Burma’s ‘abused Chin need help’

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok
January 28, 2009

Chin woman, refugee camp, Malaysia 2007
Chin people flee persecution and hardship on the Indian-Burma border

The US group Human Rights Watch has called for better protection of the Chins, one of Burma’s least known and most persecuted minorities.

Ill-treatment of many ethnic minorities by the Burmese military has been extensively documented by international human rights groups.

But Human Rights Watch say there has been little attention given to the plight of the Chins.

Chin state is isolated, located along Burma’s western border with India.

The group says they are subjected to routine abuse and forced labour by the Burmese army, but often face discrimination and hostility when they flee into India.

Grim fate

What must it be like to be the hungriest and perhaps the most repressed region of a country like Burma?


That is the grim fate of the Chins, one of Burma’s many large ethnic minorities, according to Human Rights Watch.

Living among the steep hills along Burma’s western border, the Chins are subjected to routine abuse by the Burmese army, says the new report.

It is based on extensive interviews with Chins who have fled into the Indian state of Mizoram.

It documents forced labour, sexual abuse, torture and extra-judicial killings.

Their plight is compounded by acute food shortages – the UN’s World Food Programme estimates that food consumption in Chin state is the lowest in Burma.

Recently it has been afflicted by a plague of rats which have eaten much of what little they can grow on the barren hillsides.

The state is tightly controlled by the Burmese military and access to foreigners restricted.

Unlike minorities such as the Karen on Burma’s eastern border, who can flee to Thailand when they face army harassment, almost no international attention has been given to the Chins.

Human Rights Watch says that even when they reach India they get little help, and are often forcibly repatriated.

Chin refugees in India risk being “forced back” to Myanmar
28 Jan 2009 09:03:00 GMT
Source: Reuters
BANGKOK, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Up to 100,000 Christian Chin who have fled to India in the past 20 years to escape persecution by Myanmar’s Buddhist military rulers are at risk of being forced back, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
The New York-based group said local authorities and community organisations in northeastern India’s Mizoram state frequently targeted Chin migrants, one of the former Burma’s many oppressed ethnic minorities.
“They live at the mercy of the local population,” HRW said in a report on the plight of the Chin, whose ancestral homes are in the mountainous reaches of northwest Myanmar.
“The Chin in Mizoram lack jobs, housing and affordable education,” HRW consultant Amy Alexander said, adding most were relegated to temporary, labour-intensive and low-paying jobs, earning around 100 rupees ($2) a day for 10 to 16-hour shifts.
Indian officials in Mizoram rubbished the report.
“It is completely false. There are no Chin refugees in Mizoram from Myanmar,” J.C. Ramthanga, secretary to the state’s Chief Minister, told Reuters. “No one has been sent back.”
The Chin report comes as regional attention focuses on the Rohingyas, another minority group in Myanmar, who have been fleeing abuse and harassment.
In the last two months, 550 Muslim Rohingyas are feared to have drowned after the Thai army forced 1,000 found in the Andaman Sea into wooden boats before towing them out to international waters and cutting them adrift.
Despite relatively close ethnic ties between the Chin and Mizoram natives, tensions between the two populations regularly flared into anti-Chin pogroms, the HRW report said.
“Because they are stateless and marginalised and the poorest of the poor, they tend to be the scapegoat whenever there’s an incident at the border,” HRW researcher Sara Colm said.
The largest such campaign was in 2003, when the Young Mizo Association (YMA) forced 10,000 Chin back into Myanmar, HRW said.
In September 2008, the YMA issued an order for the Chin to leave Mizoram by the end of the month. The threat did not materialise, but it was enough for them to go into hiding, close their churches and wait till tensions were over, HRW said.
such incidents showed India failing in its obligations to protect refugees or asylum seekers, Alexander said.
New Delhi has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention but under international law, is bound by the principle of ‘nonrefoulement’, which protects migrants from being returned to any country where they could be persecuted.
In addition to what HRW described as “decades of systematic abuse” at the hands of the Myanmar army, the Chin’s woes have been compounded by a 2007 infestation of rats that destroyed huge swathes of crops and food stores.
A recent U.N. survey estimated that 40 percent of people in Chin State, Myanmar’s poorest, did not have enough food, increasing the number of people trying to leave the country.
(Reporting by Bangkok bureau and Baswajyoti Das in Guwahati; Editing by Ed Cropley and Sanjeev Miglani)

Report: Myanmar’s Chin people persecuted

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer

FOX NEWS:,4670,ASMyanmarChin,00.html
BANGKOK, Thailand —  The “forgotten” Chin people, Christians living in the remote mountains of northwestern Myanmar, are subject to forced labor, torture, extrajudicial killings and religious persecution by the country’s military regime, a human rights group said Wednesday.

A report by the New York-based Human Right Watch said tens of thousands have fled the Chin homeland into neighboring India, where they face abuse and the risk of being forced back into Myanmar.

“The Chin are unsafe in Burma and unprotected in India, but just because these abuses happen far from Delhi and Rangoon (Yangon) does not mean the Chin should remain `forgotten people,'” the report said.

It said the regime also continues to commit atrocities against its other ethnic minorities.

Myanmar’s ruling junta has been widely accused of widespread human rights violations in ethnic minority areas where anti-government insurgent groups are fighting for autonomy. The government has repeatedly denied such charges, but an e-mailed request for comment on the new report was not immediately answered.

A top official for India’s Mizoram state, Chief Secretary Vanhela Pachau, said he hadn’t seen the report and could not comment.

Human Rights Watch said insurgents of the Chin National Front also committed abuses, including the extortion of money from villagers to fund their operations.

“(The police) hit me in my mouth and broke my front teeth. They split my head open and I was bleeding badly. They also shocked me with electricity. We kept telling them that we didn’t know anything,” said a Chin man accused of supporting the insurgents, who are small in number and largely ineffective.

He was one of some 140 Chin people interviewed by the human rights group from 2005 to 2008. The group said the names of those interviewed were withheld to prevent reprisals.

A number spoke of being forced out of their villages to serve as unpaid porters for the army or to build roads, sentry posts and army barracks.

“We are like slaves, we have to do everything (the army) tells us to do,” another Chin man said.

The report said the regime, attempting to suppress minority cultures, was destroying churches, interfering with worship services and promoting Buddhism through threats and inducements. Some 90 percent of the Chin are Christians, most of them adherents to the American Baptist Church.

The suffering of the Chin, the report said, was compounded by recent food shortages and famine caused by a massive rat infestation in Chin State, already one of the poorest regions of Myanmar.

“For too long, ethnic groups like the Chin have borne the brunt of abusive military rule in Burma,” said the report, using the former name for the country.

Ethnic insurgencies erupted in Myanmar in the late 1940s when the country gained independence from Great Britain.

Former junta member Gen. Khin Nyunt negotiated cease-fires with 17 of the insurgent groups before he was ousted by rival generals in 2004.

Among rebels still fighting are groups from the Karen, Karenni, Shan and Chin minorities.

At least half a million minority people have been internally displaced in eastern Myanmar as a result of the regime’s brutal military campaigns while refugees continue to flee to the Thai-Myanmar border. More than 145,000 refugees receive international humanitarian assistance in Thai border camps.


Associated Press writer Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Myanmar: India urged to protect Christian Chin minority
By: Dibin Samuel
Christian Today
Friday, 30 January 2009, 15:25 (IST)
Thousands of Chin Christians who fled to India from Burma in the past 20 years to escape persecution are at risk of being forced back, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

One of the ethnic minority groups from Myanmar, Chins, mainly Tibeto-Burmans, are constantly persecuted by Myanmar’s military regime, forcing them to seek asylum in India, bordering Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Assam.

“They live at the mercy of the local population,” HRW said in a report on the plight of the Chin.

“The Chin in Mizoram lack jobs, housing and affordable education,” HRW consultant Amy Alexander said, adding that majority of them are given low-paying jobs, earning around $2 a day for 10- to 16-hour shifts.

The Chin, 90 percent of who are Christians, account for about one percent of Myanmar’s 57 million people.

Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Sara Colm said about 4,000 Chin have trekked 1,600 kilometers to New Delhi to seek refugee status. The state is located along Burma’s western border with India.

“We have people fleeing really repressive human rights situations in Burma to India and there is no access to them by the UNHCR,” she said. “We are calling today for pressure to be brought to bear on the Indian government to allow United Nations officials access to the border regions of Burma on a permanent basis and not force asylum seekers to have to make the long trek down to New Delhi.”

Meanwhile Indian officials in Mizoram refused the claims of “refugees being driven back”.

“It is completely false. There are no Chin refugees in Mizoram from Myanmar,” J.C. Ramthanga, secretary to the state’s Chief Minister, told Reuters. “No one has been sent back.”

The largest such campaign was in 2003, when the Young Mizo Association (YMA) forced 10,000 Chin back into Myanmar, HRW said.

“Because they are stateless and marginalised and the poorest of the poor, they tend to be the scapegoat whenever there’s an incident at the border,” HRW researcher Sara Colm said.

The report called for the Association of South East Asian Nations, European Union, and the United States to increase pressure on Burma to improve humanitarian assistance to the Chin.

According to the New York-based organisation, as many as 100,000 people had fled the Chin homeland into neighboring India, and have urged the Indian government and the Mizoram state to provide shelter and protection from the abusive Burmese militants.

Myanmar abusing Christian Chin minority: rights group

Jan 27, 2009

BANGKOK (AFP) — Myanmar’s military regime is committing widespread abuses against the mainly Christian Chin ethnic group, who face famine, forced labour, torture and persecution, a rights group said Wednesday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said tens of thousands of Chin flee across the border to India only for many of them to be forcibly returned home, violating their right to refuge under international law.

“For too long, ethnic groups like the Chin have borne the brunt of abusive military rule in Burma,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, referring to Myanmar by its former name.

“It is time for this brutal treatment to stop and for the army to be held to account for its actions. India should step forward to protect those desperately seeking sanctuary.”

A new Human Rights Watch report carries accounts from Chin describing torture and beatings by Myanmar soldiers, arbitrary arrest, being forced to work as army porters, and having to give their food to troops.

“The Burma army arrested me,” a Chin man who fled to India told the group.

“They tortured me and put me in jail for one week. They beat me on my head and ears — I still have a hearing problem. Then the army forced me to work at road construction and repair the army camp.”

The mistreatment compounds the misery in impoverished Chin state, the report said, which is already facing food shortages after farmlands were destroyed by a massive rat infestation.

Myanmar is home to at least 135 ethnic groups, a handful of which have armed factions fighting for independence.

The Chin, 90 percent of whom are Christian, account for about one percent of Myanmar’s 57 million people and live in the mountainous region near the Indian border. The Chin National Front (CNF) rebel group is still battling the junta.

Amy Alexander, a Human Rights Watch consultant, said anyone suspected of links to the CNF was targeted, while religious suppression was also rampant in Chin State, the only predominantly Christian state in mainly Buddhist Myanmar.

“The military government regularly interferes with worship services… and also destroys religious symbols and buildings,” she told a press conference.

The report — featuring interviews carried out between 2005 and 2008 with about 140 Chin mostly living in exile abroad — also documents abuses by the armed wing of the CNF.

Human Rights Watch called on the CNF and Myanmar to end all abuses and demanded that India offer protection to Chin who cross the border and allow the UN refugee agency access to them.

“For a lot of Chin who are returned, they are at risk of arrest, imprisonment, torture and death … There are very severe consequence that happen when people are forced to return to Burma,” Alexander said.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

Human Rights Watch Calls for Aid to Burma Refugees in India
By Ron Corben
28 January 2009    

Rights group, Human Rights Watch, is calling for India to provide access to the United Nations to assist up to 100,000 Burmese ethnic Chin who have fled persecution and poverty in Burma. Human Rights Watch accuses Burma’s military government of wide-ranging rights abuses in Chin state.

A Human Rights Watch report  is calling for Burma’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, to halt ongoing human rights abuses against the ethnic Chin – a largely Christian community living in western Burma.

The three-year investigation of those who had fled persecution and are living in India, Thailand, and Malaysia said Burma’s military regularly imprisoned ethnic Chin to stifle political dissent.

Chin state is one of Burma’s most remote and poorest regions, bordering India’s Mizoram State.  Official access to the border regions in Mizoram is restricted by the Indian authorities.

Amy Alexander
Amy Alexander
Report researcher and writer Amy Alexander says abuses by Burma’s military had gone largely under reported.

“Human Rights Watch has documented widespread killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and mistreatment, forced labor, reprisals against the opposition, restrictions on movement, freedom of expression and religious freedom, as well as extortion and confiscation of personal property,” she said.

Cases cited included those of political prisoners, their hands tied, being hung from ceilings and beaten with sticks.  Later cloths were placed over their faces and they were dunked into water until they lost consciousness.

Over the years up to 100,000 Chin have fled into India’s Mizoram state, where they are at risk of discrimination and abuse by local groups and deportation to Burma.  A campaign in 2003 lead to 10,000 Chin being sent back to Burma.  Human Rights Watch says those  people who are sent back often face detention and even death.

Sara Colm
Sara Colm
Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Sara Colm said about 4,000 Chin have trekked 1,600 kilometers to New Delhi to seek refugee status.

“We have people fleeing really repressive human rights situations in Burma to India and there is no access to them by the UNHCR,” she said. “We are calling today for pressure to be brought to bear on the Indian government to allow United Nations officials access to the border regions of Burma on a permanent basis and not force asylum seekers to have to make the long trek down to New Delhi.”

The director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, Salai Bawi Lian Mang, welcomed the report.

“I hope it will mark a great impact and it shows how serious the situation in Burma is,” he said. “In Chin State people suffer religious persecution – 90 percent of Chin is Christian and then the Burmese Government has been systematically persecuting Chin Christian for the past two decades.”

The report called for the Association of South East Asian Nations, European Union, and the United States to increase pressure on Burma to improve humanitarian assistance to the Chin.

Flower that leads to famine

by Jewel Topsfield

WA Today

February 20, 2009

ONCE every 50 years a species of bamboo flowers in the Burmese state of Chin, heralding the beginning of a famine.

This sounds like the stuff of myth, the first line of a fairytale told to wide-eyed children around the campfire. But it is a well-documented freakish natural disaster, known as “mautam”, which also affects states in north-eastern India.

Victor Biak Lian, from the Chin Human Rights Organisation, who is in Australia to raise money for the latest famine, says that when the bamboo flowers, it produces seeds that rats eat. “These rats multiply so fast and there is a rat plague,” he says. The rats then devoured the rice crops in the isolated, mountainous region, leading to famine.

The last time the bamboo flowered was in 1958 — leading to famines in Chin and the neighbouring Indian state of Mizoram — with previous occurrences in 1911 and 1862.

Mr Lian says the bamboo began flowering at the end of 2006. A report by the Chin Human Rights Organisation last year said up to 200 villages were directly affected by severe food shortages and about 100,000 — 20 per cent of the Chin population — were in need of immediate food aid.

In Melbourne there are about 1400 Chin people, a Christian ethnic minority group persecuted by the Burmese military junta. The local community helped organise the Chin Live Aid Concert at the Box Hill Town Hall last Saturday that raised money for the bamboo flower victims.

Concerts, featuring Burmese and Indian singers, will also be held in Adelaide tonight and Perth next Saturday night.

Mr Lian, who fled Burma during the 1988 uprising and now lives in exile in Canada and Thailand, will also go to Canberra next week to lobby the Federal Government to raise awareness about the famine and push for a democratic system in Burma. “We strongly believe Burma needs a federal system in which all the different ethnicities are able to survive,” he says. “If we go on as it is, ethnic groups will be wiped out because of the Burmanisation policy, which is to make one language, one religion.”

No refuge on the southern border

Reports of organised human trafficking and extortion by Malaysian immigration officials, while Thailand turns a blind eye, are too credible to ignore.

By: Erika Fry


Published: 26/04/2009 at 12:00 AM

It’s hard to know when a nightmare truly begins, and while caught in its grim unreality, when it will ever end.

Lian (not his real name) is a 25-year old ethnic Chin man who fled his home in Burma out of fear of the military in September, 2006. He had been a truck driver, but often encountered Burmese soldiers who demanded – regardless of his duty to deliver the day’s haul – that he drive them places. One day, he was taking some soldiers to a village when he ran out of petrol. The soldiers believed he had done so on purpose and they broke his windscreen and beat him, leaving a scar still plain to see above his left eye.

Lian’s story was made available to Spectrum by Amy Alexander, an advocacy officer with the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) who interviewed him. According to the case study, Lian was taken to an army camp and his ID was confiscated. When he was released, the soldiers’ goods had been stolen from his truck and they blamed him for the loss.

Lian fled and came to Thailand, where he couldn’t find a job and where an agent told him he should go to Malaysia to claim refugee status with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Thai refugee camps do not register ethnic Chin, and have not officially processed new refugees for several years.

He went to Malaysia and sought out the UNHCR office, but a security guard there turned him away for lack of documents. Despite visiting the premises every day for two weeks, he never figured out how to get access to a UNHCR officer.

He was arrested a year or so later in a 3am immigration raid, put barefoot on a lorry and sent to a detention centre where detainees were not given fresh clothes and told they could only drink the bath water.

One night a month later he was taken with a busload of 73 other refugees and migrants to the Thai-Malaysia border. Immigration officials took them to a jungle area where a handful of brokering agents who spoke Malay and Thai were waiting in cars.

The group was told these agents had already bought them from the immigration officials and they were packed under blankets, 15 to a car, and driven 15 minutes to another jungle area, this time in Thailand.

Here there was a big tent with more agents, patrolled by several guards with guns. They were told, “If you can get money sent to us, then we can get you where you need to go. If not, you’ll have problems.”

Lian could not immediately get the money (the agents call relatives or contacts of the refugees and migrants and arrange a transfer), and so he spent six days in the camp in which he was beaten, underfed and kept in the tent.

He eventually reached a friend in Kuala Lumpur who was able to transfer the necessary 2,000 RM (19,600 baht) to the agents’ account that night. With that, he was free to leave, and an agent led him and a group of 13 others back into Malaysia on foot. They were climbing over the border fence into the country when they were intercepted and drew fire from Malaysian border guards. They scattered in the jungle and regrouped the next morning. The agent had left them and the group was soon picked up by a vehicle that took them to a police station inside Malaysia.

They were put back in detention, this time in a facility that held 300 people per cell. Lian was shuffled to a few other detention centres before he was again deported to Thailand three months later. This time the immigration bus took 93 people to the border in the dark of night.

“When the immigration bus stopped, four agents came out from the jungle and met the bus. The authorities opened our handcuffs and told us to follow the agents,” said Lian.

The agents walked them through the jungle until they reached a large river, where a boat was waiting. They were ferried across the river to yet more agents, who separated them into groups of those that could pay, and those that couldn’t.

Lian called the same friend, who promised to pay the 1,900 RM and in the same way he had come to the camp, he was shuttled back by agents to Kuala Lumpur.

Lian now lives in fear in the jungle on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. He has a Chin refugee card, but as yet no documentation from the UNHCR, which has temporarily closed its registration for refugees, and no immediate hopes for resettlement.

THE REVOLVING DOOR As exhausting, costly and unfortunate as the story of Lian’s asylum-seeking journey is, his experience of being bounced around borders and cycled through prisons and detention centres is by no means atypical among the many refugees and migrants from Burma that seek better lives in Thailand and Malaysia.

And also apparently common, though not well publicised, are cases in which migrants and refugees in the hands of Malaysian immigration officials experience extortion and trafficking at the Thai-Malaysia border. In most cases the refugees and migrants buy their way back to Malaysia by arranging the payment of the agent’s 1,200 to 2,000 RM (11,800 to 19,600 baht) ransom fee. When they can’t find the money or the friend to make this payment, they are reportedly sold to Thai fishing boats, brothels, and factories.

While human rights and ethnic Burmese community-based organisations, as well as a handful of media outlets in Malaysia have documented these cases for years (they refer to the Thai-Malaysian border as “the revolving door”), the allegations have never prompted more than staunch denials by Malaysian authorities and complete disregard from their Thai counterparts. Some analysts say the issue has never received significant attention in Thailand because of the turbulent environment in the nation’s South.

Monitors of the situation are hopeful that this will soon change, thanks in part to the release of a report prepared for the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations – Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand – earlier this month.

The report, which is based on a year-long investigation and which involved a number of personal interviews similar to Lian’s case study, alleges that Malaysian officials have been complicit in the extortion and human trafficking of a few thousand Burmese refugees at the Thai-Malaysian border. Investigators also found many cases in which migrants had been sexually assaulted or had their rights abused during the arrest/detention/deportation cycle.

While the report does not directly implicate the involvement of Thai officials, it does suggest a sizeable, well-established network of human traffickers operates rather unabashedly, and in cooperation with Malaysian officials, along Thailand’s southern border. Activities documented in the report centre around the Thai border city of Sungai Golok and Malaysia’s Kelantan state, as well as Padang Besar in Malaysia’s Peris state.

Those familiar with the report say it focuses mainly on Malaysia, because the information that prompted the investigation came from Burmese populations and human rights organisations in Malaysia.

Phil Robertson, a researcher on migration in Southeast Asia who has studied the issue, said, “What this is pointing out is something that has evidently been going on for a long time.”

He adds, “I was told two years ago by UNHCR staff in Malaysia that there were persons of concern [refugees] that had files and they disappeared for three or four years. They’d come back and tell these stories. I’ve met fishermen in Mahachai that speak of jungle camps ringed in barbed wired and men with guns, and being sold to fishermen.

“This is not something new. It’s only new that the international community is finally turning attention to this longtime lawless border.”

He says it is now the obligation of the Malaysian and Thai governments to act on the report.

“Malaysian immigration officials and RELA [Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia, Malaysia’s 500,000-strong civilian immigration corps, which has the power to investigate and arrest all suspected illegal immigrants] are directly implicated in selling people. This is criminal behavior and it warrants being investigated and prosecuted.

“While the Thai side gets less focus in this report, it takes two to tango. At minimum, the Thai government must mount an impartial investigation into the holding of these vast numbers of people. To not do so would be complicit in trafficking.”

He adds that “both countries have good, clear anti-trafficking laws. The culture of impugnity must come to an end.”

Information collected by investigators, and which has been forwarded on to law enforcement agencies, paints an absurdly complete picture of the criminal network. Details provided to the committee during interviews, previously published in media and NGO documents, and includes names of persons to whom the ransom payments were allegedly made; payment locations in Malaysia and Thailand; bank account numbers to which extortion payments are deposited; locations along the Thailand-Malaysia border where migrants are reportedly take by Malaysian officials; and the identification of people allegedly involved in the trafficking of migrants and refugees.

The agents are believed to be Thai, Malay and Burmese of a variety of ethnicities. In some reports, refugees at the border were sorted according to ethnicity.

Victims include Burmese refugees and migrants of numerous ethnicities including Chin, Rohingya, Shan and Mon who come to Malaysia to seek work or UNHCR documentation for third-country resettlement. Most are arrested in large-scale, late night raids conducted by the RELA. The organisation has been described as fascist and in the past members reportedly received a bounty for each arrest they made. In many cases, refugees have had their UNHCR documentation discarded and personal property confiscated or lost completely.

LIVING IN FEAR Malaysia does not recognise refugees, but it does allow the UNHCR to operate in the country to process and resettle them. Accordingly, many refugees from Burma take the risk of travelling to Malaysia in the hopes of reaching the UNHCR before immigration officials reach them. As of January 2009, there were 27,000 “persons of concern” from Burma registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia; it is believed there are at least 30,000 more waiting to be processed.

“It still happens that people with documents, and within weeks of resettlement, will be rounded up and deported. What’s ironic is that Malaysia is hostile to refugees that are trying to get out of Malaysia,” said Ms Alexander of the CHRO, who in addition to Lian interviewed a number of Chin refugees that have experienced the arrest/detention/deportation cycle. She noted that it is also common for employers to hire migrants and then call in RELA for a raid a few days before their scheduled payment.

Once arrested by RELA, the migrants and refugees (children too) are generally detained in facilities with overcrowded and generally poor conditions. Deportation to a “jungle camp” at the Thai-Malaysia border usually follows several months later.

As for the policy logic behind the deportation of Burmese refugees to the Thai border, Mr Robertson said, “these structures and systems are only as sophisticated as they need to be. The fundamental issue was that someone wanted to get these people out, and somewhere along the way, people figured out how to make money off of it.”

Unsurprisingly, these activities have only exacerbated the economic hardship and considerable level of fear migrants and refugees face.

When migrants cannot pay their ransom fees, families are split apart and sold to different industries. Little is known about the fate of the children at the border.

Another woman Ms Alexander interviewed who had been deported with her young daughter was told by agents: “Do you want to die here or do you want to be sold to a Thai night club? If you want to stay here, you will be the only woman and there is no guaranteeing what can happen to you.”

Because of these ordeals, migrants and refugees in Malaysia live in fear – often hiding in the jungle or barely leaving their of homes – because of the country’s peculiar immigration policy.

To help cope with these problems, Ms Alexander says migrants and refugees living in Malaysia have formed highly organised communities and networks of support that can be mobilised and try to scrape together sufficient funds to free a community member who gets caught up at the border.

She is hopeful the US Senate committee’s report will provide an impetus for a sustainable solution to their problems.

“Right now, Malaysia is still issuing denials and insisting these are just the lies of international governments. But the accounts are credible – there are just so many. This is so systematic, it has happened so many times, to so many people.”

While Malaysian officials responded defensively to the US investigation and denied all allegations, there has recently been a turnover in Malaysia’s immigration ranks and a police investigation into the matter was reportedly launched on April 1.

Even so, the raids continue. Ms Alexander received word earlier this week that another 300 refugees and migrants had been arrested and detained earlier this week. Among the group are pregnant women, a number of children, and UNHCR documented asylum-seekers.

The Royal Thai Police did not respond to requests for information pertaining to this article in time for publication.

This is the first part in a series about human trafficking of Burmese refugees and migrants at the Thai-Malaysia border.

Chin suffers from inadequate access to protection in India
By Nava Thakuria
New Delhi, Tue, 07, April 2009

The Chin people of Burma, who are living in the Indian capital, suffers from less access to humanitarian relief and services by the local government and also the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in New Delhi.

In a new report released today, the Chin Human Rights Organization finds that Chin people seeking protection as refugees face prolonged wait-periods in extremely poor conditions with very little access to humanitarian relief.

The CHRO has appealed New Delhi and the UNHCR to ensure that Chin in Delhi have access to expedient and fair protection mechanisms as well as basic human necessities.

“So many Chin in Delhi live in deplorable conditions- without jobs, without basic amenities, without access to social services,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, executive director of CHRO adding “In fact, the Chin are refugees in desperate need of protection, but it takes years to gain protection by the UNHCR. Meanwhile, the Chin are living on the bare margins of society in Delhi.”

Currently, the estimated Chin population in Delhi is 4,200- the largest asylum-seeking population from Burma living in Delhi.

Sixty-six percent of the Chin community are unemployed and those who are employed typically work 10- to 12-hour days for less than Rs. 70 (US$1.35) per day. Illnesses are common and access to affordable and quality healthcare is limited. More than half of those Chin who died in 2007 and 2008 succumbed to easily treatable and preventable health problems, such as diarrhea, stated in a statement issued by CHRO from California.

Mentionable that, hundreds of thousands of people of Chin were forced to leave their homes in the Burmese province to escape from severe ethnic and religious persecution of the military regime. They arrive in India in search of security and the hope of enjoying basic freedoms. Currently, some 75,000 to 100,000 ethnic Chin from Burma are living on the India-Burma border State of Mizoram.

As UNHCR has no access and provides no protection to the Chin population living in Mizoram, the only available means of protection in India is to travel some 2,400 kilometers to Delhi. Due to the significant distance and expense of this trip, only a small minority of the Chin population in India is able to make it to Delhi. As of December 2008, the population of Chin in Delhi numbered 4,200.

Although UNHCR supports several programs to provide for and improve the welfare of the Chin community, many of these programs are inadequate and ineffective to meet the community needs. Access to such programs is limited to UNHCR-recognized refugees and more than half of the Chin community in New Delhi are not eligible to benefit from such programs.

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles