CHRO

Reign of Terror

This document details human rights violations committed by SAC actors during August and September, 2021. Attacks on the civilian population and civilian infrastructure initiated by the State Administration Council (SAC) junta have become increasingly relentless in western Burma/Myanmar since August 2021. Junta soldiers operating in Chin State and parts of Sagaing and Magwe Regions, under the Northwestern Regional Military Command based in Monywa, have conducted a campaign of unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and deliberate targeting of civilian and religious infrastructure.

Reign of Terror

Human Rights Briefing August September

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Reign of Terror ReportCHRO

BRIEFING : THE NEED FOR URGENT CROSS-BORDER HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE ON THE WESTERN FRONT

September 12, 2021: A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Myanmar/Burma’s poorest state following an escalation of fighting in Thantlang and Hakha Townships, Chin State. This adds to a state-wide health crisis following the new wave of COVID-19 infections and an existing humanitarian crisis in Chin State’s southern townships, where fighting between the Tatmadaw and Chinland Defense Force (CDF) has been ongoing since May 2021.

Briefer_Humanitarian_CHRO

Christians in Annual Admissions  

Persecuted Karen, Karenni, and Chin Christians Not Allowed

Refugee resettlement embodies America’s humanitarian tradition. In a time of increasing tension and conflict, it is essential that America’s door remains open to victims of violence and intolerance who have no other place to go.

The legal basis of the refugee admissions program is the Refugee Act of 1980, which defines a refugee in words that closely track those of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees: “a refugee is a person who is outside his/her country and is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of a well-founded fear that he/she will be persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The Act also allows the President to extend this definition to certain persons still resident in countries he specifies.

Christians Overlooked

Unfortunately, several persecuted communities in Burma with strong historical ties to the U.S. have been overlooked by this policy. The Karen, Karenni, and Chin people are systematically persecuted by the Burmese military government. A very high percentage of these people are Christian and are oppressed because of their ethnicity and faith. These people were our allies in the 2nd World War and fought side by side with our soldiers to repel the Axis forces. They were promised by the British that they would have their own homeland after the war, but it never happened. After the war the Burmese majority–who sided with the Axis–engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing that continues to this day. The situation deteriorated greatly in 1988 when the military took over the government. The Karen, Karenni, and Chin have been fighting for survival for nearly fifty years, and could be considered the “forgotten people.”

Currently more than 100,000 Karen, Karenni, and Chin men, women, and children live in refugee camps in Thailand and India. Thousands more are internally displaced in the Burmese jungle. These internally displaced individuals are cutoff from outside assistance and live one step ahead of roving Burmese soldiers.

In FY 1998 the ceiling for refugee admissions from East Asia was 14,000. In the first seven months of that year, some 4,400 refugees arrived in the U.S., only 86 were from Burma. Most of these were ethnic Burmese.

In FY 1999, 10,204 refugees entered the United States from East Asia. The majority of FY 1999 admissions were from Vietnam. Again, most, if not all the Burma admissions were ethnic Burmese.

Time for Change

It is time for the United States to remember our forgotten allies and specifically include the Karen, Karenni, and Chin refugees and displaced persons in the annual admissions from East Asia.

Please Contact your Congressional Representatives in Washington today.

http://www.house.gov
http://www.senate.gov
Source: Christian Freedom International Website
http://www.christianfreedom.org/campaigns/refugeepolicy.html

REFUGEES

Mr. Tapan K. Bose

The Indian government deal with at both political and administrative level. The result is that treated that under the law applicable to the aliens. In the case of refugees protection, the constitution of India guarantees certain fundamental rights, which are applicable to non-citizen. Namely, the rights to equality( Article 14 ), the rights life and personnel liberty (article 21) and the freedom to practice and propagate their own religion (article 25). Any violation of these rights can be remedied through recourse to the judiciary as the Indian Supreme Court has held that refugees or asylum seeker can not be discriminated against because of their non- citizen status.

The National Human Rights Commission of India ( NHRC ) has functioned effectively as a watchdog for the protection of refugees. The commission has approached the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution and obtained protection from the Chakma Refugees when their life and securities was threatened by local politician and youth leader in Arunachal Pradesh. Relief was granted by the Supreme Court on the basis of the rights aliens under Article 14 and 21.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ahmeadi in NHRC versus State of Arunachal Pradesh ( 1996 SCC 742 ) speaking for the Court said that the State is bound to protect the life liberty of every human being. He point out that the rights of refugees under the Constitution of India were confirmed by Article 21, which also included the rights to non-refoulement.

India refugees policy is further governed by certain administrative regulation. The standard of humane treatment set by these administrative regulations flowed from the ethos that persons displaced from their home need both protection and economic sustain. The administrative experience of the Ministry/Department of Rehabilitation and the laws adjudicated at the time of Partition contributed towards a refugees policy for India.

India, refugees are register under the 1939 Registration act, which applicable to all foreigner entering to India. Under the 1946 Foreigner Acts, the Govt. is empowered to regulate the entry, presence and departure aliens in India, though the word “ alien “ itself is nowhere defined. Entry as also governed by the passport Act 1967. Entry can be restricted if a person dose not have a valid passport or visa, though the Government can exempt person when so desires. These procedure are linked at this stage to individuals who enter India without a valid visa or any other document. Though it is related to illegal migrants, the exemption provision is applicable to refugees. Besides, refugees in developing countries, unlike those in the west ( barring those from former Yugoslavia ) usually descend in large numbers. Under these circumstances, refugees become an administrative to oversee the relief and rehabilitation process rather than to supervise who stays or dose not stay.

As mentioned previously , the government of India alone determine refugees status and has no specific legislation to deal with refugees. Prof. Saxeny of Jawaharlal Nehru University maintains despite this lacuna India dose apply in practice certain articles of the 1951 Convention. This includes :

. Article 7 as India provides refugees the same treatment as all aliens.

. Article 3 as India fully applies a policy of non – discrimination.

. Article 3A no penalty is imposed on illegal entry.

.Article 4 as religious freedom is guaranteed.

. Article 16 free access to courts is provided.

.Articles 17 and 18 provide wage-earning rights and as work permits have no meaning and refugees do work, this article is complied with.

. Article 21 freedom of housing allowed and refugees need stay in camps. Freedom of movement as guaranteed to aliens except in certain areas where special permits are required for aliens but also all Indians.

. Article 27 and 28 the issuing of identity and travel cards.

However, many activists have contested the assertion of Prof. Saxena. They point out that the majority of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and almost all Jammu/Chakma refugees were forced to live inside camps. Severe restriction were imposed on their freedom of movement. The asylum seeker from Burma were arrested and jailed and that 1995-97 approximately 5000 Chin/Burmese were pushed back. They also point out that as the government dose not issue “RESIDENCE PERMIT” to all refugees, they are unable to open bank account, rent house and set up any business. India educational institutions do not give admission to refugees. As a result young refugees unable pursue their academic career.

India is not a party to the 1951 UN Refugees Convention or its Protocol, its domestic laws have not been found to be in conflict with international laws. While it can be justifiably proud of having followed a program of humane treatment of different refugees, with respect to refugees rights, there is still an absence of assistance and opportunities. To protect the refuges by means of the activists approach has its own limitations.

Judicial Interpretations: Case Law in India

In India, the judiciary has played a very important role in protecting refugees. Court orders have filled legislative gaps and in many case provided a humanitarian solution to the refugees` problem. In India court have allowed refugees and intervening NGOs to file case before them. Further they have interpreted provisions of the Indian Constitution, exiting law, and in the absence of seekers. Given below is a summary of the type of protection that India court have provided to refugees.

Physical Security

India courts have decided in a number of cases that the Constitutional protection of life and liberty must be provided to refugees. In the cases of Luis de Readt ( 1991) 3 SCC 554 and Khudiriam ( nos. 1994 Supp. (1) SCC 615 , the Supreme held that Art. 21 of the Constitution of India , which protects the life, and liberty of Indian citizens are extended to all, including aliens.

Below are some of the most important decision of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the National Human Rights Commission versus State of Arunachal Pradesh case restrained forcible expulsion of Chakma Refugees from the state ( Civil WP No 720/95 : 1996 (1) Supreme 295 ). The Supreme Court in its interim order on November 2 1995 directed the State government to ensure that the Chakma situated in its is territory are ousted by any coercive action, not in accordance with law. The Court directed the state government to ensure that the life personnel liberty of each and every Chakma residing with the state shall be protected. Any attempt to forcibly evict of driven them out the state by organized groups shall be repelled by using para-military or police force and if additional force are required then the state should take the necessary steps. The court also decide that the Chakma shall not be evicted from their home except in accordance to the law; the quit notices and ultimatums given by other groups should be dealt with in accordance with the law; application for their Citizenship be forwarded and processed expeditiously ; the pending decision on these application shall not be evicted.

Non-Refoulement and Right to Refugees Status:

In a number of cases in India Court have protected the right of refugees where they are substantial ground to believe that life would be in danger. There are case where the courts have order the life of refugees who are in danger be safeguarded and have allowed them to be granted status by UNHCR.

In Zothansangpui verus State of Manipur ( C.R No.981 of 1989) The Gauhati – Imphal Bench, Guahati High Court ruled that refugees have the rights not to be deported if their life was in danger.

The case of U.Myat Kyaw versus State of Manipur ( Civil Rule No. 516 of 1991 has contributed substantially to India’s refugee policy. It involved eight Burmese, aged 12 to 58 years, which were detain for illegal entry at MANIPUR central jail, Imphal. These persons had participated in the democracy movement, voluntarily to the Indian authorities and taken into custody. Cases were registered under section 14 of the Foreigners Act for illegal entry into India. They petitioned for their release to enable them to seek refugee status before the UNHCR in New Delhi. The Gauhati High Court, under Art.21 ruled that asylum seekers who enter India ( even if illegally ) should be permitted to approach the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner to refugee to seek refugee status.

Deporting on grounds of National Security and Criminal Activities

The Court has ruled that refugees can be deported on the grounds of national security. Under the foreigner Act of 1946 if they were found indulging in activities undesirable and prejudicial to the Security of India. The High Court of Delhi at New Delhi ruled that International Law and Conventions cannot be applied to refugees indulging in criminal activities. They can be repatriated or deported.

Right to Leave (Return)

The Court has upheld a refugee’s right to leave the country. In Nuang Maung Mye Nyant versus Govt. of India and Shar Aung versus Govt. Of India —— of 1998 , the courts ruled that even those refugees against whom cases were pending for illegal entry should be provided exit permits to enable them to leave the country for third country resettlement.

Application of International Laws for the protection of refugees

This included conformity with International Conventions and Treaties , although not enforceable , the government was obliged to respect them. But the power of the government to expel a foreigner is still absolute . Art. 21 guarantee the right to life for non -citizens. International Covenants and Treaties which effectuate the fundamental rights can be enforced. The principal of non-refoulement is encompassed in articles so long as it is not prejudicial to national security. Under Art 51 ( C ) and 253 international law and treaty obligation are to be respected, as long as they are consistent with domestic law.

AND LIBERTY CURTAILED  

(The statement of Burmese nationals on Guam seeking asylum in the USA)
By Rev. Dr. Hre Kio

Burma: Burma, placed between Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand, with a land mass of 261,789 square miles, (678,033 sq km) known as “the rice bowl of Southeast Asia” in the early 1900s, got its independence from Britain on January 4,1948 after a long struggle for freedom. Independence came first from the United Kingdom; second from the Japanese wartime occupation and then again from the British colonial rule after the II World War. The independent Burma chose to follow the path of Parliamentary democracy from its inception with two house-organs: the Upper House of Chambers and the Lower House of Nationalities. The Prime Minister was leader of the government and the President was head of state.

Since independence, democracy developed and grew in Burma since independence and after three general elections (1951,1956, & 1960) democracy appeared to be taking firm roots in the country. In spite of its inevitable flaws, democracy proved to be a better system not only in the process for governing the people but also in terms of peaceful change of hands as to who are to be entrusted with the power to rule. By 1960, Burma was called “the rising star of the Southeast Asia” particularly in the field of economic development whose progress was significant and dramatic.

“The Iron Curtain” fell: On March 2,1962, based on dubious reasons, the democratically elected government of Prime Minister U Nu was removed by force by a bloodless military coup and the state power was passed into the hands of the Revolutionary Council headed by General Ne Win. This military and totalitarian regime has ruled the country of Burma with iron hands and cruel tactics for the last 38 years. This socialistic system of government introduced a one party system – The Burma Socialist Program Party. Its name was changed to SLORC – State Law and Order Restoration Council in 1989, and after ten years to SPDC – State Peace and Development Council. “Burma” was also changed to Myanmar – the name pro-democracy movements refuse to use. All foreign missionaries were forced to leave the country in 1964.

All is not quiet at the front: During these 38 long years of tyranny, the people did not sit with passive resignation. They did do something to achieve freedom and democracy. When the people time and again demonstrated against tyranny, the army quelled them with force. Gen. Ne Win boasted, “When the army shot, it shot straight.”

Five months after the coup, on July 7, 1962, university students demonstrated against the government. Soldiers were ordered to fire on the students. Official count put 16 students dead, while generally it was claimed that over 100 dead was more accurate. The tragedy culminated when the authorities dynamited the Rangoon University Students’ Union building and reduced it to rubble. Many believed that the building was full of students, all of whom were killed in the blast.

In the summer of 1974, the meanness of spirit was shown by the authorities over the funeral of U Thant, retired Secretary-General of the United Nations. The University students took over the funeral arrangement of U Thant when they saw the disgraceful arrangement prepared by the military. This action resulted in the deaths of a good number of students at the hands of the soldiers.

Again in 1976, soldiers quelled the strikers of dock-workers when they demonstrated against the new rules introduced by the government. The authorities never revealed the number killed, but the estimate was close to 50.

The largest uprising against the government took place in August 1988, (code named 8.8.’88). It affected the whole country, and participating in the demonstrations led by University students were people of all ages from all different strata of society: farmers, laborers, civil servants, including members of the armed forces, Buddhist monks, Christians, Muslims, intellectuals, professionals, businessmen, small traders, housewives and artists. Their one and only demand was to change the authoritarian rule of military dictatorship which had impoverished Burma intellectually, politically, morally and economically. And on September 18, the military authorities ordered fire on the weaponless civilian demonstrators, and “the army shot straight.” Thousands, including children, were cut down, by bullets from the army’s rifles and tanks. Hundreds were buried in mass graves with many wounded still alive. The army never revealed the locations of those graves to the public. The peoples’ hopes were crushed to the dust once again.

Eleven years later, on September 9, 1999 (code named 9.9.’99), a demonstration and uprising was secretly planned, again led by university students, and pro-democracy movement leaders and some Buddhist monks. However, the Military Intelligence agents were ahead of the game; they launched a pre-emptive strike, throwing many of the leaders into prisons where they languished without proper trials and legal representation.

In all these series of struggles for democracy, one thing is clear: students have been at the forefront of the movement for democracy. As a result, they suffered the most as well. Those who fled the country for fear of imprisonment and torture and reached Guam for safety and asylum are mostly young people reflecting the reality of the tragedy in Burma. Each one can tell his or her own story of the struggles they went through.

The World is not silent either: The United Nations General Assembly has more than once passed resolutions condemning Burma for its actions on its own people, its human right abuses and its restrictions on political and religious activities. The US government has passed sanctions against new investments in Burma and strictly banned travel to the USA by the Generals of Burma. The European Union has time and again passed strongly worded resolutions condemning the actions of the Burma government and even refused to sit at a meeting with ASEAN ministers if any minister from Burma participated in the meeting. The EU also banned travel to their region by any military leaders from Burma. The International Labor Organization imposed sanctions against Burma in November 2000. This ban against Burma was based on Burma’s government consistent and long practice of forced labor at all levels of society.

China has been the main supporter of Burma’s military rule for years in terms of moral and material support. Last year India joined the club even to the extent of forcibly returning Burmese (mostly Chin) refugees from Mizoram, India to Burma, right into the “jaws of death.” The ASEAN policy of “constructive engagement” has not been successful. It is constructive mainly to the leaders of Burma’s military junta; it is disruptive, even destructive, to the common people and movement of democracy within Burma, because it prolongs the life of a ruthless regime.

The United Nations in 1987 designated Burma, once called “the rising star of Southeast Asia” as one of the 12 poorest countries in the world. Burma, one of the richest nations in Asia in terms of mineral resources such as jade and rubies, including the largest teak forest reserve in the world, has been mismanaged by the generals into one of the poorest nations on earth. This is a crime the government has committed against its own people. Its cruel practice of widespread use of forced labor and forced contribution of money to the building of Buddhist pagodas, involuntary relocation of people targeted primarily at the ethnic minority, military offensives against civilians forcing them to be porters, threats and intimidation, destruction of crops and livestock, forcing Christians to sell liquor even though their religion forbids its sell and consumption, rapes, torture and summary arrest and executions have been well known for a long, long time. The government has denied all these cruel practices for many years, but the people inside the country know very well that the government is not telling the truth.

The result of general election voided: After the 1988 people’s uprising, for fear of the people and in an attempt to pacify them, the military government announced a general election to be held in May 1990. Political parties were required to register to the Central Election Commission office in Rangoon. Over 200 parties registered with the government. The National League for Democracy was one of them, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Gen. Aung San, the hero of Burma’s independence. Gen. Aung San was assassinated by his political opponent U Saw, five months before independence.

The general election of May 1990 was regarded as the fairest and freest election in Burma’s history. The result of the election showed that NLD, led by Suu Kyi, received 82% of the seat in Parliament. This massive support of NLD by the people was a landslide victory for MS Suu Kyi, although she herself was barred by the government to compete for a Parliament seat. This election demonstrated both a disfavor towards the military government whose favorite party was named “The National Unity Party”, and a favor towards Ms Suu Kyi, as a leader of enormous ability, of quality, charisma and integrity. MS Suu Kyi was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1991, and recently the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton, in November 2000, the highest civilian award that the US government can offer.

The military government cruelly refused to hand over power to the leaders elected by the people, and thereby the will of the people, 82% of the voters, was voided by the generals. For them “power resides at the barrel of the guns.” They betrayed the will of the people to whom they had made a promise that they would relinquish power to whoever was the winner in the general election. It is next to impossible to convince those who have acquired power forcibly of the wisdom of peaceful change. The realization of that wisdom usually occurs when it is too late. In Burma, tragedy of national proportion awaits! All political parties are extinct now in Burma, and the only party (the NLD) too is on the verge of being annihilated by a slow process of eliminating its members. Its leader Aung San Suu Kyi is now virtually under house arrest. Religious discrimination: Burma is comprised of many language and ethnic groups who are minorities in the land. Minorities like Karens, Kachins and Chins have converted to Christianity, and therefore in Chin, Kachin and Karenni States, the majority of the populations are now Christians. This situation brings particular difficulties for the people. The military government, comprising purely of the Burmese, who form the majority in the whole country, about 75%, dictates what should and should not be done in these “Christian” states. What is ethical and moral does not count for the Buddhist authorities in power. Religious discrimination and persecution is amply visible, in Chin State and elsewhere. A few examples will suffice:

Christian Church building permission is impossible to obtain from the authorities throughout the country.

Those who have started building are forced to stop. (Eg: Chin centenary building in Hakha – the capital of Chin State; United Pentecostal Church in Hakha; Zomi Theological dining hall in Falam; Church of Jesus Christ church in Falam; Kachin Church in Pakan; Roman Catholic hall in Pakan; Salvation Army church in Khampat.)

Christian crosses planted on the top of the hills are forcibly removed by the order of Col. Than Aung in Kanpalet, Thantlang, Hakha, Falam and Tiddim townships, very often using the very Christian hands that had planted the crosses in the first place.

It was Col. Than Aung who declared publicly, in Chin State, that Christian pastors are his number one enemy, accusing them as pro-white faced colonialist stooges.

Christian institutions are removed: Revival School of Theology in Maymyo; Lisu Bible School in Maymyo; Lisu Christian school in Mogok.

Churches in Mogok town are forcibly painted black, or face being removed.

Lai Baptist Church’s worship in Insein, near Rangoon was interrupted by soldiers in uniform and the church was closed.

Those who persisted in constructing their church building are beaten severely. (Eg: A Salvation Army pastor in Khampat beaten by an army captain – beaten so badly he needed hospitalization.)

Those who persisted in preaching the Gospel faced torture and death. (Eg: A Naga preacher-evangelist in Homelin township of Sagaing Division was falsely accused of aiding Naga underground movement, was beaten to death and his body was dragged down the street to intimidate the villagers.)

These kinds of activities are going on currently in Burma, without being noticed by the world at large.

Racial discrimination: This is a policy the Government in Burma has been practicing for over 50 years, although it is not what they preach. Space and time does not allow detailing all the incidents that have occurred in Burma on the ethnic minorities for so long a period. These incidents took place not in the capital city of Rangoon, but mostly in the States (Chin, Kachin, Shan and Karen States). A few examples will suffice:

There is no minister in the government from people with ethnic background. Even top civilian jobs with authentic power are not open to them.

Soldiers from ethnic backgrounds are not permitted to be promoted over the rank of major, nor are they permitted to attend Military Academies. Some Christian officers have been told point blank: “If you remain Christian, you remain a captain; but the moment you confess to be Buddhist you jump to the next rank.” Most of the time, Christian officers choose to remain Christian.

Those minorities who had been ranking officers in the army and police are slowly eliminated from the services. One of those officers is in Guam and he can testify his experience is asked. Another unwritten regulation in the armed forces policy dictates that:

A soldier who converts a Christian to Buddhism will be promoted immediately;

Any Buddhist soldier marrying a Christian lady will be promoted to the next rank;

A Buddhist soldier having children with a Christian spouse will be promoted to the next level in rank.

Any Buddhist soldier marrying an ethnic girl who is a graduate and the daughter of a chief will be awarded with an increased salary of K1200/- a month.

Any Buddhist soldier’s salary will be increased by K1000/- a month if he marries an ethnic girl who is a college graduate.

In many districts in minority areas, the government ordered not to teach their minority languages in government primary schools. And no private schools are allowed in the country. All Christian schools have been nationalized since 1965. This effort of the government appears to be a basic and yet fundamental attempt to Burmanize the whole country and eliminate all 130 ethnic groups. It is a miracle that after 50 years of this kind of systematic campaign by the military government there are still ethnic groups existing at all in Burma. The vast majority of those of us who fled to Guam are from various ethnic groups.

In these States, mentioned above, soldiers forced young men to carry their equipment and rations in the areas where fighting took place between the government and the anti- government forces. These young men are called “porters”. Day after day, the porters were forced to serve as “shields” – forced to go ahead of the platoon of soldiers to get shot by the enemies. When the porters were sick and weak, or suffered exhaustion due to heavy loads, they were left behind to die a slow death, or even were shot dead. Young women’s fate, when they served as porters, were worse: they faced both being raped and be shot. No wages or compensation was paid. This kind of abuse had occurred in Burma for the last 38 years without being noticed by the world at large.

Private car owners in these States constantly faced the highhanded demand from the solders: their cars – mostly truck and jeeps – were taken by force by the soldiers (since the soldiers lack military trucks) for days and weeks moving them in all sorts of conditions and environments. Usually the private cars never returned in good conditions. Most of the time the cars were left behind in the jungle. There was no compensation paid by the soldiers nor any apology offered.

A driver’s license could be taken away, or being slapped on the face for passing over the military officer’s car.

This kind of inhumane practice was widespread and has been going on for many years.

Physical abuse and mental torture: It is a tall order to attempt to detail all the incidences of physical abuse and mental torture that the government has used against its opponents which they call “the enemy of the state.” We will mention a few:

The “opponents” were arrested usually in the middle of the night unexpectedly,

“A few minutes of questioning” always resulted in months or years of imprisonment. Tortures take different forms:

Meals (usually rice) were mixed with sand,

Pins were pushed between the flesh and fingernails,

Prisoners were forced to kneel on sharp pebbles until their knees bled,

Inmates were put naked in the open to be “feasted” by malaria carrying mosquitoes,

Simple drops of water on the head for hours turns into horrifying and deafening sounds to the victim, Plastic bags were placed to envelop their heads for a period of time until the victim becomes unconscious, and then he/she was released for a time to recover, The prisoner was placed in an empty barrel and pushed around by trucks for hours,

Those arrested or transferred to another location were bagged into gunny bags and tied at the top, to be sat upon by soldiers on moving trucks,

Hot and pointed iron rods were pierced through the flesh of the thighs,

A rat was placed in a pot which was attached to the prisoner’s stomach; when the pot was made hot the rat dug into the stomach in an desperate attempt to escape,

To break their will, prisoners were placed without food or water for days,

Their four limps were stretched out and tied to four corners of the room,

Prisoners were put in dark room for days, making them virtually blind for days,

Prisoners usually became “mentally disturbed” when they were hung upside down, their legs tied to the ceiling and their heals beaten slowly with an iron rod, Inmates were threatened constantly to be shot, a mental torture that keeps them constantly awake, making sleep impossible.

Some of those arrested are turned into forced labor, known as “zebet” who in uniform were regimented into hard labor for months and years, removed to remote areas where neither their relatives nor religious and social workers can see or help them. These prisoners were condemned to die slow deaths. They were often put in chains even while working, and most of them died in isolated parts of the country where medical facilities are non-existent. Often bullock yokes were tied to their neck in pairs, as if they were bulls, plowing muddy fields, making furrows for planting paddies in the rainy season. Many of the “zebet” prisoners collapsed exhausted in the mud. Then they were removed to isolated areas never to be fed any meals, left alone to die a slow death. Their bones were never recovered, nor their graves known. Their number is by the thousands, most likely around 40,000.

Some of us who fled to Guam have gone through some of these kinds of physical torture. (One of us will present his ordeal to you today.) These dangers are some of the risks we will face again if we are forced to return to Burma from Guam.

To flee Burma is a costly and risky business: All of us, who have arrived on Guam have faced the above mentioned types of danger and torture in one form or another as we all have worked and struggled to restore democracy in Burma. We have realized that democracy is costly and can not be achieved easily. We fled from Burma simply because our lives are in danger, and to live in a constant state of fear is most difficult to bear. Since we are all young people, we cannot afford our lives to be cut short. We want to live.

We all have made sacrifices in various forms to come to Guam. Some of us have left our children and spouses back in Burma, and all of us left behind our land, our relatives and our dear friends. We all sold whatever property we had, or borrowed money in order to get Burmese passports and some of us pawned our homes and fields. Some of us have paid the equivalent of $750 (US dollars) to get a single Burmese passport. Some of us have changed our names in order to avoid being detected by the all-powerful MIS agents (Military Intelligence Service agents.) Most of us hid in various homes and different places in Rangoon so as not to be caught by government spies.

We all came to Guam through Bangkok via Seoul, Manila or Taipei; the air ticket from Burma to Guam costs us about $1000 (US dollars.) We all brought along with us US$500 as “Show Money”. (It is quite likely that a few MIS agents might have infiltrated into Guam from Burma pretending to be visitors, in order to observe what we are doing here and what we are up to. We are taking all precautions in all our activities here on Guam.) To arrive on Guam is very costly and risky for us. But we take all those risks in order to save our lives.

The US government had closed the door to Guam on the 10th of January 2001, and this is a tragedy for those Burmese nationals who are actively working for democracy in Burma. Because the only door open for them has been closed, and they have no where to go to save their lives. They are destined to their fate: into the iron hands of the MIS.

Where do we go from here? Those of us who arrived on Guam, we want to say how grateful we are to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for having allowed us to enter into Guam. We all feel much safer and at peace. We are also extremely grateful to various churches here on Guam and mainland USA for helping us in the form of clothes, beds, cooking pots and pens, tinned food, money and above all their love and affection for us, probably “the unlovable.” We all say “thank you” to you all from the bottom of our hearts.

But our “Show Money” of $500 has run out or is running out for renting houses and for food. Currently, we the Burmese nationals here on Guam number around 1000, are located in various villages here on Guam renting over 70 houses. Friends and relatives both from Burma and mainland USA are helping us, but this help cannot go on indefinitely. A few of us have gotten sick and needed hospitalization, incurring thousands of dollars in debt to the hospital. Over 300 of us have been skin tested, and although some results are positive chest x-rays have revealed “normal lungs” with no active TB disease. Other than these, we have not been a burden to the Government of Guam. We want to take care of ourselves as far as possible. Most of us are high school and college graduates and some of us are doctors, engineers, pastors and teachers.

Having no jobs available on Guam has had a detrimental affect on us. Other than a few men and women, perhaps fifty, who have been working at odd jobs in various villages, we are jobless on the island of Guam. Even for those of us who have received a “work permit”, any paying job is hard to find. Since the unemployment rate is over 15%, it will be a long while until jobs will be available.

Could we dare to make a request to INS? Most of the Burmese nationals arrived here on Guam during the last 7 months. Most of us have submitted our applications asking for political asylum, and some of us have received “temporary permits to stay” here on Guam.

However, during the last 7 months, only 55 Burmese nationals have been interviewed by Immigration officers. If the same process rate continues in the coming days, it will take 8 years to complete processing the over 800 Burmese nationals. Also the result of those interviews conducted in October 2000 has not been announced either, which is a very discouraging and disheartening prospect we are facing in the coming days and months. For us the future is not bright; it is indeed bleak! Can we make a humble request to the US INS to speed up processing our applications?

Our Future: We look forward to the day when we can live our lives with security and peace and freedom. With God’s help, you – citizens of the USA – are our future! Just as God provided the ancient suffering Israelites their Moses to lead them to the promised land, you are our Moses at this time in our history to lead us into the promised land, called the United States of America.

May God bless each one of you in all your undertakings.

Guam. January 24,2001

Christians in Annual Admissions  

Persecuted Karen, Karenni, and Chin Christians Not Allowed

Refugee resettlement embodies America’s humanitarian tradition. In a time of increasing tension and conflict, it is essential that America’s door remains open to victims of violence and intolerance who have no other place to go.

The legal basis of the refugee admissions program is the Refugee Act of 1980, which defines a refugee in words that closely track those of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees: “a refugee is a person who is outside his/her country and is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of a well-founded fear that he/she will be persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The Act also allows the President to extend this definition to certain persons still resident in countries he specifies.

Christians Overlooked

Unfortunately, several persecuted communities in Burma with strong historical ties to the U.S. have been overlooked by this policy. The Karen, Karenni, and Chin people are systematically persecuted by the Burmese military government. A very high percentage of these people are Christian and are oppressed because of their ethnicity and faith. These people were our allies in the 2nd World War and fought side by side with our soldiers to repel the Axis forces. They were promised by the British that they would have their own homeland after the war, but it never happened. After the war the Burmese majority–who sided with the Axis–engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing that continues to this day. The situation deteriorated greatly in 1988 when the military took over the government. The Karen, Karenni, and Chin have been fighting for survival for nearly fifty years, and could be considered the “forgotten people.”

Currently more than 100,000 Karen, Karenni, and Chin men, women, and children live in refugee camps in Thailand and India. Thousands more are internally displaced in the Burmese jungle. These internally displaced individuals are cutoff from outside assistance and live one step ahead of roving Burmese soldiers.

In FY 1998 the ceiling for refugee admissions from East Asia was 14,000. In the first seven months of that year, some 4,400 refugees arrived in the U.S., only 86 were from Burma. Most of these were ethnic Burmese.

In FY 1999, 10,204 refugees entered the United States from East Asia. The majority of FY 1999 admissions were from Vietnam. Again, most, if not all the Burma admissions were ethnic Burmese.

Time for Change

It is time for the United States to remember our forgotten allies and specifically include the Karen, Karenni, and Chin refugees and displaced persons in the annual admissions from East Asia.

Please Contact your Congressional Representatives in Washington today.

http://www.house.gov
http://www.senate.gov
Source: Christian Freedom International Website
http://www.christianfreedom.org/campaigns/refugeepolicy.html

REFUGEES

Mr. Tapan K. Bose

The Indian government deal with at both political and administrative level. The result is that treated that under the law applicable to the aliens. In the case of refugees protection, the constitution of India guarantees certain fundamental rights, which are applicable to non-citizen. Namely, the rights to equality( Article 14 ), the rights life and personnel liberty (article 21) and the freedom to practice and propagate their own religion (article 25). Any violation of these rights can be remedied through recourse to the judiciary as the Indian Supreme Court has held that refugees or asylum seeker can not be discriminated against because of their non- citizen status.

The National Human Rights Commission of India ( NHRC ) has functioned effectively as a watchdog for the protection of refugees. The commission has approached the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution and obtained protection from the Chakma Refugees when their life and securities was threatened by local politician and youth leader in Arunachal Pradesh. Relief was granted by the Supreme Court on the basis of the rights aliens under Article 14 and 21.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Ahmeadi in NHRC versus State of Arunachal Pradesh ( 1996 SCC 742 ) speaking for the Court said that the State is bound to protect the life liberty of every human being. He point out that the rights of refugees under the Constitution of India were confirmed by Article 21, which also included the rights to non-refoulement.

India refugees policy is further governed by certain administrative regulation. The standard of humane treatment set by these administrative regulations flowed from the ethos that persons displaced from their home need both protection and economic sustain. The administrative experience of the Ministry/Department of Rehabilitation and the laws adjudicated at the time of Partition contributed towards a refugees policy for India.

India, refugees are register under the 1939 Registration act, which applicable to all foreigner entering to India. Under the 1946 Foreigner Acts, the Govt. is empowered to regulate the entry, presence and departure aliens in India, though the word “ alien “ itself is nowhere defined. Entry as also governed by the passport Act 1967. Entry can be restricted if a person dose not have a valid passport or visa, though the Government can exempt person when so desires. These procedure are linked at this stage to individuals who enter India without a valid visa or any other document. Though it is related to illegal migrants, the exemption provision is applicable to refugees. Besides, refugees in developing countries, unlike those in the west ( barring those from former Yugoslavia ) usually descend in large numbers. Under these circumstances, refugees become an administrative to oversee the relief and rehabilitation process rather than to supervise who stays or dose not stay.

As mentioned previously , the government of India alone determine refugees status and has no specific legislation to deal with refugees. Prof. Saxeny of Jawaharlal Nehru University maintains despite this lacuna India dose apply in practice certain articles of the 1951 Convention. This includes :

. Article 7 as India provides refugees the same treatment as all aliens.

. Article 3 as India fully applies a policy of non – discrimination.

. Article 3A no penalty is imposed on illegal entry.

.Article 4 as religious freedom is guaranteed.

. Article 16 free access to courts is provided.

.Articles 17 and 18 provide wage-earning rights and as work permits have no meaning and refugees do work, this article is complied with.

. Article 21 freedom of housing allowed and refugees need stay in camps. Freedom of movement as guaranteed to aliens except in certain areas where special permits are required for aliens but also all Indians.

. Article 27 and 28 the issuing of identity and travel cards.

However, many activists have contested the assertion of Prof. Saxena. They point out that the majority of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and almost all Jammu/Chakma refugees were forced to live inside camps. Severe restriction were imposed on their freedom of movement. The asylum seeker from Burma were arrested and jailed and that 1995-97 approximately 5000 Chin/Burmese were pushed back. They also point out that as the government dose not issue “RESIDENCE PERMIT” to all refugees, they are unable to open bank account, rent house and set up any business. India educational institutions do not give admission to refugees. As a result young refugees unable pursue their academic career.

India is not a party to the 1951 UN Refugees Convention or its Protocol, its domestic laws have not been found to be in conflict with international laws. While it can be justifiably proud of having followed a program of humane treatment of different refugees, with respect to refugees rights, there is still an absence of assistance and opportunities. To protect the refuges by means of the activists approach has its own limitations.

Judicial Interpretations: Case Law in India

In India, the judiciary has played a very important role in protecting refugees. Court orders have filled legislative gaps and in many case provided a humanitarian solution to the refugees` problem. In India court have allowed refugees and intervening NGOs to file case before them. Further they have interpreted provisions of the Indian Constitution, exiting law, and in the absence of seekers. Given below is a summary of the type of protection that India court have provided to refugees.

Physical Security

India courts have decided in a number of cases that the Constitutional protection of life and liberty must be provided to refugees. In the cases of Luis de Readt ( 1991) 3 SCC 554 and Khudiriam ( nos. 1994 Supp. (1) SCC 615 , the Supreme held that Art. 21 of the Constitution of India , which protects the life, and liberty of Indian citizens are extended to all, including aliens.

Below are some of the most important decision of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the National Human Rights Commission versus State of Arunachal Pradesh case restrained forcible expulsion of Chakma Refugees from the state ( Civil WP No 720/95 : 1996 (1) Supreme 295 ). The Supreme Court in its interim order on November 2 1995 directed the State government to ensure that the Chakma situated in its is territory are ousted by any coercive action, not in accordance with law. The Court directed the state government to ensure that the life personnel liberty of each and every Chakma residing with the state shall be protected. Any attempt to forcibly evict of driven them out the state by organized groups shall be repelled by using para-military or police force and if additional force are required then the state should take the necessary steps. The court also decide that the Chakma shall not be evicted from their home except in accordance to the law; the quit notices and ultimatums given by other groups should be dealt with in accordance with the law; application for their Citizenship be forwarded and processed expeditiously ; the pending decision on these application shall not be evicted.

Non-Refoulement and Right to Refugees Status:

In a number of cases in India Court have protected the right of refugees where they are substantial ground to believe that life would be in danger. There are case where the courts have order the life of refugees who are in danger be safeguarded and have allowed them to be granted status by UNHCR.

In Zothansangpui verus State of Manipur ( C.R No.981 of 1989) The Gauhati – Imphal Bench, Guahati High Court ruled that refugees have the rights not to be deported if their life was in danger.

The case of U.Myat Kyaw versus State of Manipur ( Civil Rule No. 516 of 1991 has contributed substantially to India’s refugee policy. It involved eight Burmese, aged 12 to 58 years, which were detain for illegal entry at MANIPUR central jail, Imphal. These persons had participated in the democracy movement, voluntarily to the Indian authorities and taken into custody. Cases were registered under section 14 of the Foreigners Act for illegal entry into India. They petitioned for their release to enable them to seek refugee status before the UNHCR in New Delhi. The Gauhati High Court, under Art.21 ruled that asylum seekers who enter India ( even if illegally ) should be permitted to approach the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner to refugee to seek refugee status.

Deporting on grounds of National Security and Criminal Activities

The Court has ruled that refugees can be deported on the grounds of national security. Under the foreigner Act of 1946 if they were found indulging in activities undesirable and prejudicial to the Security of India. The High Court of Delhi at New Delhi ruled that International Law and Conventions cannot be applied to refugees indulging in criminal activities. They can be repatriated or deported.

Right to Leave (Return)

The Court has upheld a refugee’s right to leave the country. In Nuang Maung Mye Nyant versus Govt. of India and Shar Aung versus Govt. Of India —— of 1998 , the courts ruled that even those refugees against whom cases were pending for illegal entry should be provided exit permits to enable them to leave the country for third country resettlement.

Application of International Laws for the protection of refugees

This included conformity with International Conventions and Treaties , although not enforceable , the government was obliged to respect them. But the power of the government to expel a foreigner is still absolute . Art. 21 guarantee the right to life for non -citizens. International Covenants and Treaties which effectuate the fundamental rights can be enforced. The principal of non-refoulement is encompassed in articles so long as it is not prejudicial to national security. Under Art 51 ( C ) and 253 international law and treaty obligation are to be respected, as long as they are consistent with domestic law.

AND LIBERTY CURTAILED  

(The statement of Burmese nationals on Guam seeking asylum in the USA)
By Rev. Dr. Hre Kio

Burma: Burma, placed between Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand, with a land mass of 261,789 square miles, (678,033 sq km) known as “the rice bowl of Southeast Asia” in the early 1900s, got its independence from Britain on January 4,1948 after a long struggle for freedom. Independence came first from the United Kingdom; second from the Japanese wartime occupation and then again from the British colonial rule after the II World War. The independent Burma chose to follow the path of Parliamentary democracy from its inception with two house-organs: the Upper House of Chambers and the Lower House of Nationalities. The Prime Minister was leader of the government and the President was head of state.

Since independence, democracy developed and grew in Burma since independence and after three general elections (1951,1956, & 1960) democracy appeared to be taking firm roots in the country. In spite of its inevitable flaws, democracy proved to be a better system not only in the process for governing the people but also in terms of peaceful change of hands as to who are to be entrusted with the power to rule. By 1960, Burma was called “the rising star of the Southeast Asia” particularly in the field of economic development whose progress was significant and dramatic.

“The Iron Curtain” fell: On March 2,1962, based on dubious reasons, the democratically elected government of Prime Minister U Nu was removed by force by a bloodless military coup and the state power was passed into the hands of the Revolutionary Council headed by General Ne Win. This military and totalitarian regime has ruled the country of Burma with iron hands and cruel tactics for the last 38 years. This socialistic system of government introduced a one party system – The Burma Socialist Program Party. Its name was changed to SLORC – State Law and Order Restoration Council in 1989, and after ten years to SPDC – State Peace and Development Council. “Burma” was also changed to Myanmar – the name pro-democracy movements refuse to use. All foreign missionaries were forced to leave the country in 1964.

All is not quiet at the front: During these 38 long years of tyranny, the people did not sit with passive resignation. They did do something to achieve freedom and democracy. When the people time and again demonstrated against tyranny, the army quelled them with force. Gen. Ne Win boasted, “When the army shot, it shot straight.”

Five months after the coup, on July 7, 1962, university students demonstrated against the government. Soldiers were ordered to fire on the students. Official count put 16 students dead, while generally it was claimed that over 100 dead was more accurate. The tragedy culminated when the authorities dynamited the Rangoon University Students’ Union building and reduced it to rubble. Many believed that the building was full of students, all of whom were killed in the blast.

In the summer of 1974, the meanness of spirit was shown by the authorities over the funeral of U Thant, retired Secretary-General of the United Nations. The University students took over the funeral arrangement of U Thant when they saw the disgraceful arrangement prepared by the military. This action resulted in the deaths of a good number of students at the hands of the soldiers.

Again in 1976, soldiers quelled the strikers of dock-workers when they demonstrated against the new rules introduced by the government. The authorities never revealed the number killed, but the estimate was close to 50.

The largest uprising against the government took place in August 1988, (code named 8.8.’88). It affected the whole country, and participating in the demonstrations led by University students were people of all ages from all different strata of society: farmers, laborers, civil servants, including members of the armed forces, Buddhist monks, Christians, Muslims, intellectuals, professionals, businessmen, small traders, housewives and artists. Their one and only demand was to change the authoritarian rule of military dictatorship which had impoverished Burma intellectually, politically, morally and economically. And on September 18, the military authorities ordered fire on the weaponless civilian demonstrators, and “the army shot straight.” Thousands, including children, were cut down, by bullets from the army’s rifles and tanks. Hundreds were buried in mass graves with many wounded still alive. The army never revealed the locations of those graves to the public. The peoples’ hopes were crushed to the dust once again.

Eleven years later, on September 9, 1999 (code named 9.9.’99), a demonstration and uprising was secretly planned, again led by university students, and pro-democracy movement leaders and some Buddhist monks. However, the Military Intelligence agents were ahead of the game; they launched a pre-emptive strike, throwing many of the leaders into prisons where they languished without proper trials and legal representation.

In all these series of struggles for democracy, one thing is clear: students have been at the forefront of the movement for democracy. As a result, they suffered the most as well. Those who fled the country for fear of imprisonment and torture and reached Guam for safety and asylum are mostly young people reflecting the reality of the tragedy in Burma. Each one can tell his or her own story of the struggles they went through.

The World is not silent either: The United Nations General Assembly has more than once passed resolutions condemning Burma for its actions on its own people, its human right abuses and its restrictions on political and religious activities. The US government has passed sanctions against new investments in Burma and strictly banned travel to the USA by the Generals of Burma. The European Union has time and again passed strongly worded resolutions condemning the actions of the Burma government and even refused to sit at a meeting with ASEAN ministers if any minister from Burma participated in the meeting. The EU also banned travel to their region by any military leaders from Burma. The International Labor Organization imposed sanctions against Burma in November 2000. This ban against Burma was based on Burma’s government consistent and long practice of forced labor at all levels of society.

China has been the main supporter of Burma’s military rule for years in terms of moral and material support. Last year India joined the club even to the extent of forcibly returning Burmese (mostly Chin) refugees from Mizoram, India to Burma, right into the “jaws of death.” The ASEAN policy of “constructive engagement” has not been successful. It is constructive mainly to the leaders of Burma’s military junta; it is disruptive, even destructive, to the common people and movement of democracy within Burma, because it prolongs the life of a ruthless regime.

The United Nations in 1987 designated Burma, once called “the rising star of Southeast Asia” as one of the 12 poorest countries in the world. Burma, one of the richest nations in Asia in terms of mineral resources such as jade and rubies, including the largest teak forest reserve in the world, has been mismanaged by the generals into one of the poorest nations on earth. This is a crime the government has committed against its own people. Its cruel practice of widespread use of forced labor and forced contribution of money to the building of Buddhist pagodas, involuntary relocation of people targeted primarily at the ethnic minority, military offensives against civilians forcing them to be porters, threats and intimidation, destruction of crops and livestock, forcing Christians to sell liquor even though their religion forbids its sell and consumption, rapes, torture and summary arrest and executions have been well known for a long, long time. The government has denied all these cruel practices for many years, but the people inside the country know very well that the government is not telling the truth.

The result of general election voided: After the 1988 people’s uprising, for fear of the people and in an attempt to pacify them, the military government announced a general election to be held in May 1990. Political parties were required to register to the Central Election Commission office in Rangoon. Over 200 parties registered with the government. The National League for Democracy was one of them, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Gen. Aung San, the hero of Burma’s independence. Gen. Aung San was assassinated by his political opponent U Saw, five months before independence.

The general election of May 1990 was regarded as the fairest and freest election in Burma’s history. The result of the election showed that NLD, led by Suu Kyi, received 82% of the seat in Parliament. This massive support of NLD by the people was a landslide victory for MS Suu Kyi, although she herself was barred by the government to compete for a Parliament seat. This election demonstrated both a disfavor towards the military government whose favorite party was named “The National Unity Party”, and a favor towards Ms Suu Kyi, as a leader of enormous ability, of quality, charisma and integrity. MS Suu Kyi was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1991, and recently the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton, in November 2000, the highest civilian award that the US government can offer.

The military government cruelly refused to hand over power to the leaders elected by the people, and thereby the will of the people, 82% of the voters, was voided by the generals. For them “power resides at the barrel of the guns.” They betrayed the will of the people to whom they had made a promise that they would relinquish power to whoever was the winner in the general election. It is next to impossible to convince those who have acquired power forcibly of the wisdom of peaceful change. The realization of that wisdom usually occurs when it is too late. In Burma, tragedy of national proportion awaits! All political parties are extinct now in Burma, and the only party (the NLD) too is on the verge of being annihilated by a slow process of eliminating its members. Its leader Aung San Suu Kyi is now virtually under house arrest. Religious discrimination: Burma is comprised of many language and ethnic groups who are minorities in the land. Minorities like Karens, Kachins and Chins have converted to Christianity, and therefore in Chin, Kachin and Karenni States, the majority of the populations are now Christians. This situation brings particular difficulties for the people. The military government, comprising purely of the Burmese, who form the majority in the whole country, about 75%, dictates what should and should not be done in these “Christian” states. What is ethical and moral does not count for the Buddhist authorities in power. Religious discrimination and persecution is amply visible, in Chin State and elsewhere. A few examples will suffice:

Christian Church building permission is impossible to obtain from the authorities throughout the country.

Those who have started building are forced to stop. (Eg: Chin centenary building in Hakha – the capital of Chin State; United Pentecostal Church in Hakha; Zomi Theological dining hall in Falam; Church of Jesus Christ church in Falam; Kachin Church in Pakan; Roman Catholic hall in Pakan; Salvation Army church in Khampat.)

Christian crosses planted on the top of the hills are forcibly removed by the order of Col. Than Aung in Kanpalet, Thantlang, Hakha, Falam and Tiddim townships, very often using the very Christian hands that had planted the crosses in the first place.

It was Col. Than Aung who declared publicly, in Chin State, that Christian pastors are his number one enemy, accusing them as pro-white faced colonialist stooges.

Christian institutions are removed: Revival School of Theology in Maymyo; Lisu Bible School in Maymyo; Lisu Christian school in Mogok.

Churches in Mogok town are forcibly painted black, or face being removed.

Lai Baptist Church’s worship in Insein, near Rangoon was interrupted by soldiers in uniform and the church was closed.

Those who persisted in constructing their church building are beaten severely. (Eg: A Salvation Army pastor in Khampat beaten by an army captain – beaten so badly he needed hospitalization.)

Those who persisted in preaching the Gospel faced torture and death. (Eg: A Naga preacher-evangelist in Homelin township of Sagaing Division was falsely accused of aiding Naga underground movement, was beaten to death and his body was dragged down the street to intimidate the villagers.)

These kinds of activities are going on currently in Burma, without being noticed by the world at large.

Racial discrimination: This is a policy the Government in Burma has been practicing for over 50 years, although it is not what they preach. Space and time does not allow detailing all the incidents that have occurred in Burma on the ethnic minorities for so long a period. These incidents took place not in the capital city of Rangoon, but mostly in the States (Chin, Kachin, Shan and Karen States). A few examples will suffice:

There is no minister in the government from people with ethnic background. Even top civilian jobs with authentic power are not open to them.

Soldiers from ethnic backgrounds are not permitted to be promoted over the rank of major, nor are they permitted to attend Military Academies. Some Christian officers have been told point blank: “If you remain Christian, you remain a captain; but the moment you confess to be Buddhist you jump to the next rank.” Most of the time, Christian officers choose to remain Christian.

Those minorities who had been ranking officers in the army and police are slowly eliminated from the services. One of those officers is in Guam and he can testify his experience is asked. Another unwritten regulation in the armed forces policy dictates that:

A soldier who converts a Christian to Buddhism will be promoted immediately;

Any Buddhist soldier marrying a Christian lady will be promoted to the next rank;

A Buddhist soldier having children with a Christian spouse will be promoted to the next level in rank.

Any Buddhist soldier marrying an ethnic girl who is a graduate and the daughter of a chief will be awarded with an increased salary of K1200/- a month.

Any Buddhist soldier’s salary will be increased by K1000/- a month if he marries an ethnic girl who is a college graduate.

In many districts in minority areas, the government ordered not to teach their minority languages in government primary schools. And no private schools are allowed in the country. All Christian schools have been nationalized since 1965. This effort of the government appears to be a basic and yet fundamental attempt to Burmanize the whole country and eliminate all 130 ethnic groups. It is a miracle that after 50 years of this kind of systematic campaign by the military government there are still ethnic groups existing at all in Burma. The vast majority of those of us who fled to Guam are from various ethnic groups.

In these States, mentioned above, soldiers forced young men to carry their equipment and rations in the areas where fighting took place between the government and the anti- government forces. These young men are called “porters”. Day after day, the porters were forced to serve as “shields” – forced to go ahead of the platoon of soldiers to get shot by the enemies. When the porters were sick and weak, or suffered exhaustion due to heavy loads, they were left behind to die a slow death, or even were shot dead. Young women’s fate, when they served as porters, were worse: they faced both being raped and be shot. No wages or compensation was paid. This kind of abuse had occurred in Burma for the last 38 years without being noticed by the world at large.

Private car owners in these States constantly faced the highhanded demand from the solders: their cars – mostly truck and jeeps – were taken by force by the soldiers (since the soldiers lack military trucks) for days and weeks moving them in all sorts of conditions and environments. Usually the private cars never returned in good conditions. Most of the time the cars were left behind in the jungle. There was no compensation paid by the soldiers nor any apology offered.

A driver’s license could be taken away, or being slapped on the face for passing over the military officer’s car.

This kind of inhumane practice was widespread and has been going on for many years.

Physical abuse and mental torture: It is a tall order to attempt to detail all the incidences of physical abuse and mental torture that the government has used against its opponents which they call “the enemy of the state.” We will mention a few:

The “opponents” were arrested usually in the middle of the night unexpectedly,

“A few minutes of questioning” always resulted in months or years of imprisonment. Tortures take different forms:

Meals (usually rice) were mixed with sand,

Pins were pushed between the flesh and fingernails,

Prisoners were forced to kneel on sharp pebbles until their knees bled,

Inmates were put naked in the open to be “feasted” by malaria carrying mosquitoes,

Simple drops of water on the head for hours turns into horrifying and deafening sounds to the victim, Plastic bags were placed to envelop their heads for a period of time until the victim becomes unconscious, and then he/she was released for a time to recover, The prisoner was placed in an empty barrel and pushed around by trucks for hours,

Those arrested or transferred to another location were bagged into gunny bags and tied at the top, to be sat upon by soldiers on moving trucks,

Hot and pointed iron rods were pierced through the flesh of the thighs,

A rat was placed in a pot which was attached to the prisoner’s stomach; when the pot was made hot the rat dug into the stomach in an desperate attempt to escape,

To break their will, prisoners were placed without food or water for days,

Their four limps were stretched out and tied to four corners of the room,

Prisoners were put in dark room for days, making them virtually blind for days,

Prisoners usually became “mentally disturbed” when they were hung upside down, their legs tied to the ceiling and their heals beaten slowly with an iron rod, Inmates were threatened constantly to be shot, a mental torture that keeps them constantly awake, making sleep impossible.

Some of those arrested are turned into forced labor, known as “zebet” who in uniform were regimented into hard labor for months and years, removed to remote areas where neither their relatives nor religious and social workers can see or help them. These prisoners were condemned to die slow deaths. They were often put in chains even while working, and most of them died in isolated parts of the country where medical facilities are non-existent. Often bullock yokes were tied to their neck in pairs, as if they were bulls, plowing muddy fields, making furrows for planting paddies in the rainy season. Many of the “zebet” prisoners collapsed exhausted in the mud. Then they were removed to isolated areas never to be fed any meals, left alone to die a slow death. Their bones were never recovered, nor their graves known. Their number is by the thousands, most likely around 40,000.

Some of us who fled to Guam have gone through some of these kinds of physical torture. (One of us will present his ordeal to you today.) These dangers are some of the risks we will face again if we are forced to return to Burma from Guam.

To flee Burma is a costly and risky business: All of us, who have arrived on Guam have faced the above mentioned types of danger and torture in one form or another as we all have worked and struggled to restore democracy in Burma. We have realized that democracy is costly and can not be achieved easily. We fled from Burma simply because our lives are in danger, and to live in a constant state of fear is most difficult to bear. Since we are all young people, we cannot afford our lives to be cut short. We want to live.

We all have made sacrifices in various forms to come to Guam. Some of us have left our children and spouses back in Burma, and all of us left behind our land, our relatives and our dear friends. We all sold whatever property we had, or borrowed money in order to get Burmese passports and some of us pawned our homes and fields. Some of us have paid the equivalent of $750 (US dollars) to get a single Burmese passport. Some of us have changed our names in order to avoid being detected by the all-powerful MIS agents (Military Intelligence Service agents.) Most of us hid in various homes and different places in Rangoon so as not to be caught by government spies.

We all came to Guam through Bangkok via Seoul, Manila or Taipei; the air ticket from Burma to Guam costs us about $1000 (US dollars.) We all brought along with us US$500 as “Show Money”. (It is quite likely that a few MIS agents might have infiltrated into Guam from Burma pretending to be visitors, in order to observe what we are doing here and what we are up to. We are taking all precautions in all our activities here on Guam.) To arrive on Guam is very costly and risky for us. But we take all those risks in order to save our lives.

The US government had closed the door to Guam on the 10th of January 2001, and this is a tragedy for those Burmese nationals who are actively working for democracy in Burma. Because the only door open for them has been closed, and they have no where to go to save their lives. They are destined to their fate: into the iron hands of the MIS.

Where do we go from here? Those of us who arrived on Guam, we want to say how grateful we are to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for having allowed us to enter into Guam. We all feel much safer and at peace. We are also extremely grateful to various churches here on Guam and mainland USA for helping us in the form of clothes, beds, cooking pots and pens, tinned food, money and above all their love and affection for us, probably “the unlovable.” We all say “thank you” to you all from the bottom of our hearts.

But our “Show Money” of $500 has run out or is running out for renting houses and for food. Currently, we the Burmese nationals here on Guam number around 1000, are located in various villages here on Guam renting over 70 houses. Friends and relatives both from Burma and mainland USA are helping us, but this help cannot go on indefinitely. A few of us have gotten sick and needed hospitalization, incurring thousands of dollars in debt to the hospital. Over 300 of us have been skin tested, and although some results are positive chest x-rays have revealed “normal lungs” with no active TB disease. Other than these, we have not been a burden to the Government of Guam. We want to take care of ourselves as far as possible. Most of us are high school and college graduates and some of us are doctors, engineers, pastors and teachers.

Having no jobs available on Guam has had a detrimental affect on us. Other than a few men and women, perhaps fifty, who have been working at odd jobs in various villages, we are jobless on the island of Guam. Even for those of us who have received a “work permit”, any paying job is hard to find. Since the unemployment rate is over 15%, it will be a long while until jobs will be available.

Could we dare to make a request to INS? Most of the Burmese nationals arrived here on Guam during the last 7 months. Most of us have submitted our applications asking for political asylum, and some of us have received “temporary permits to stay” here on Guam.

However, during the last 7 months, only 55 Burmese nationals have been interviewed by Immigration officers. If the same process rate continues in the coming days, it will take 8 years to complete processing the over 800 Burmese nationals. Also the result of those interviews conducted in October 2000 has not been announced either, which is a very discouraging and disheartening prospect we are facing in the coming days and months. For us the future is not bright; it is indeed bleak! Can we make a humble request to the US INS to speed up processing our applications?

Our Future: We look forward to the day when we can live our lives with security and peace and freedom. With God’s help, you – citizens of the USA – are our future! Just as God provided the ancient suffering Israelites their Moses to lead them to the promised land, you are our Moses at this time in our history to lead us into the promised land, called the United States of America.

May God bless each one of you in all your undertakings.

Guam. January 24,2001

By Victor Biak Lian
Chin Human Rights Organization
Regional Conference on Protection for Refugees from Burma
Chiangmai University, Chiangmai, Thailand
Nov. 6-7, 2003

I am very pleased to have this opportunity of talking about the situation of refugees from Burma in India. I am equally pleased for this rare opportunity of highlighting the condition of the least acknowledged yet one of the most in need of attentions by the international community. When talking about Burma’s displaced persons one is easily drawn to the conditions of those who have been displaced by decades of civil war in the eastern border of the country. But very little attention has been paid to the condition of thousands of people who have been experiencing an equally difficult situation with that of people in Burma’s western frontiers. Burma shares its western borders with India and Bangladesh and much of that frontier is adjacent to India’s northeastern region.

It is estimated that well over 50,000 refugees from Burma are currently living in India. The continuing lack of adequate protection mechanism for Burmese refugees in India makes it impossible to more than estimate the number of Burmese refugees. This is because of the fact that except for those who are able to approach UNHCR in New Delhi for protection, the majority of Burmese refugees in India are afraid to identify themselves as refugees, although careful scrutiny of their circumstances clearly suggest that they could fall within the meaning of refugee definition.

Most of the refugees from Burma are ethic Chins and they are mainly concentrated in India’s northeastern province of Mizoram. After a sudden influx of refugees following the brutal suppression of the pro-democracy movement in 1998, thousands of Chins have fled their homes to escape repression and systematic violations of human rights in Burma. Currently, Mizoram alone houses at least 50,000 refugees from Burma, while a few thousand refugees are found in Manipur and other areas along the borders with Burma. Neither the Government of India nor the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in New Delhi has acknowledged the presence of Burmese refugees in the border areas. As of March 2003, only 1003 individuals have been recognized by UNHCR in New Delhi.[1]

The pattern of refugee exodus from Burma can be divided into two categories: Those fleeing to India in the immediate aftermath of 1988 and those who have crossed into India steadily since the early 1990ies to the present. The first category includes university students and youth who participated in the 1988 uprising and who subsequently fled to India to escape a brutal military crackdown. The second category includes ordinary civilians and villagers who fled various kinds of human rights violations in the form of arbitrary arrest, torture, forced labor and religious persecutions.[2] Chins are predominantly Christians and Burmese soldiers have destroyed Churches, arrested and tortured pastors and evangelists, and have routinely exacted forced labor from Christians to build Buddhist pagodas. Ongoing insurgency and counter-insurgency programs are also major factors for refugee flight from Chin State.

India’s attitudes towards Burmese refugees

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its related Protocol. While the Government of India initially quickly reacted to refugee outflow triggered by the 1988 uprising by setting up refugee camps for refugees identified in the first category, since 1992, it had withdrawn the camps and cancelled the provision of all humanitarian assistance to Burmese refugees. This dramatic policy reversion had considerably affected the lives of thousands and had increased the vulnerability of refugees to arrest and deportation to Burma.

On many occasions, India has forcibly returned Burmese refugees to Burma. In 2006, India extradited eleven Burmese army defectors some of whom were already recognized as ‘person of concern’ by UNHCR.[3] Due to the lack of legal protection for Burmese refugees in the border, they are easily identified as economic migrants.

Close cultural and linguistic similarity with the Mizos also allow the Chins to easily integrate into the local society, and thereby being able to acquire employment in low-paid job such as weaving industry and road construction etc. Chin refugees often try to keep a low profile of their presence by getting absorbed into local Mizo communities to avoid being identified as “foreigners” or illegal immigrants. While they attempt to keep down visibility among the local populations, they often become particular target of scapegoats for local political parties in times of provincial legislative elections. In 2000, Mizoram authorities forcibly repatriated hundreds of Chin refugees to Burma. Out of hundreds of returnees, at least 87 people were reported to have been arrested and sent to forced labor camps in Burma.[4]

Again in March 2002, the Young Mizo Association, a broad-based social organization ordered the eviction of Chin refugees in Lunglei District, leaving at least 5000 Chin refugee families homeless. Since July 19, 2003, in response to a rape incident in which a Burmese national was alleged to be responsible, the Young Mizo Association started to evict thousands of Chin refugees from their houses in Mizoram. The eviction, which is still ongoing, has resulted in the forced return of over 6000 Chin refugees to Burma.[5]  This latest drive of expulsion of Chin refugees is particularly alarming given that both the local communities under direction from the Young Mizo Association and Mizoram authorities have cooperated in evicting and sending back Chin refugees to Burma.

India has still not shown interest in the protection of Burmese refugees. Instead its primary interest since mid 1990s has been to build friendly relations with the military regime of Burma. The obvious consequence of increasing friendly relations between the two countries is that it creates a deep sense of insecurity and vulnerability among the Burmese refugees in India.

The role of UNHCR

UNHCR in New Delhi currently has about one thousand recognized Burmese refugees. This means that only a small fraction of Burmese refugee in India enjoy legal protection in India. Even those who have been recognized as refugees find themselves in precarious situations in New Delhi. UNHCR has provided a monthly financial assistance of Rs.1400 (About 30$) to recognized refugees. However, since March of 2003, UNHCR has cut financial assistance to many refugees saying that the provision of assistance to Burmese refugees has deterred them from seeking means of self-reliance, and that the termination of assistance to old refugees will accommodate new arrivals. Burmese refugees are already living in precarious conditions and it is predictable that they will encounter an even more serious problem once the full termination of their assistance took effect. The Indian authorities have issued them with residence permits, but denial of work permits makes any attempt at self-reliance almost impossible and illegal.

Refugees who have been recognized by UNHCR in New Delhi are treated as urban refugees. And the policy of UNHCR on urban refugees in India generally presumes that refugees can easily integrate themselves into local communities. Local integration is a term that implies that refugees are able to find safety, both physical protection and social integration into the local communities. This has not worked for urban refugees, especially refugees from Burma who for reasons of cultural, religious and linguistic differences have made them unable to achieve local integration. UNHCR in New Delhi hasn’t accepted ‘third resettlement’ as part of its strategy to find durable solution to refugee problem. Neither has it acknowledged its failure with regards to the policies of trying to achieve durable solution through local integration for Burmese refugees. In fact, most Burmese refugees are unskilled and cannot speak the local language, and therefore cannot simple find employment in India where there are already millions of unemployed people.

UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva has said it has not considered advocating for establishment of its presence in the border.[6] This is disturbing given that there are well over 50,000 Chin refugees in Mizoram who are in desperate need of protection.

There are about 400 Chin and Kachin refugees who are protesting in front of UNHCR office in Delhi for 14 consecutive days, demanding for two things. One is to recognize those whose application for refugee status had been turned down. Second is to resettle into third countries. However, UNHCR officials had not response until today instead they call local police to arrest them. When police intervene, kicking, punching, arrest followed and take them away from the office.

In conclusion, there is an urgent need of greater international attention to the conditions of Burmese refugees in India. Protection mechanism needs to be in place for refugees from Burma who take shelter in Mizoram. This will only be possible if UNHCR assumes greater role in the protection of Burmese refugees by advocating for establishment of its presence in the border. India should positively respond by allowing UNHCR access to the border areas and by issuing work permits to Burmese refugees.

The need for humanitarian and relief assistance to refugees in the border areas is no less important. Governments and international donor organizations should seriously look into the possibility of channeling assistance to the most vulnerable and most needy persons in Mizoram. Since evictions started in Mizoram in 2003, nearly two hundred refugees from Burma had gathered in at least two rural villages whose residents have been very sympathetic to the plights Burmese refugees as to provide them with food and shelters. These villages could serve as a jumpstart for providing humanitarian assistance to refugees in the border areas.

Thank you.

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[1] UNHCR’s Chief of Mission Lennart Kotsalainen’s letter to the Nordic Burma Support Groups, 3 March 2003, New Delhi

[2] More information on human rights situations in Chin State is available at www.chro.org

[3] In 1996, six Burmese soldiers from an army battalion based in Chin State defected to the Chin National Army. They later approached the UNHCR in New Delhi and were subsequently recognized as refugees. A high ranking Indian intelligence officer was identified as being responsible for their extradition. Some of the defectors were reportedly executed in Burma.

[4] Amnesty International: PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 20/40/00 UA 234/00 Possible forcible return of asylum-seekers 8 August 2000

[5] Rhododendron Vol. VI No III. July-August. www.chro.org

[6]  In a meeting with CHRO’s representative on July 18, 2003, Burma Desk Officer at UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva made it clear that the Office of UNNCR has no intention to advocate for establishing a presence in the India-Burma border.

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