August 11, 2008

Since 2006, Chin State of Burma (also known as Myanmar), bordering the Mizoram state of India, has been plagued by a severe food crisis. The year 2006 marked the beginning of a new cycle of bamboo flowering, which occurs about every 50 years in the region. It triggered the explosion in the population of rats resulting in the subsequent destruction of crops. This has caused a severe shortage of food for local communities primarily dependent on subsistence farming through shifting cultivation. The phenomenon has occurred three times since 1862, and each occurrence has ended in catastrophic famine for communities in the area.

Based on the latest field surveys conducted in the affected areas, Chin Human Rights Organization estimates that as many as 200 villages have been directly affected by this severe food shortage associated with the bamboo flowering and no less than 100, 000 people or 20 percent of the entire population of Chin State may be in need of immediate food aid. Food scarcity is more severe in remote areas where families are being reduced to one meal a day or have nothing at all left to eat. The humanitarian consequences stemming from the dying bamboo and exacerbated by conditions imposed by the military regime, such as forced labour and the confiscation of farmland for cash crops such as tea and Jatropha for biofuel, are enormous, and there are clear indications that unless urgent action is taken to address the crisis, the situation could soon turn into a large-scale catastrophe affecting all parts of Chin State.

PWRDF has approved a grant of $15,000 in response to this crisis. The Chin Human Rights Organization in partnership with the local Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee is assisting 700 families from 20 different villages in Chin State with food relief, mainly rice, that will help sustain them for a month.

Rampaging Rats Bring Starvation to Burma

By Bernadette Carroll
September 26, 2008
BBC News, Chin state, Burma ( http://news. 2/hi/asia- pacific/7633986. stm )

Rats destroy subsistence crops in Burma’s Chin State

In Burma’s north-west Chin state, thousands of people say they are starving. The Mara tribe say hundreds of their community have died in the past two months alone.

Local human rights groups say of an estimated 500,000 population, 100,000 people are at crisis point.

They blame a natural phenomenon, which occurs every 50 years in the region – a plague of rats.

The last time it happened – in the late 1950s – an estimated 15,000 people died from famine.

Across the border, India has implemented emergency measures to deal with the threat, but Burma’s military government has been silent on the matter.

Bamboo flowers

The United Nations World Food Programme has conducted an assessment in the region.

In an email earlier this year to a Burmese non-governmental organisation, the WFP’s country director for Burma, Chris Kaye, concluded that “people are not dying of starvation” and that the “distribution of WFP relief food would be inappropriate”.

It is a response which inspired over 50 people from the Mara tribe to walk for days through thick, mountainous jungle to meet me at a secret location on the India-Burma borderlands.

They say that the WFP’s assessment did not include southern Chin where they live and that if the international community fails to take them into account, their tribe may not survive.

They all tell the same story of how, when the bamboo flowers, it causes a plague of rats.

When the rats have finished gorging on the bamboo fruits, they go on to devour farm crops, which provide the main form of income for the Mara people.

“You can track the movement of the rats,” one man said. “Overnight the whole mountain range can be destroyed.”

Another told me how he had tried to fend off the rats by building rat traps all around his field of maize.

“More than 100, but it’s meaningless, I cannot protect the farm,” he said.

Painfully thin

The nearest hospital is miles away through mountainous jungle. All the villagers I met were painfully thin.

Dr Sasa is a local from southern Chin state and a medical student in his final year of studies in Armenia.

Before the food shortages took hold, villagers gave their livestock to pay for his training so that he could return and be their doctor.

Villagers say the Burmese government is doing nothing to help
He was not due back until he finished his studies but when he heard the WFP had dismissed claims of a famine, he set up mobile clinics in the borderlands.

In the two months he has been back in the region, he says he has delivered dozens of dead babies and seen over 200 people starve to death.

“Many of them die of malnutrition,” he says.

“Our whole body needs to be filled with food, which builds our immunity against disease. When you are malnourished, disease comes to you and you have no ability to resist.”

Government inaction

Dr Sasa and the villagers all say that the WFP’s assessment did not include them.

That view is shared by the chief minister of Mizoram state in neighbouring India, Pu Zoramthanga. Mizoram is also affected by the bamboo flowering.

“Those visitors went to the accessible areas. There will be no famine there,” says the minister. “If they had visited the area near the border with Mizoram, certainly people are suffering. They have to go back and see.”

He says if protective measures had been put in place by the Burmese government, the famine would not be happening now.

“The government of India sent a good amount of money for advance preparation to combat this – to make storage of rice and instead let us grow cash crops like ginger and turmeric, which the rats won’t eat,” the minister adds.

“With this we combat the bamboo flowering and famine.”

The villagers I have met all tell me that the Burmese government is doing nothing to help. If anything, they say, the government is making the situation worse.

They say that the military – which has increased its presence in Chin state – taxes them, takes their possessions including their livestock, and forces them to work without pay as labourers or porters.

One pastor told me he advised his parishioners to do whatever the military asked of them.

“We ask God to endure this suffering,” he says.

When I asked him how it would help, he referred to the Bible.

“If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other, we taught like that. Is this right? I don’t know,” he asks.

Super Rats Invade; Blamed for Myanmar Famine
As Thousands Starve, Officials Seize Food Aid, Relief Groups Say

ABC News (
October 16, 2008

A rat infestation so severe that an estimated 100,000 people are on the brink of starvation is devastating the Chin State in Western Burma, and the nation’s government is doing nothing to help its people, according to activists fighting for aid.

The region is currently suffering from “maudam,” a phenomenon that occurs about once every 50 years, in which flowering bamboo trees produce a fruit that nourishes the rat population. The last time it struck was in 1958, with other occurrences in 1911 and 1862.

Human right organizations on the ground say as many as 100 children and elderly have already died from malnutrition as the rats ravage the community’s crops. While this infestation started as a natural disaster, it is being met by gross neglect by the nation’s leaders, according to the rights groups.

“The famine is little known, poorly dealt with, and ignored by the government,” said Salai Bawi Lian (Executive Director) of the Chin Human Rights Organization, which is based in Canada.

“In this area, people have been suffering, dying, no people know about it,” Lian said of the Chin region, which he described at the most isolated jungle area in the country.

Instead of cannibalizing their young for food, as these rats normally do, the bamboo fruit provides the rats with the means to multiply by the millions. And when there is no fruit left, the plague of hungry rats decimate rice and corn crops in Western Myanmar so much so that an estimated 200 villages of an estimated 100,000 Chin people are now without food.

“Rats are everywhere, everywhere,” Victor Biak Lian, of the Chin Human Rights organization who recently visited the region. “What I see is starvation.”

And while the rat problem is explosive, the rights groups say that what is even more horrific is the way in which the Myanmar government has responded: by doing nothing. Burma is not the only nation plagued by this phenomenon, but aid workers say it is the only one where no action is being taken by its government. The bamboo flower-fuelled disaster has also hit India, but the government there formed alliances with NGOs and prepared for the crisis.

According to a report by activist Edith Mirante for the NGO Project Maje, India has responded by paying Indian citizens for every rat caught in regional villages, building rat-proof granaries, and building roads and helipads to access outlying villages so that food aid can be provided to needy citizens.

And although the Indian government and NGOs are providing food aid for the affected region there – the Bangladeshi government has also received food aid and support from the United Nations World Food Program for its maudam problem – activists say no such relief is being provided to the Chin people by the Burmese government.

Aid that does make it to the Chin is, for the most part, coming in the form of 60-pound bags of donated rice from Western Christian groups. And even that is reportedly endangered.

Myanmar Officials Seizing Food Aid, Say Officials

The Chin Human Rights Organization reports that more than 450 bags of rice donated as food aid by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of the Province of Myanmar in April were confiscated by the Burmese government. The group says this rice was then sold at an overpriced rate so that the local authorities could make a profit.

“We have to be very careful when dealing with the government in Myanmar,” said Paul Risley, a spokesperson for the Asian division of U.N. World Food Program. “They are almost as bad as the government in North Korea, with a bunch of old generals sitting high in their newly built capital.”

The U.N. has recently sent international staff to Chin State, but Risley said aid agencies in the affected areas have to be careful not just to provide food for needy villages, which could lead to those villages being overwhelmed by hungry villagers from other areas. Instead, the U.N. has proposed a work-for-food program in which Chin farmers and villages will jointly work on community projects — like building roads and schools — in exchange for bags of rice.

“As long as we are taking care of the food problem that the generals of the Myanmar government would otherwise have to deal with themselves, we are fairly confident we can do this,” Risley continued, saying that the government could end up constraining relief efforts. The U.N. is currently asking the U.S. and other countries to provide funding and support for the Chin.

The Chin Human Rights Organization and the U.S. Campaign for Burma believe at least $1 million is needed for immediate assistance.

Experts estimate that the maudam will last between two and five years, and relief organizations say that a sustained relief effort will be needed to address a devastated Chin society.

The Chin people are an ethnic minority in Burma – one of the many minorities that the Burmese government mistreats, according to human rights activists. To make matters worse, says Jeremy Woodrum of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, the Chin people are also Christians, forming a religious minority in the nation that the Myanmar government reportedly often abuses.

“The Burmese government is among the most brutal in the world, with twice as many mistreated villages than are in Darfur and the Sudan,” said Woodrum. “Having a natural disaster wipe out the Chin people, a detested ethnic and religious minority, serves the Burmese regime’s interest.”

The Burmese government did not return phone calls from ABC News.

India urged to take Burmese refugees

Australia Broadcasting Corporation

Radion Australia: February 2, 2009 12:19:39

A report released last week by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch provides a rare insight into on-going human rights abuses by Burma’s military authorities against Burma’s ethnic Chin who live in the western region near the border with India.

The human rights group is pressing India to grant the United Nations High Commission for Refugees – UNHCR – access to some 100,000 Chin living in India’s Mizoram State, after fleeing persecution and poverty in Burma.

Presenter: Ron Corben
Speakers: Amy Alexander reseacher Human Rights Watch; Sara Colm, senior researcher Human Rights Watch; Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Chin Human Rights Organization director

CORBEN: The Human Rights Watch report into the plight of Burma’s ethnic Chin people followed a three year investigation into abuses committed by the Burmese Government against the Chin – a largely Christian minority. The report, entitled “We are like forgotten people”, documented widespread abuses carried out by the Burmese Army and government officials. Amy Alexander is a researcher and co-author to the report that covered 140 interviews with Chin refugees in Malaysia, Thailand and India.

ALEXANDER: 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.

CORBEN: The report spoke of the Chin facing regular arrests and imprisonment to stifle dissent as well as the military undertaking religious persecution. Some 90 per cent of the Chin population is Christian. Many are forced to work as porters for the Army. Political dissidents reported beatings and torture by electric shock.

The ongoing rights abuse over several years has led to as many as 100,000 Chin fleeing into India’s Mizoram state.
Sara Colm is a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch which is pressing India to grant UNHCR access to the Chin to provide assistance.

COLM: We have people fleeing really repressive human-rights situations in Burma to India and there is no access to them by the UNHCR … We are calling today for pressure to be brought to bear on the Indian Government to allow U.N. 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.

CORBEN: Later I asked Ms Colm how India would respond to the call from Human Rights Watch.

COLM: I think the fact that Chin have been fleeing Burma through Mizoram state of India for more several decades now and for the most part there has not been any refugee camps allowed to be established there, UNHCR has not had a presence there indicates it could be difficult to get the Indian Government to agree. I mean India has shown itself to be a very hospitable nation for people fleeing – for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing other countries in the region. Even though India is not a signatory to the 1951 refugee convention it takes many, many refugees and many of them do end up being recognised officially by UNHCR and then others the Indian government takes under its wing.

CORBEN: But the Chin people’s plight has been aggravated in recent years by food shortages and famine conditions. In 2005 United Nations surveys found 70 per cent of the Chin in Burma lived below the poverty line, and 40 per cent faced severe food shortages.
Chin Human Rights Organization director, Salai Bawi Lian Mang, who welcomed the Human Rights Watch report, says the food shortages have added to the suffering of the Chin people.

LIAN MANG: Chin state, even in a normal situation is one of the poorest states in Burma, even by the Burma standard and on top of that every 50 year the bamboo flower and the rat infestation and the rat go into the field and destroy all farm products. In Chin state it began in early 2007. The Chin Human Rights Organization report released a report in July 2008 – according to our research and report over 200 villages have no, nothing to eat and about 100,000 Chin are at the brink of starvation and this Chin state is facing famine and the government of Burma, the State Peace and Development Council is doing nothing,so this is a very serious situation.

Human Rights Watch shows systematic, officially sanctioned religious freedom violations.

DUBLIN, February 20, 2009 (Compass Direct News) – A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released in January details serious and ongoing abuses against the Chin people, a minority group in Burma’s northwest who claim to be 90 percent Christian.

HRW’s research echoes a 2004 report by the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) that described targeted abuse of Christians in Chin state, with the Burmese army subjecting pastors and church members to forced labor, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and sometimes death.

While religious oppression is extreme in Chin state, restrictions also apply elsewhere in Burma, also known as Myanmar. Most recently, officials in January forced the closure of more than 100 churches in Rangoon and ordered owners of apartment buildings and conference facilities not to rent their properties to religious groups.

Based on interviews with Chin refugees in India and Malaysia between 2003 and 2008, HRW’s report describes how an increasing number of army battalions stationed in Chin state since 1988 have inflicted forced labor and arbitrary fines on the Chin people, as well as bullied them away from Christianity toward Buddhism.

“When we meet the army, we are shaking,” a Chin refugee pastor told HRW. “Whatever they want is law.”

The HRW report, entitled “We Are Like Forgotten People,” notes that soldiers frequently forced Christians to donate finances and labor to pagoda construction projects in areas where there were few or no Buddhist residents.

They also occasionally forced Christians to worship in Buddhist pagodas. One Chin pastor described how Burmese soldiers brought him to a pagoda and prodded him with their guns, commanding him to pray as a Buddhist.

“They said that this is a Buddhist country and that I should not practice Christianity,” he told HRW.

The military forced village headmen to present “volunteers” for military training or army construction projects and secured “donations” such as food or finance for army battalions. Soldiers severely beat or detained headmen if a village failed to meet quotas, seizing livestock or property in retribution.

Pastors often faced similar treatment, particularly if church members were accused – often without proof – of involvement with the Chin National Front insurgency group. HRW listed arrest, detention and torture as methods used against those accused of being part of the Chin National Front, based across the border in northeast India. Torture included beatings with sticks or guns and electric shocks via metal clips attached to high-voltage batteries. Such measures were also used to crush dissent against army policies such as failure to pay extortionate and arbitrary fees.

The military government promoted Buddhism over all other religions in Chin state through threats and inducements, destroying churches and other religious symbols, and restricting the printing and importing of Bibles and other Christian literature, HRW reported.

A judge in 1999 sentenced one man from Falam township to three years in prison for bringing Chin language Bibles into Burma, contravening Burma’s 1965 Censor Law. Authorities also burned 16,000 copies of Chin and other ethnic language Bibles brought into neighboring Sagaing Division, another Chin majority area, in 2000.

‘Campaign of Ethnocide’

CHRO’s 2004 report, “Religious Persecution: A Campaign of Ethnocide Against Chin Christians in Burma,” explained that Christianity had become inseparable from Chin culture following the arrival of American Baptist missionaries in 1899.

The report, based on information gathered in Chin state, gave numerous examples of the destruction of churches and crosses, the burning of Bibles and restrictions on other religious publications and activities between 1993 and 2004 – including the extrajudicial killings of four Chin Christians in 1993.

Burmese authorities routinely denied permission for the construction of new churches and required permits for large church gatherings, although lengthy bureaucratic processes meant that most of these gatherings were eventually postponed or cancelled.

A September 2008 U.S. Department of State report confirmed that Chin state authorities have not granted permission to build a new church since 2003.

As recently as last November, a government official ordered residents of Tayawaddy village in neighboring Sagaing Division to destroy the foundations of a new church building erected by members of a Chin Christian student fellowship. A report in the Chinland Guardian claimed villagers were subsequently ordered not to rent their homes to Chin students or the homes would be destroyed.

Enticement to Convert

CHRO’s report gave clear evidence of government support for coerced conversions. For example, the government offered free secular education to several children from impoverished families, only to place them as novice monks in Buddhist monasteries in Rangoon.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has also sent Buddhist monks to villages and towns throughout Chin state under the Hill Regions Buddhist Mission program, one of several Buddhist missionary initiatives highlighted on the ministry’s website. Chin residents who spoke to CHRO likened these monks to “military intelligence” operatives who worked in partnership with Burmese soldiers to control the Chin people.

According to one Chin resident, “Anyone who doesn’t abide by the monks’ orders is reported to the State Peace and Development Council [Burmese government officials] and punished by the army.”

Another Chin man from Matupi township attended a government-sponsored “social welfare” training session only to discover that it was a propaganda session led by a Buddhist monk.

“In the training we were taught the 17 facts of how to attack and disfigure Christians,” he explained.

The 17-point method encouraged converts to criticize Christian ways of life as corrupting culture in Burma, to point out weaknesses in Christianity, and to attack Christians by both violent and non-violent means.

“We were promised that 1,200 kyats per month [US$190] would be provided to those families who became Buddhist,” the training participant added. That amount of money is significant in the Burmese economy.

The instructor also ensured participants that they would be exempt from “portering” and other forms of forced labor and compulsory “donations” if they converted, and that the government would provide education for their children.

“I became a Buddhist because of such privileges rather than because I think Buddhism is better than Christianity,” the Chin participant told CHRO.

Religious Policy Elsewhere

According to CHRO, both the Burmese army and the monks are pursuing an unofficial government policy summed up in three words; “Amyo, Batha, Thathana,” which translates as “One race, one language, one religion” – or Burman, Burmese and Buddhist.

This policy was exemplified by the forced closure in January of more than 100 churches in the capital, Rangoon.

Officials on Jan. 5 invited pastors from more than 100 Rangoon churches to a meeting where they were ordered to sign documents pledging to cease operation of their churches or face imprisonment. About 50 pastors attended, according to Burmese news agency Mizzima.

A CHRO spokesman told Compass yesterday that a significant number of these churches were ethnic rather than majority Burman churches.

In mid-January, officials ordered several other major Rangoon churches to close, including Wather Hope Church, Emmanuel Church and an Assemblies of God Church. (See Compass Direct News, “Burma Clamps Down on Christians,” Jan. 21.)

Officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs in January summoned the owners of buildings where churches met and ordered them not to rent their properties to religious groups, according to another local online news source, the Democratic Voice of Burma.

In the late 1990s, Burma stopped issuing permits for land purchase or the construction of new churches in Rangoon and elsewhere, leading many Burmese Christians to conduct services in rented apartments or office buildings.

The church closure orders may simply be an extension of Burma’s existing religious policies, which elevate Buddhism in an effort to solidify national identity. The country’s population is 82 percent Buddhist, 9 percent Christian and 4 percent Muslim, with traditional ethnic, Chinese and Hindu religions accounting for the rest.

In a 2007 report describing religious persecution throughout Burma, including Chin state, Christian Solidarity Worldwide cited the “Program to Destroy the Christian Religion in Burma,” a 17-point document that had circulated widely in Rangoon. Allegedly authorized by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the program’s first point declared that, “There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practiced.”

The Ministry of Religious Affairs subsequently pressured religious organizations to publicly condemn CSW’s report and deny all claims of religious discrimination in Burma.


HRW Urges Myanmar to Stop Abuse of Chin Minority

January 28, 2009

The high military presence has deeply affected the lives of Christian Chin in western Myanmar    The high military presence has deeply affected the lives of Christian Chin in western Myanmar    

A report by Human Rights Watch called on the military government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Wednesday to end ongoing rights abuse against the largely Christian ethnic Chin population in the country’s west. The New York-based rights group also called on India to provide better protection for the Chin refugees who have fled to the state of Mizoram, which borders Myanmar.

The report, which was released in Bangkok, documents a wide range of abuses that have taken place over recent years, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, forced labour, torture, beatings, religious repression and the destruction of Christian crosses.

A senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, Sara Colm, said the high military presence in Chin had deeply affected people’s lives, as they were “basically being controlled and ruined by the system.”

She said that people had told them about hardships in Chin state, “where they can’t get to their own farms because they are forced to work for the military, for example building roads for free. Through this report today and our research we’re trying to expose the problems of western Burma.”

Problems in India too

There are also problems in India, where up to 100,000 Chin have fled into the state of Mizoram to escape persecution and poverty in recent years.

Many of them face discrimination and the constant threat of arrest and deportation back to Myanmar where they are at risk of imprisonment and death.

Amy Alexander, a researcher and co-writer of the report, said that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) had “requested access to Mizoram but so far had been denied it by the Indian government.” She urged Delhi to allow “access to this very large population in need of protection.”

Some 4,000 Chin have trekked over 2,000 kilometres to the UNHCR offices in Delhi to seek registration.

Food shortages exacerbating situation

There are likely to be more Chin coming into India as the situation they face in Myanmar is further exacerbated by a serious food shortage after rats infested the local fields. The director of the Chin Human Rights Organisation, Salai Bawi Lian Mang, said 70 percent of the population was living below the poverty line and 40 percent faced severe food shortages.

“According to our research and report, over 200 villages have nothing to eat and above 100,000 Chin are at the brink of starvation — and Chin state is facing famine and the government of Burma — the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) is doing nothing so this is a very serious situation.”

The Human Rights Watch report calls for the military to halt its abuses and allow international aid and humanitarian relief organisations access to Chin state as well as urging India to accede to the 1951 Refugee Convention and end the forced deportations of Chin.

Moreover, it appeals to the international community to increase pressure on Myanmar.
Ron Corben 28/01/09

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.

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles