced in the fact that one million internally displaced persons came from the non-Burman ethnic nationalities and a large majority of the two million refugees (out of which about fifty thousand are Chins) from Burma in neighboring countries are of the non-Burman ethnic nationalities. This seems to suggest that the ethnic nationalities of Burma are forcibly pushed to face a rather Burmanization systematically imposed by the successive Burmese governments than democratization of Burma.

Several attempts recently made by the United Nations Special Envoy to solve the longstanding political stalemate in Burma turned out to be non-productive endeavor due to emphasis given solely to the emergence of talk between the National League for Democracy and the military junta. This seems suggestive of the fact that the root cause of the unhealthy human rights and political situation in Burma is much deeper than the possible outcome of talk between the above two parties.

In order to solve human rights crisis in Burma, we believe that there need to be a meaningful political dialogue between the military junta, National League for Democracy party and leaders of ethnic nationalities in the country. As the ethnic nationalities (who owned 57% of landmass with more than 40% of the country’s population) are co-founder of the Union of Burma, it is necessary for them to participate in addressing the political future of the Union of Burma. This is crucial for bringing meaningful solution to Burma’s political turmoil.

It is of paramount importance to recognize and respect the right of the ethnic nationalities to determine their political future beginning with any process aimed at breaking political deadlock in Burma, because conflicts long-rooted in Burma are the direct result of failure to recognize this fact. We feel that it is important for the United States government and the world community to remain aware of this and adopt stronger measures against the Burmese military junta so that it will eventually be forced to undertake meaningful dialogue aimed at bringing peace, harmony and democracy to Burma.

Thank you.

STATEMENT OF CHIN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
To

COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20515

JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING

SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM, NONPROLIFERATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Elton Gallegly, Chairman

and

SUBCOMMITTEE ON ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

James Leach, Chairman

SUBJECT:                Human Rights in Burma: Fifteen Years Post Military Coup

WITNESSES:              Panel I
The Honorable Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State

Mr. Matthew Daley, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State

October 1, 2003
The Chin Human Rights Organization is an independent non-governmental human rights organization. We aim to protect and promote human rights among the Chin people, and to contribute to the movement for the restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma. Founded in 1995, CHRO has worked to document the human rights situations of the Chin people in Burma’s western region. CHRO’s reports have been cited by the US State Department, Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization.

CHRO wishes to express its gratitude for the opportunity to deliver this submission to this important hearing. The United States has always been at the forefront of support for democracy and human rights in Burma. We are grateful for the State Department’s annual reports on International Religious Freedom on Burma, which have been highlighting the suffering of persecuted religious minorities. In addition, CHRO considers the promulgation of Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 a very important impetus for the achievement of democracy and human rights in Burma.

Despite recent cosmetic changes that have taken place in Rangoon, human rights conditions among Burma’s ethnic people, including the Chin people continue to remain a matter of grave concern. In fact, human rights conditions of the Chin people have become worse and the number of displaced persons and refugees has increased in recent years. Until the incident of May 30 in which the regime launched an orchestrated campaign of terror and violence against the NLD, the regime has enjoyed international praise for ‘progress’ it has made in initiating national reconciliation. However, this has not been accompanied by a parallel improvement in the areas of human rights. Under the reign of the State Peace and Development Council, the Chin people have continued to experience untold miseries and hardships as a result of the systematic abuse of their fundamental human rights.

There is a direct link between the growing abuse against the Chin people and the increase in militarization of the Chin areas. In the last fifteen years since the regime took over power, the number of army battalions stationed in Chin State has increased up to 10 times. This increase has been accompanied by the rapid acceleration in the level of human rights abuses across Chin State. The kind of human rights violations suffered by the Chins today are the same as those that have been extensively reported among ethnic Karen, Shan, and Karenni on the eastern border. These violations manifest in the forms of arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labor, torture, rape and extrajudicial executions. Moreover, the overwhelming percentage of Christians among the Chin people has also brought abuses in the form of religious persecution. Today, religious persecution is a matter of primary concern among the Chin people. Since 1999, the US State Department has singled out Burma as a country that systematically violates religious freedom.[1] The annual reports have cited a significant amount of cases of religious persecution involving the Chin people.

Religious Persecution

Religious persecution poses a matter of grave concern among the Chin people. Chin Human Rights Organization, since 1995, has documented a range of human rights abuses by the military regime against the Chin people, including violations of religious freedom.

Christian religion has deep root in the Chin society. Since the first Chin conversion in the late 1900 following the arrival of American Baptist missionaries to the Chin Hills, Christianity gradually became accepted by a large majority of the Chin populations, who had practiced traditional animism for centuries. After a century since then, Christianity now is second culture for many Chin people.[2] Chin people today claim that more than 90 percent of Chins are Christians. Because of the overwhelming importance of Christianity among the Chins, the junta, which strongly identifies itself with Buddhism and has been preoccupied with building national unity has been trying to promote Buddhism over Christianity in Chin State with the belief that once the Chins are converted to Buddhism they can be easily subjugated. For this reason, the regime has resorted to persecuting the Chins, a drastic action that involves arbitrarily removing Christian crosses erected by churches on hilltops throughout Chin State and openly directing and supporting coerced conversions of Christians into Buddhism. The regime has also destroyed several Church buildings. For example on February 20, 2000, Captain Khin Maung Myint ordered the destruction of a Chin Christian Church at Min Tha village in Tamu Township of Magwe Division, an area mostly populated by the Chins and is adjacent to the Chin State. In the same township on July 13, 2001, the same army officer forced villagers to destroy a United Pentecostal Church in Ton Kyaw village. Captain Khin Maung Myint gave similar order to destroy an Assembly of God Church building in Chauk Nat Kyi village in Tamu Township.[3]

Through the Hill Buddhist Mission, a program directly sponsored by the military regime, Buddhist monks have migrated to the Chin State. In every town and major villages in Chin State, the regime has established a Buddhist pagoda and station monks who are closely working with local army battalions. Buddhist pagodas are often built in places where Christian monuments such as crosses have formerly stood, and Christians have been either forced to donate money or forced to build the pagodas.[4]

The regime is putting close scrutiny on preachers and evangelists, and in many instances has made effort to censor the contents of sermons delivered by Christian pastors and ministers. Citing the risk of security, authorities have either not permitted or arbitrarily set the number of people who could attend religious festivals and conferences. Moreover, the regime has still not permitted the printing and publication of Bibles, forcing Chin Christians to quietly bringing Bibles from abroad. In several instances, army authorities have confiscated Chin-language Bibles imported from India, and burnt or destroyed them.[5] Construction of new church buildings is prohibited and Christians must obtain prior authorization for even renovation of church buildings. These are all in stark contrast to the freedoms enjoyed by monks and Buddhists whose activities are openly supported, and encouraged by authorities. Several reports documented by CHRO show that army patrols have deliberately used Church compounds for shelter and camps, and have purposefully disturbed Church services by entering into churches during Sunday worship services.

The regime has also targeted Christian leaders by falsely implicating and accusing them of supporting anti-government groups, and has jailed and tortured many pastors. Pastor Grace, a woman Baptist minister was accused of providing accommodation to Chin rebels and sentenced to 2 years in prison with hard labor in 2001.[6] In remote villages and other rural areas in Chin State, army units on patrols have frequently mistreated, assaulted and tortured Christian pastors.

Coerced conversions of Christian families and children have also been reported in several parts of Chin State. Those who convert to Buddhism were exempted from forced labor and given special privileges. Local authorities have frequently recruited Christian children under the pretext of giving them formal education in cities. As recently as early this year, five Christian children, between the ages of 7 and 18 years old from Matupi township of Chin State, who had been placed in monasteries in Rangoon, escaped confinement in Buddhist temples where they have been forced to follow Buddhist teachings.

Restriction on the use and teaching of Chin language

Under the military regime, the teaching of Chin language in school is prohibited. In elementary schools, the permitted level of teaching Chin language is grade 2. Publications of textbooks in Chin are not provided for by the government and Christian churches are forced to bear the burden of supplying these texts. Chin school teachers of all levels of high school in Chin State are instructed to use Burmese as a medium of communication with their students. This measure has greatly diminished the level of understanding by the students in school and has served to downgrade student performance. Since the mid 1990s, the new curriculum is dominated by perspectives of Burmese or Burman culture and history, and students have complained about the lack of substance that reflects ethnic Chin perspectives in the subject. This has also been seen as an open attempt to assimilate the Chin youth into mainstream Burman culture.

Because of the limited number of government schools available for the Chin populations in Chin State, communities in rural villages have set up private schools to allow the children access to primary education. Unsupported by the government, villages have to seek their own means of running the school by contributing money and resources for the schools. However, since 1998, the regime has banned these self-supported private schools[7] , depriving many children in rural communities of primary education. It should be noted that because these private schools are not under direct control of the government, they were able to offer alternative learning in Chin language. Restriction on the learning of Chin language has already taken its toll on the Chin youth. A high percentage of Chin teenagers are not able to read and write in their own language. This has been exacerbated by the fact that many Chin children look down on their own language and had instead chosen to use Burmese.

Forced Labor

Burma has claimed that it has outlawed the practice of forced labor in 2001. However, independent investigations into this claim have found the pervasiveness and the continued use of forced labor in the Chin State. Local army battalions have routinely exacted forced labor from villagers and rural communities in building roads, army camps, development infrastructures and agricultural projects. In major townships of Chin state such as Hakha, Falam, Matupi and Thantlang, civilians are being routinely forced to work at government tea plantation farms[8]. Major Ngwe Toe of Light Infantry Battalion 266, who is in charge of a new township development in Ruazua in central Chin State have ordered a dozen villages to contribute money and human labor to construct high a school, a hospital and an army base in Ruazua. During the entire year of 2002, these villages were forced to participate in the forced labor in Ruazua. Refugees fleeing into India have reported that the pervasiveness of forced labor in their areas has left them no time to work for their own survival. Army units on patrol have forcibly recruited villagers to porter army supplies and ammunitions over mountains and jungles.

Political Suppression

The Chin people are not represented in the state or central administration under the military regime. After the regime nullified the results of the 1990 elections, all Chin political parties were declared illegal. These political parties include the Chin National League for Democracy, the Mara Peoples Party and Zomi National Congress Party. Subsequent crackdowns on political dissidents have forced 3 of the 13 Chin Members of Parliament to flee the country while 2 others were arrested and imprisoned for several years. Since early 1990s, the entire Chin populations have forced to live under virtual curfew. Dozens of civilians accused of supporting, Chin National Front, underground movement were arrested, tortured and imprisoned under the Unlawful Association Act. Civilians charged under this act are routinely tortured in interrogating chambers. According to a former a woman prisoner, she was humiliated, tortured and deprived of food and sleep for one week before she was arbitrarily sentenced to 3 years in prison.[9]  Since the May 30 incident, authorities have crackdown on local NLD leaderships who were responsible for welcoming Aung San Suu Kyi during her trip to Chin State in April 2003. According to reports, on May 4, 2 NLD leaders in Matupi township were arrested by military intelligence and were sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Refugees

In this submission, CHRO wishes to highlight the particularly grave situations of Chin refugees and to draw the special attention of the Subcommittee. In the year since the military regime took over power in 1988, more than 50,000 Chin refugees have fled to India, Bangladesh and Malaysia. At least 50,000 Chin refugees have lived in Mizoram State of northeast India. Neither the Government of India nor the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized them as refugees. As a result Chin refugees have frequently been forced back to Burma. Since July 19, 2003 a campaign by local Indian youth groups, with the cooperation of Indian authorities have resulted in the forcible evictions and the return of thousands of Chin refugees to Burma. As of this week, at least 6000, people have been forcibly returned to Burma. India has also closed down its border with Burma to prevent returnees from sneaking back into the country.

We are very alarmed by the ongoing evictions and deportation of Chin refugees in India. There is an urgent need for intervention in the ongoing deportation of Chin refugees. Refugees International has recently petitioned the Prime Minister of India requesting him to stop the repatriation and to allow the UNHCR access to Mizoram to help care for the protection and humanitarian needs of Chin refugees. CHRO strongly requests the United States Committee for Refugees and other international agencies concerned with refugees to urgently take measures to prevent the ongoing evictions and deportations of Chin refugees in India.

The need for protection of Chin refugees in Malaysia is no less important. Over the past few years, close to 5,000 Chin refugees have also sought sanctuary in Malaysia. Like the Chin refugees in India, they are identified as ‘illegals’ and risk frequent arrest and deportation by Malaysian authorities. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized only a very small fraction of Chin refugees.

Conclusion

The problems faced by Burma’s ethnic groups, including the Chin people are the direct consequence of military rule and its campaign of State organized terrorism directed primarily against the ethnic people who constitute more than 40% of the country’s population. Today, the Chin people and all the ethnic people are fighting for our very survival as a people. Our cultural, ethnic and religious identities are being rapidly eroded, and our very survival as a people is being threatened by the policies of ethnic cleansing relentlessly conducted by the military regime. The sufferings of the ethnic nationalities could only be remedied through fundamental change in the political system, a change that would allow the ethnic people equitable representation in the decision-making process of the country. Time is passing and innocent lives are being lost. The international community needs to take effective and urgent actions on Burma before the problems develop into an irreversible stage.

Thank You.

Chin Human Rights Organization

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[1] 2002 US Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report
on Burma http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2002/13868.htm

[2] Excerpts from the upcoming CHRO’s report on abuses of religious freedom entitled “Religious Persecution: A Campaign of Ethnocide Against Chin Christians in Burma”

[3] Copies of these reports (in Burmese versions), are available upon request.

[4] For detailed information, see www.chro.org under Religious persecution report

[5] See for example Rhododendron Volume III, No VI. Junta Orders Burning Of 16,000 Bibles, Halts Church Construction

[6] Rhododendron News Vol. IV No. IV July-August 2001 www.chro.org

[7] See a copy of SPDC order at www.chro.org Rhododendron VOL.I No. VI December 1998

[8] Oral statement of Salai Za Uk Ling, Editor of Rhododendron News at the 21st session of United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, 23 July 2003, Geneva, Switzerland.

[9] Rhododendron VOL.V No.I JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2002, www.chro.org

CHRO’s Presentation at the US State Department

Bureau for Population, Migration and Refugee  

12 October 2004
Washington D.C

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. We are very grateful for the Bureau’s longstanding and active involvement in helping Burmese refugees displaced by civil war and political repression in Burma. The recent resettlement of Burmese refugees in Thailand to the United States helped ameliorate the suffering of hundreds of displaced people who encountered enormous daily difficulties in their lives.

We are here today to bring to your attention our continuing concerns about the situations of Burmese refugees in India.

The conditions of more than 50,000 Burmese refugees in India have not improved since we last brought up the issue to your attention last year. In many respects, conditions have worsened steadily for Burmese refugees in India over the last year.

Continuing human rights violations inside Burma, especially in Chin State, have triggered a steady movement of refugees into India. There is increasing incidents of forced labor activities inside Chin State, especially along the areas where a transnational highway between Burma and India are being constructed. With new refugees crossing into India each day, conditions are not better for those seeking shelter in India.

In Mizoram State of India, which borders Chin State of Burma, intolerance against Chin refugees has heightened, and for the past several months there has been a massive campaign to evict and deport Burmese Chin refugees. This campaign resulted in the forced return of over 6,000 Chin refugees to Burma. Many were either forced to go into hiding in the jungles to or to travel to New Delhi in order to seek protection from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. But for many of these people, life is no better in New Delhi.

There are about 1,500 Burmese refugees living in New Delhi and only about half of them are recognized as refugees by UNHCR. Last year UNHCR started implementing a policy to phase out Subsistence Allowance that has been provided to Burmese refugees in what it said was due to budget shortage and to encourage self-reliance for Burmese refugees in New Delhi. As of now, much of the 30$ monthly allowance provided to each individual refugee has been phased out. As a result, people are increasingly finding themselves unable to meet their daily needs. Local landlords are evicting refugee tenants because they can no longer afford to pay their rent.

The termination of Subsistence Allowance has not helped Burmese refugees in their ability to become self-reliant. But instead, it has actually created more problems in their efforts to cope with daily hardships they face in trying to survive in India. While Burmese refugees do have Residential Permits from the Indian government they are not authorized to work there, making it both impossible and illegal for them to work in order to become self-reliant.

Termination of assistance has created greater social problems among refugees in a way that more people are resorting to scavenge discarded vegetables in local markets to meet their daily needs for survival. Women and children are no exception. Just during the last two to three months, 19 Burmese refugee women were reported to have been sexually molested and harassed by local Indian men while picking up discarded vegetables in the neighborhood night market. Lack of adequate support has actually increased the vulnerability of Burmese refugees in New Delhi and has made it more difficult for them to integrate into the local community.

In conclusion, the security and humanitarian conditions of Burmese refugees in India are worsening. We strongly believe that Burmese refugees in India, both in New Delhi and Mizoram, deserve special attention and urgent intervention by the United States. Thank you for your support.

Thank you,

Chin Human Rights Organization
www.chro.org
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To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles