Volume XII, No I. January – February 2009
Chin Human Rights Organization
• SPDC’s New Report Shows Proliferation of Buddhist Religious Infrastructure
GENERAL HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS
• Oil Workers Exploited by Junta-backed Private Company
• Justice Denied
• Chin Administrative Official Dismissed from Job
• Extortion and Forced Labor to Reconstruct a Bridge
• Extortion and Confiscation of Livestock
• Football Tournament to Profit Burmese Soldiers
• Prostitution Proliferate Due to Economic Hardship
• Army Officer Extorts Huge Sums of Money from Traders
• More Chin Territory Annexed in Re-demarcation of Inter-State Border
• 15 Year-Old Girl Raped by Burmese Soldier
• Civilian Forced Labor Employed to Renovate
• School Children Forcibly Conscripted into Burma Army
• Chin Historical Researcher Threatened by Authorities
• Travelers Face New Security Regulation
• Student Hospitalized after Assault by Two Army Officers
• Pay Money or Go to Jail
• Chin Students Face Discrimination in Education
ABUSE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
• Partially Constructed Church Building Ordered Shut
• Chin Church in Rangoon Closed Down By Authorities
• More Churches Locked Up By Authorities
• British MPs Expressed Deep Concern Over Church Shutdowns In Rangoon
RESPONSE TO THE FOOD CRISIS IN CHINLAND
• Live Aid Concerts to Combat Hunger in Chin State
• Australia Hosts Famine Live Aid Concert Series
• WFP: ‘Food Plus Cash-For-Work Programme’ Underway In Chin State
• BURMA: Report Documents Abuse of Chin Christians
SPDC’S NEW REPORT ON DEVELOPMENT IN CHIN STATE SHOWS PROLIFERATION OF BUDDHIST RELIGIOUS INFRASTRUCTURE
A recent report published by Burma’s ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) “Chronicle of National Development” features hundreds of pages detailing infrastructural developments that have been undertaken across the country by the military junta over the past 20 years in Burma. The report, adorned with glossy pictures of bridges, roads and buildings that have been built by the junta boasts the generals’ effort toward a “modern and developed nation.” Published by the Ministry of Information, the report compares economic and infrastructure developments in the country between the period before and after 1988 when the Burmese military took over power.
The SPDC has long held the view that the people of Burma can be coaxed into putting off their dreams for freedom and democracy by showing them a few buildings and bridges built with the ‘goodwill and generosity’ of the Tatamadaw. There is little doubt that the release of the report was carefully timed in order to sway public opinion in favor of the regime ahead of the impending general elections in 2010.
A section of that report, about 18 pages long, was devoted to development initiatives in Chin state, which is neatly entitled “The Changing Scenes of Modernization.” Like other sections in the report, the SPDC boasts its accomplishments in Chin State in various sectors of development. But, not surprisingly, a careful scrutiny reveals that the most significant sector of development in Chin State over the last 20 years was the proliferation of Buddhism and Buddhist religious infrastructures. According to the report, a total of eight new Buddhist pagodas were built, many of them on the very site where a cross was destroyed, while 56 new monasteries were constructed during the period in Chin State. During the same period, the SPDC has outlawed the construction or renovation of churches and Christian religious buildings.
More than 6 Billion Kyats was reportedly spent for the project with funding from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Border Areas and National Races Development Program. Comparatively, 4 high schools, six hospitals and 2 bridges were built over the same period.
Chin Human Rights Organization has long documented and reported on the state-sanctioned expansion of Buddhism into Chin State and the resulting discrimination and persecution of Christians by Burma’s military junta as part of a policy to Burmanize the Chins. In 2004, CHRO published a report “Religious Persecution: A Campaign of Ethnocide against Chin Christians in Burma,” in which it documented in detail the targeted abuse and persecution against Chin Christians by the military regime. It included the destruction of Churches and crosses, the burning of Bibles, the physical abuse of Christian pastors and restrictions on Christian activities. The United States State Department still lists Burma a Country of Particular Concern or CPC, which violates religious freedom, and notes many of the abuses documented by Chin Human Rights Organization.
If the SPDC’s latest report on development in Chin State has accomplished anything, it wouldn’t be a result that the SPDC would want to see – that a grateful Chin people will have a more favorable view of the regime ahead of the planned election in 2010. If anything, the report only gives further proof to what CHRO and other human rights groups have been saying – there is systematic effort by the military junta to promote Buddhism at the expense other religions as part of a long-held policy aimed at making Burma a nation of “One Race, One Language, One Religion” or “Burman, Burmese, Buddhism.”
General Human Rights Situations
OIL WORKERS EXPLOITED BY JUNTA-BACKED PRIVATE COMPANY
23 January 2009: Win Thuza Enterprise, a buyer and seller of crude oil, which is operating under a government license, is exploiting oil workers in Magwe Division by securing oil at exploitatively low rate from local oil producers and workers.
The company has allegedly paid huge sums of money to the authorities to secure the right to be the sole buyer from oil producers and workers at Guan Say oil field, located just one mile away from Guan Say Village, Gangaw Township, Magwe Division. As a result Win Thuza Enterprise is buying crude oil at a 25 percent lower rate. The company is threatening to have the oil field shut if the producers sell their oil to other buying customer.
“They [the company and authorities] warned us that if they discovered that crude oil has been sold to buyers other than Win Thuza Enterprise, they will shut down the oil field,” said U Kyaw Htun, a local oil worker.
“A gallon of crude oil is 1200 Kyats at the market, but we are forced to sell at just 900 Kyats a gallon to the company. There is no profit left for us. We can barely survive under such a circumstance,” he explained.
Guan Say oil field was discovered in 2002 and has been privately operated by four local men.
26 January 2009: A District Judge in Gangaw has dismissed complaints by the family of an 18 year-old Chin girl against U Pho Tha, owner of Win Thuza Enterprise, who alleged had impregnated her with promise to marry her, CHRO has learned.
Ma Yatana (a.k.a.) Ma Chawlay, a first year English Major student, is a daughter of U Tin Ngwe, resident of Myauk Khin Tha village, Gangaw Township of Mawge Division. On January 6, 2009, the 18 year-old girl told U Pho Tha that she was pregnant and asked him to marry her as he had promised. When U Pho Tha told the girl he had a wife and a family and was unable to marry her, parents of the girl lodged a complaint at the Gangaw District Court. But the judge, alleged bought by U Pho Tha, dismissed the case on the ground that it lacked evidence. According to the girl, U Pho Tha had had sex with her at least three times starting on 16 November 2008.
“Justice has been denied. This is just an example that in Burma you can do anything if you have money. You can buy people in high level of authorities,” U Tin Ngwe, a disappointed father said.
Chin Human Rights Organization was told that there are at least a hundred similar cases in Gangaw area where people in authorities have spoiled the life of young girls and then bought their way out of trouble.
CHIN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL DISMISSED FROM JOB
23 January 2009: The administrative head of Thangtlang Township Peace and Development Council was summarily dismissed from his job during the first week of December 2008 following allegations of misconduct by members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
Pu Khua Hlei Thang’s dismissal came following complaints by the USDA in Naypyidaw. The charges included allegations that Pu Khua Hlei Thang had allowed a “No Vote” to beat the constitutional referendum in Thantlang Township and that he misappropriated Cyclone Nirgis Funds for his personal profits.
According to a Thantlang resident who knew dismissed official, the charges stemmed from an argument Pu Khua Hlei Thang had had with USDA officials when he was accused of letting the “No Vote” win in the Township during the constitutional referendum. “There were two sides that campaigned during the referendum and the public decided to vote against the constitution. What could I have done in that situation?” Pu Khua Hlei Thang was quoted as saying. Another charged involved allegations that Pu Khua Hlei Thang misappropriated 3 million Kyats that was collected from the public at the rate of 1000 Kyats per household in Thantlang for Cyclone Nirgis Funds.
EXTORTION AND FORCED LABOR TO RECONSTRUCT A BRIDGE
19 January 2009: Burmese authorities in Kalay Township of Sagaing Division have been collecting money and free labor from residents in the area to construct a bridge near No. 6 School, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
“In November of 2008, the authorities collected 1000 Kyats from each household in the entire area for the reconstruction of the bridge. In addition, they also demanded free human labor for it,” a local resident explained.
He said that the bridge needed to be repaired each year because the authorities allegedly divided up the money they collected from the public among themselves and never spent the money to actually repair the bridge.
EXTORTION AND CONFISCATION OF LIVESTOCK
6 January 2009: Burmese soldiers stationed at Shinletwa Village of Paletwa Township have been engaged in a string of extortion and confiscation of domestic animals from villagers in the area, a local person told Chin Human Rights Organizaiton.
Patrol Column Commander Captain Kyaw Wa and his troops who were patrolling southern Chin State during December of 2008 demanded 100,000 Kyats from each village he visited without any reason given, and shot and killed chickens and other domestic animals in the villages without asking, the local testified.
“People are fed up with these kinds of abuses that have been ongoing in our area,” he said.
FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT TO PROFIT BURMESE SOLDIERS
6 January 2009: Widespread abuses of human rights were committed by Burmese troops in southern Chin State during a regional football tournament sponsored by the army, a local villager told Chin Human Rights Organization.
Started on December 14, 2008, a week-long regional football tournament was held by Burmese troops stationed at Shwe Letwa Village of Paletwa Township where villagers from 10 villages in Shinletwa Village Tracts were asked to participate.
A local villager told Chin Human Rights Organization that during the tournament, the army issued a mandatory order requiring villagers to buy alcohol from them. Every four villagers must buy a bottle of distilled liquor. In addition, the army put a fine of 5000 Kyats on anyone who was drunk and threw them in a pit for one night.
Each participating village was required to bring two to three chickens for the army. For the entire duration of the game, six villagers were forced to do sentry duty each day by the army.
“All the profits made out of the game were to profit commanding officer Bo Kyaw Wa and his troops,” said the local villager.
ARMY OFFICER EXTORTS HUGE SUMS OF MONEY FROM TRADERS
6 January 2009: Burmese troops belonging to Light Infantry Battalion 289 stationed at an army camp at Vuangtu village of Thangtlang Township extorted money from cattle traders and confiscated five cows from them, one of the traders told Chin Human Rights Organization.
During the first week of December 2008, three Chin cattle traders with a herd of 30 cows arrived at Phaikhua Village on their way to the Indian border. Laying in wait at the village was a Burmese army captain and five of his men from LIB 289, who asked them half a million Kyats from the traders and confiscate five of their cows with threats to throw them in jail for illegal smuggling.
“We later learned that five of the cows he confiscated from us were sold by the Captain and his men at nearby villages at the rate of 350,000 Kyats per cow,” the victim explained.
PROSTITUTION PROLIFERATE DUE TO ECONOMIC HARDSHIP
4 January 2009: More Chin young girls are driven into prostitution due to growing economic hardship faced by Chin people.
Taking advantage of their economic hardship, Burmese army officers are luring an increasing number of Chin girls into sex work by improperly touching and having sexual intercourse with underage young girls for money, a local person told Chin Human Rights Organization.
“My life has been ruined, and unfortunately, I am what I am doing,” said a girl who is now engaged in the sex profession.
Four young daughters of U Maram living in Ye Poat Ward of Gangaw Town are a classic example. The girls were forced to drop out of school due to survival difficulties in the family. Too young to work and not having enough to support them financially, the four underage girls are now turning into sex profession. They pay the local police from 5,000 to up to 10,000 Kyats a month in return for permission to perform sex services.
“I think that what I am doing is the best option available for me because my life has been ruined and we are struggling for survival, what other option is there? You can probably hide how your life has been ruined, but the fact that you cannot make a survival cannot be hidden. So this [profession] seems to make the best sense for me under the circumstance,” Boh Sung, one of the four girls, was quoted as saying by her closest friend.
MORE CHIN TERRITORY ANNEXED IN RE-DEMARCATION OF INTER-STATE BORDER
2 January 2009: A large area with some of the most naturally resourceful land of Chin territory was annexed to Magwe Division through forcible re-demarcation of inter-state borders by Burma’s ruling State Peace and Development Council.
A total of 45,502 acres of land measuring 71 miles in length and one mile in breadth belonging to Chin State since the colonial era was annexed to Magwe Division in a re-demarcation program implemented between 8 and 15 September 2008 by the military junta.
The annexed area is abundant with teakwood and some of the most valuable forest products, CHRO has learned. The re-demarcation resulted in the removal of a historical memorial stone marking the borders of Chin State and Magwe Division that has existed since during the British colonial era, one mile into Chin State.
A native Chin forestry official who cannot be named for his security said, “The orders to re-demarcate [to annex Chin State] came from direct orders of the military’s Northwestern Commander. Nobody, even the highest SPDC officials in Chin State dared to question the decision.”
“Between 2006 and 2007, 15 villages in southern Chin State were already annexed to the Burma Proper. This latest annexation came about because nobody dared to protest the last time around. It is sheer oppression against the Chin people because we don’t have the power,” said another Public Works employee of Chin origin who is working in Burma Proper.
Another Chin working at the Ministry of Forestry office in Kalaymyo said that similar annexation was implemented to annex Chin territory into Sagaing Division in the past years.
15 YEAR-OLD GIRL RAPED BY BURMESE SOLDIER
2 January 2009: A 15 year-old Chin girl from Thayakung village of Kalay Township, Sagaing Division, was raped by corporal Oo Htun of Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion (89) based in Kalay Myo, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
“I and some of my friends were having a dance party after church that night on January 1, 2009, when Corporal Oo Htun and some of his men came to the house and gave me 2000 Kyats as a present. Moments later, the corporal asked me to accompany him to the shop for some cigarettes. He was walking behind me for awhile. But a few moments later, he asked me to accompany him to his camp to get a flashlight, which I innocently agreed. But when we got to the camp, he forced himself on me,” the victim whose name is identified only as Pari testified.
“I tried to scream for help but to no avail,” she said. “After he raped me, he threatened me that he would hurt me if I let anybody else know about the incident and promised me to give me another 2000 Kyats if I kept quiet,” she recounted.
According to a relative of the victim, the corporal and three of his men were posted at Thayakung village in September 2008 to collect tolls from vehicles traveling on Kalay-Kangaw highway. He became known to the girl during the Christmas.
CIVILIAN FORCED LABOR EMPLOYED TO RENOVATE SCHOOL
9 February 2009: Civilian forced labor was used to renovate an old high school in disrepair in Khuathar ward of Hakha, the capital of Chin State, a local resident told Chin Human Rights Organization.
Slated for completion before the start of the 2008-2009 academic year, the authorities decided to employ civilian forced labor when they decided that the 75 million Kyats sanctioned for the project was not enough to meet the imposing deadline.
The work is still in progress at the start of 2009 with civilians from Khuathar ward still being engaged in the construction without pay, the source said.
“People are very upset because they are not being paid and they know the money is there for the project,” he said.
CHILDREN FORCIBLY CONSCRIPTED INTO BURMA ARMY
6 February 2009: The Burma Army is forcibly conscripting children into the army in southern Chin State, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
On January 18, 2009, three Chin children, age 13 and 14, were forcibly recruited to serve in the army by Sergeant Maung Thant from Burma Army Infantry Battalion (304), operating under Tactical Command II based in Matupi.
Among the three recruited children is Mang Ngwe Htein, an only child of a widow. The mother, devastated about losing her only child, tried to plead with the Battalion commander for her son’s release, but to no avail. The commander ordered the child to be kept in custody.
“Those who tried to plead for the children’s release were just brutalized,” said a local man from Matupi.
Reports from Matupi said that Burmese troops in the southern region have been trying to take advantage of people’s survival difficulty due to the ongoing famine by offering a reward of 50,000 Kyats and one sack of rice to families whose member agreed to join the army.
“One or two people in town have actually joined the army for want of the reward, but people stopped enlisting because those promises of reward were never realized. This is why the arm has resorted to forcibly conscripting people to meet their recruitment quotas” said a Matupi Town resident.
“The forced recruitment of children has parents worried about their children, so in some villages parents have tried to keep their children out of the sight of Burmese soldiers by hiding them in the jungle,” he continued.
At the time of this report, the three conscripted children are still in army custody.
Sergeant Maung Thant of Infantry Battalion (304) has been responsible for the forced recruitment of under age children in the area. In September 2008, he forcibly conscripted three children from Yung village of Matupi Township.
CHIN HISTORICAL RESEARCHER THREATENED BY AUTHORITIES
6 February 2009: Local authorities in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, have warned an independent Chin historical researcher not to continue with his research work or risk facing formal charges against him for treason against the state, a local person reported to CHRO.
On January 17, 2009, Hakha police station chief and five of his men ordered a local Chin historical and cultural researcher to immediately discontinue his research work and threatened him with legal action if he did not comply.
“The came to my house and searched all my research notes, they summoned me to the station and interrogated me about my work, and they even interrogated my wife and children and threatened me with legal action,” said the researcher who is a native of Sakta village.
“Even normal religious and social activities are now increasingly restricted these days. They [the authorities] are deliberately restricting Christian religious activities under the pretext of security preparation for the upcoming elections in 2010,” said one prominent Christian religious leader in Hakha.
TRAVELERS FACE NEW SECURITY REGULATION
2 February 2009: Travelers in Kalay Township, Sagaing Division have been warned by authorities not to carry more than three note books and to be prepared to have the contents of their personal notebooks searched by immigration officials at checkpoints, an unnamed traveler has informed Chin Human Rights Organization
On January 22, 2009, three immigration personnel assigned at Mile 8, a border crossing point between Chin State and Sagaing Division interrogated travelers bound for Chin State-Mizoram border and warned them against carrying more than three notebooks, one of the travelers reported.
The new measure is believed to be connected with security preparations for the planned election in 2010.
“Each of us, including women passengers, was ordered to get off the vehicle and thoroughly body-searched by the immigration agents. They even went through every page of our personal note books and told us that we were only allowed to carry a maximum of three note books while traveling,” one of the travelers told CHRO on condition of anonymity.
“The new restriction is making things inconvenient for us traders since we need to have at least five different note books for the list of sales, expenses, credits and so on,” said one woman cross-border trader.
STUDENT HOSPITALIZED AFTER ASSAULT BY TWO ARMY OFFICERS
10 February 2009: A tenth grade student was hospitalized for severe bodily injuries after two drunken army officers savagely beat him, a relative of the victim told Chin Human Rights Organization.
The assault took place on January 15 when two army officers became intoxicated after a dinner meeting and asked Maung Mai Pacia, a tenth grade student from Lailenpi village to borrow a guitar from a local church and to entertain them with songs. When the student told the officers he didn’t know how to sing or play guitar, the drunken officers became enraged and beat him mercilessly with the guitar and their pistols.
They continued to assault him on the head and torso until the guitar was all smashed up, leaving him with serious head injuries and dislocated bones in one of the arms. The victim was treated at a village clinic at Lailenpi for one night, but was later taken to a hospital in Matupi where he remains.
The two army captains belong to Infantry Battalion 304 stationed at Satu village and Lailenpi Village of Matupi Township respectively.
“The final exams are getting close and he is still in the hospital. All that he had studied hard for the whole year is going to be for nothing. We struggled hard to pay for his education and now all of this will be for nothing,” said a devastated father of the assault victim.
PAY MONEY OR GO TO JAIL
11 February 2009: A Hakha Township judge has threatened to impose a one-year jail sentence on a local girl accused of being responsible for negligently starting a fire that burned down three houses if she failed to give to the judge 300, 0000 Kyats (300 US Dollars) in bribe money, according to a relative of the accused girl.
On February 10, 2009, three houses at the government quarters in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, burned to the ground after a female high school student living in one of the houses allegedly dumped hot ashes from a cooking stove into the garbage bin. The hot ashes apparently smoldered and caught fire.
Local police later arrested the girl and charged her with criminal negligence causing fire. Before her court appearance on February 11, Township Judge U Myint Wai told the accused girl that he would dismiss her case if she paid him 300,000 Kyats or she would face a one-year jail sentence.
“The family is in a financial crisis right now because the girl is just a high school student and her father U Lian Uk is currently being hospitalized,” said a relative.
Money is an important factor in influencing courts’ decision here in Chin State and elsewhere in the county, the chief of the Hakha Township Police was quoted as saying.
CHIN STUDENTS FACE DISCRIMINATION IN EDUCATION
24 February 2009: Students in Chin State are paying 800 Kyats per person every month for extra classes at school, compared with their peers from lowland Burma who are not required to pay anything for the same program, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
According to a high school student who could not be named, students in Chin State are required to pay various fees, including fees for mandatory extra classes that are offered after the regular school hours. He said that despite a government order saying education should be free, only students in Chin State are required to pay money, while students in the adjacent Magwe and Sagain Division of lowland Burma enjoy free education.
Sayama Sui Zi, a teacher in Chin State told Chin Human Rights Organization that the practice of having the students to pay for their education is an arrangement made by the Chin State Education Officer with schools so that the teachers can earn a side income to supplement their meager and grossly insufficient salaries.
“I don’t care much about the 800 Kyats that we have to pay for extra classes. But what I have a problem with is the teachers not giving us lessons properly at school. This is why we have a very low success rate at high school,” said Ngun Tin Par, a tenth-grade female student.
Abuse of Religious Freedom
PARTIALLY CONSTRUCTED CHURCH BUILDING ORDERED SHUT
19 February 2009: Municipal authorities have ordered local Christians not to continue with the construction of a partially constructed church building in Gangaw Town of Magwe Division, while allowing a Buddhist monastery under construction in a nearby village of Kan to continue without restriction, a local source has told Chin Human Rights Organization.
An official order issued by the Township Municipal Office on November 18, 2008 prohibited the continuance of construction of a church building belonging to Gangaw Evangelical Baptist Church. At the same time the Municipal authorities gave official permission for the construction of a Buddhist monastery in a nearby village and donated a 10-acre plot for the project. The permission also includes the right to freely solicit donations from residents in the area.
“We are in a dilemma because if we go ahead with the construction, they could lay charges for defiance of official order but then they still denied us permission when we tried to go through official procedures,” said a local Chin resident.
Similar orders were in place in Kalay Township of Magwe Division. A church under construction in Tharawaddy village was recently dismantled by local authorities.
The Gangaw Town Evangelical Baptist Church was established in 1985 with official permission is set to celebrate its Silver Jubilee or 25th anniversary in 2010. But the members are now uncertain whether they would be allowed to go ahead with the celebration.
CHIN CHURCH IN RANGOON CLOSED DOWN BY AUTHORITIES
Van Biak Thang
07 January, 2009: SPDC’s local authorities have locked a Chin church in South Dagon township of Rangoon – former capital city of Burma – on 22 December 2008, accusing the church was built without permission.
Mr. Ko Ko Hlaing of Township Peace and Development Committee and his men came to the church in the evening around 6 pm and shut the door, according to the church pastor Joy whose full name remains anonymous for security reasons.
The Chin pastor and his church members were not able to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
“Our church has been running for two years and we have ten thousands unreached people in our neighborhood. The church is closed down now. We need your prayer and supports urgently so the building is re-opened and can run our ministries continuously,” said the church pastor, 36, a Matu-Chin from Southern Chin State.
The church has applied for building permission several times but it has never been granted and it is not strange to hear that religious persecution is still happening in our country, according to Chin activist and pastor Shwekey Hoipang, a close friend of Pastor Joy.
MORE CHURCHES LOCKED UP BY AUTHORITIES
Van Biak Thang
14 January, 2009: Three churches based in South Dagon township, Rangoon have been locked up and sealed without any specific reasons since late December 2008 by Township Peace and Development Council Officer and local authorities.
The authorities came mostly in the evening or at night and shut down the churches including Evangelical Baptist Church, Karen Baptist Church and Dagon Joshua Church according to a Chin witness whose name is not revealed for security reasons.
A 25-year-old Dai-Chin said: “I visited this church [Evangelical Baptist Church] two times and met with the pastor’s wife. According to her, the church was closed at 6 pm on 29 December by Township Peace and Development Council officer, accompanied by many local authorities.”
“She said the officer did not give any reason for doing this and that the church members were not allowed to worship anymore. The pastor showed the Legal Registration Certificate for the church issued by Ministry of Home Affair and Religion but in vain.”
Members of the Karen Baptist Church are said to have been banned from worshipping and going to church for about three weeks.
A private English teacher from Southern Chin State, who visited the church and did not happen to meet with the church pastor, said he tried to talk to the neighbours but nobody dared to speak about what had happened to the church.
The Dagon Joshua Church was sealed at night on 22 December 2008 and the church pastor was said to have been summoned and interrogated a few times by the local SPDC’s authorities. Bags of cement, planks of wood and zinc for roofing that belong to the church were reported missing after the closure.
The church pastor was accused of using ‘defrauded money’ for helping victims of Nargis Cyclone, buying a plot of land to build the church, persuading local people to join in worship services on Sundays and intending to celebrate Christmas without permission.
Sources reportedly said that some other churches and private houses where home cell services are conducted were also closed down in parts of Rangoon. These ‘ruthless and uncivilised’ actions are believed to be SPDC’s responses to Christian communities, both local and international, that help victims of Nargis Cyclone by donating foods and other supplies.
Pastors and church members as well as Christians in the country send out a prayer request for an end to this kind of religious repression as Burma’s military regime is planning to hunt down more houses, flats and churches in the former capital to stop Christian gathering and activities.
BRITISH MPS EXPRESSED DEEP CONCERN OVER CHURCH SHUTDOWNS IN RANGOON
Van Biak Thang
12 February, 2009: In response to recent forcible church closures in Rangoon, at least 33 British Members of Parliament expressed their grave concern by signing an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on Tuesday.
At least 100 churches in Burma’s former capital city, Rangoon, have been closed down and 50 pastors forced to sign documents promising to stop holding church services, under threat of imprisonment if failure to act in accordance with a command, CSW’s reports said.
The EDM, proposed by John Bercow MP, Co-Chair of the All Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, called on the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and Belief to investigate violations of religious freedom in Burma.
CSW’s Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert said: “This recent crackdown on Christian activity in Rangoon is a worrying development and a serious violation of religious freedom. I am delighted that John Bercow and other MPs have taken this step to call for respect for religious freedom in Burma, and for the regime to stop its policies of discrimination and persecution of religious minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims. CSW welcomes the MPs’ call for the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and Belief, Asma Jahangir, to investigate violations of religious freedom in Burma and hold Burma’s military regime accountable for their many human rights abuses.”
The church closures mark the most significant crackdown on Christian activity in Burma in recent years, affecting as many as 80 per cent of churches in Rangoon. Some local Christians believe that the immediate cause of the oppressive measures is church involvement in relief provision for victims of Cyclone Nargis.
Burma is categorised as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ by the US State Department, for its violations of religious freedom. In 2007, CSW published a report, Carrying the Cross: The military regime’s campaign of restriction, discrimination and persecution against Christians in Burma, which revealed a 17-point document allegedly from an organisation affiliated to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, titled “Programme to Destroy the Christian religion in Burma”. The first point states: “There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practised.”
Response to the Food Crisis in Chinland
LIVE AID CONCERTS TO COMBAT HUNGER IN CHIN STATE
Van Biak Thang
14 February, 2009: In an attempt to raise awareness and fund for the famine-affected people in Burma’s Chin State, ‘Chin Famine Live Aid Concert’ is organised by Chin Communities across the globe in partnership with CHRO (Chin Human Rights Organisation).
The event will take place in countries including Australia, United States, Canada and Europe this year to support for the estimated 100,000 people with more than 200 villages severely affected by the SPDC-ignored ongoing famine in Chin State.
Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organisation said: “This is a global campaign against starvation in Chin State, raising awareness about the suffering of our Chin fellows due to the ongoing rat-infested famine among the Chin people inside and outside Burma. This is the time when we, Chin people outside the country, come together and share what we each can to help our brothers and sisters.”
Chin Community in Melbourne, Australia has received a number of Chin vocalists and human rights activists over the past week for the event scheduled today, which is held as part of the ongoing international relief efforts for the Chin famine victims. Another two concerts organised by Chin Communities in Australia will take place at Adelaide and Perth on 21 and 28 February respectively.
A combined event of Chin Famine Live Aid Concert and the 61st anniversary of Chin National Day will be held in London, UK on 21 February. Miss Dim Lian, Secretary of Chin Community UK, sends a message: “As our symbol (the hornbill) signifies loyalty, we are together wherever we live. When you get hurt, we feel the pain. Let’s keep our spirit alive, accommodate, stoop and cater for our fellow Chins in everything we do. This is a corporate responsibility in which each of us has to play our parts in restoring a caring culture among the Chins.”
Last year, similar events were successfully held in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore with famous Chin singers from Burma and India including Sung Tin Par, Zam Nu, San Pi, Mimi Lalzamliani, and Malsawm Tluangi (SP).
Food crisis in the remote areas along the Indian-Burmese border has begun since late 2006 when a plague of rats destroys basic crops and paddy fields in the region. Reports said that some 20 percent of the Chin population have been severely affected by the famine with 44 children losing their lives to malnutrition, diarrhoea and famine-related diseases. Thousands more have fled to neighbouring countries including India, Thailand Malaysia as refugees.
AUSTRALIA HOSTS FAMINE LIVE AID CONCERT SERIES
Lian Ding Hmung
4 February 2009: The first of many well-known Chin vocalists invited to perform at the Chin Famine Live Aid Concerts has arrived in Australia, even as more artists are scheduled to arrive over the coming days. Cung Lian Thawng, a local musician and vocal talent arrived at the Melbourne International Airport Monday.
‘I am honoured by the invitation and the opportunity to be a part of the effort to help the famine victims in Chin State,’ Cung Lian Thawng said on his arrival.
Mami Varte, another famous performer from Mizoram is expected to arrive from India on February 7.
The Chin Famine Live Aid Concerts will take place over the next three weeks in three Australian cities; Melbourne on February 14, Adelaide on February 21, and Perth on February 28. The concerts are part of an ongoing awareness and fundraising campaigns to benefit Chin famine victims. Similar events were successfully organized in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore last year with more events being scheduled to take place in the United States and Canada over the next few months.
‘The Chin communities living in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth have put in considerable energy and time planning and preparing for the concerts,’ says David Thang, a contact person for the organizing committee in Melbourne. ‘With these concerts we hope that more people in Australia, including the Australian government and aid organizations will be aware of the situation and take responsive actions. We have high hope that our investment will pay off,’ he says.
Rev. James Tin Kung, a contact person of the organizing committee in Perth echoes the same sentiment. ‘We arranged these concerts because we believe that even a cent counts for those who are in need. We have a responsibility to help our brothers and sisters at home who are facing starvation.’
According to Chin Human Right Organization (CHRO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), an estimated 100,000 people from at least 129 villages have been severely affected by the ongoing famine, which happens only once in fifty years because of rodent infestation. Twice in a century, an indigenous variety of bamboo in Chin State flowers abundantly and attracts the rodents. The rats eat the fruit of the flowering bamboo, multiple quickly and destroy as much as 75 percent of the crops in Chin State, Burma.
The concerts in Australia will also feature speeches by prominent Chin activists such as Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong of the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC), Dr. Sui Khar and Dr. Salai Ngun Cung Lian of the Chin National Front (CNF).
WFP: ‘FOOD PLUS CASH-FOR-WORK PROGRAMME’ UNDERWAY IN CHIN STATE
Van Biak Thang
15 February, 2009: In response to the food crisis caused by a plague of rats, World Food Programme (WFP) launched its programme called ‘Food Plus Cash-For-Programme’ in six townships of Chin State.
In its recent report, WFP said the programme focuses on improving productive assets that will increase food security, such as agriculture land development, construction of trafficable roads as well as others identified by the local Chin communities. The project will also benefit a total of 6, 360 households in 50 villages, the report added.
The project activities, which are set to begin in mid-January 2009, will be carried out in coordination with UNDP, GRET (Groupe de Recherche et d’exchange Technologiques), KMSS (Karuna Myanmar Social Services) and CAD (Country Agency for rural Development).
The WFP’s report also said: “Project activities are underway and we are coordinating with UNDP who are implementing projects in the southern part of Chin Sate. Specifically, through 12 projects, WFP will develop 155 acres of terraced land in Tiddim, Falam, Hakha, and Thantlang Townships in collaboration with GRET, a total 15 miles of roads in Tonzang and Tiddim with KMSS, and 72 miles of road assets in Hakha and Thantlang with CAD. Each project will last 15-45 days.”
“The expanded terraced land is expected to support 1,898 households in 17 villages when completed, and the newly constructed roads will provide 28,972 villagers an increased access to 25 surrounding villages. The roads are expected to improve the communities’ food accessibility as well as access to water.”
Chris Kaye, WFP Country Director and Representative, told Chinland Guardian when asked about how WFP makes sure relief aids reach those worst famine-affected in the remote jungles: “We intend to carry out further assessments in March to help strengthen our understanding of the needs in more areas of Chin. As you rightly point out however, we are constrained by terrain and logistics capacity. Rest assured, with our partners, we will continue to do all we can to address the hungry poor in Chin.”
Chin churches, organisations and individuals worldwide have also been actively involved in contributing towards the betterment of the devastating situation facing their Chin fellows in military-neglected Burma since late 2006. A series of Chin Live Aid Concerts was organised in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia to raise awareness and fund for the famine victims in 2008 and is set to take place this year in countries including Australia, United States, Canada and Europe.
Besides its report on the famine ‘Critical Point: Food Scarcity and Hunger in Burma’s Chin State’ in July 2008, Chin Human Rights Organisation has since 2006 been actively involved in initiating the famine concerts, raising awareness among international communities and collaborating with both local and international organisations.
Leaders of local religious and famine organisations said that they are willing to collaborate with international organisations and NGOs in order to address the situation more effectively.
Four Chin groups based in Aizawl, Mizoram including Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee, Chin Humanitarian Relief Committee, Women’s League of Chinland and Public Affairs Committee, agreed to work in close cooperation by providing cross-border food aid to the worst famine-affected areas of Chin State, according to the report in October, 2008.
The Chin projects are funded with generous contributions from DFID (UK Department for International Development) and Denmark.
BURMA: REPORT DOCUMENTS ABUSE OF CHIN CHRISTIANS
Human Rights Watch shows systematic, officially sanctioned religious freedom violations.
DUBLIN, February 20 (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.
Volume XII, No II. March – April 2009
Chin Human Rights Organization
U.S Senate Report on Trafficking Underscores Continued Rights Violations in Burma
General Human Rights Situations
Impunity for Army Officer Accused of Sexual Assault
Corrupt Officials Employ Forced Labor
Soldiers Exploit Chin Women under Guise of Marriage
Soldiers Commandeered Traveling Passenger Vehicle
Burmese Soldiers Extort Kyats 100,000 from Trader
Request for Additional Elementary School Teacher Ignored
Self-Reliance to Avoid Govt.’s Exploitation & Red-tape
Widespread Corruptions Blamed for Constant Blackout
Illegal Road Tolls Collected from Vehicle Owners
Village Community Impoverished by Forced Labor
Racial Discrimination against Chin Farmers Continues in Sagaing Division
Inadequate Development Budget Leads to Forced Labor
Unfair Salary Cut for Govt. Employees in Chin State
Families Relocated to Avoid Incessant Forced Labor & Extortion
Authorities Shut Down Chin Church in Rangoon
Christians Forced to Contribute Wood towards Pagoda Construction
Food Crisis in Chiland
Food Scarcity Likely to Worsen in Chin State – Aid Group
Situations of Refugees
More Chin Refugees Found Detained in Malaysia
Chins Suffer from Inadequate Access to Protection in India
Over 200 Burmese arrested in Malaysia
U.S. Senate Releases Report on Abuses in Malaysia, Raids Continue
CHRO Releases New Report on Situations of Chins in Delhi
U.S SENATE REPORT ON TRAFFICKING UNDERSCORES CONTINUED RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BURMA
A report released late April by the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the trafficking and exploitation of undocumented migrants from Burma along the Malaysian-Thai border said that thousands of Burmese nationals who are seeking protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia have fallen victim to human traffickers and corrupt officials.
At the center of the investigation is the alleged complicity by elements of the Malaysian government, particularly the Immigration Department and the RELA, a 400,000-strong government-authorized vigilante force, in the mistreatment and trafficking of Burmese refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, often in collusion with syndicates in Thailand.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee took a year to complete its investigation and issue its final findings. As shocking as it may be to see the results of the report, it is important to understand what prompted the initiation of such an investigation in the first place. It is not every day that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a major branch of the US foreign policy-making body undertakes an investigation into an international issue of such a seemingly insignificant matter. In short, apart from US foreign policy interests, the fact that such an investigation was conducted shows the seriousness of the problem.
The Malaysian government has recently responded to the report by promising to conduct an investigation into the trafficking of Burmese migrants and refugees along the Malaysia-Thailand border, one of several recommendations made in the report. But the response fell short of promising to take important steps to ensure that the mistreatment of vulnerable people, such as refugees, does not happen in the future. Such steps would involve, according to the report’s recommendation, an accession to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the disbanding of RELA (Ikatan RELAwan Rakyat), which has been accused of many of the violations against undocumented migrants and refugees.
The issue highlighted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in its latest report represents just one among a host of important and pressing issues pertaining to Burma. The recent crisis of ‘Rohingya Boat People’ and the continuing plight of Burma’s ethnic refugees inside and along the borders of India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia are becoming an issue of concern for not just one country or of one region but the entire community of nations. The recent US Senate report underscores that argument.
In this increasingly interconnected world, the problems of one country can no longer be contained within that country’s borders. There are no countries other than Burma’s neighbors who would best understand that. The continuing outflow of refugees and migrants from Burma into its neighboring countries just shows how violations of basic human rights in one country can cause a burden for the region and the world. And the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s recent report underscores just exactly that.
General Human Rights Situations
IMPUNITY FOR ARMY OFFICER ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
4 March 2009: Local authorities are yet to take any action against Captain Aung Kyaw Oo, patrol unit commander from Matupi-based Light Infantry Battalion (304) who was accused of molesting and attempting to sexually assault on a local Chin woman, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
The accusation stemmed from an incident in September 2008 in which Captain Aung Kyaw Oo and his troops were patrolling the areas northwest of Matupi Town. Upon their arrival at a location between Aru and Lailenpi Village, the Captain spotted a local woman who was taking a bath in a stream. He immediately ordered his men to go ahead of him and approached the woman with the intent of sexually assaulting her.
According to a local man whose identity is held anonymous, Captain Aung Kyaw Oo then started lifting up the woman’s sarong and rubbing her upper thigh as he tried to force himself on her. When the woman started screaming for help and tried to struggle, the Captain’s men turned back and came running to see what was wrong, only to discover that their commanding officer was trying to rape the woman. Ashamed and angry, the Captain Aung Kyaw Oo fired three shots in the air with his pistol.
The victim’s family lodged a complaint with a local police station at Lailenpi accusing Captain Aung Kyaw Oo of molestation and attempted rape, but no action has been taken in the matter to date.
The woman is from Aru Village and was recently married to a Lailenpi villager when the incident took place.
CORRUPT OFFICIALS EMPLOY FORCED LABOR
March 4, 2009: A massive use of forced labor is being reported in Matupi Township of southern Chin State where a construction project for a new hospital is now underway at Lailenpi Village.
A villager of Lailenpi reported to Chin Human Rights Organization that corrupt officials from the Public Work Department who are charged with the construction of the new hospital are forcing villagers to work in the construction without pay despite the fact that there is a Kyats 70 millions budget sanctioned for the project.
“Saying that the budgeted money is not enough to complete the construction, the entire village [of Lailenpi] has been ordered to supply sand for the construction, which we must collect and carry from the banks of nearby streams and rivers. Of course we have to comply with the order because we dare not argue with them,” says a villager interviewed by CHRO.
The construction has been underway since the beginning of 2009, although villagers are still unsure of just how many rows of building will be built. According to the villager, two persons from each household is required to collect sand from Tisi stream, a three-mile walk from Lailenpi and transport them to the village. “Everyone in the village is facing a lot of difficulties and is disappointed by continually having to work without pay,” he lamented.
SOLDIERS EXPLOIT CHIN WOMEN UNDER GUISE OF MARRIAGE
6 March 2009: Chin women in southern Chin State, an area that has been heavily militarized in the past years with the establishment of Tactical Command II in Matupi Township, are increasingly falling victims to Burmese soldiers who married the local Chin girls and left them husbandless once the soldiers completed their postings with the battalions in Chin State.
A local man from Matupi area interviewed by Chin Human Rights Organization said that more Chin girls, who were married with Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (203) and (140) operating under the Tactical Command II based in Matupi, have been abandoned by their Burmese husbands once they have served their posting periods with the battalions, leaving the women ‘widowed or husbandless,’ and creating social problems within the community.
“These women were obviously exploited just for the purpose of sexual entertainment for a brief period under the guise of ‘marriage’ and then left defenseless and ashamed in the community,” a Matupi local said.
He continued, “In addition to feeling ashamed, the women ultimately have to be looked after by their parents and families, and that creates an added social and economic burdens for their families and community who are already struggling for their own survival. If a soldier gets transferred or have served his rotation in the battalion, he would go away secretly without informing his Chin wife.”
A dozen Chin women from Matupi area are known to have fallen victims to such exploitation by Burmese solders from LIB (304) and (140) since 2000. They included three (3) women from Matupi Town, four (4) women from Phanang village, three (30) women from Valangpi and Leisen Village, and two (2) women from Sabawngte village respectively.
SOLDIERS COMMANDEERED TRAVELING PASSENGER VEHICLE
7 March 2009: A traveling passenger vehicle was commandeered by a group of three Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (286) between Laitui Village and Tiddim Town, forcing passengers off the vehicle and leaving them stranded for hours. The passengers had to wait for another vehicle crossing by the route and had to pay additional fares, one of the passengers on the commandeered vehicle testified to Chin Human Rights Organization.
The incident happened during the second week of January 2009. According to the passenger who spoke to CHRO, the three Burmese soldiers stopped the vehicle and ordered everyone out and commandeered the vehicle. All passengers were left on the road side not knowing when the soldiers will return the vehicle or when another vehicle would pass by.
The vehicle was carrying a full-load of passengers from Tio, a river crossing point between divides India and Burma.
“It is not only very unfair for the owner of the vehicle who doesn’t get compensated for gas, but also for us travelers who have to bear additional costs unnecessarily. But we dare not question those in uniforms because they have the power,” said the traveler.
He added that a similar incident in late 2008 had caused several passengers to be stranded for three hours in the middle of nowhere after Burmese troops commandeered three vehicles they were riding in.
BURMESE SOLDIERS EXTORT 100,000 KYATS FROM TRADER
27 February 2009: A group of five Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (269) forcibly extorted 100,000 Kyats from a wool trader during the second week of February, the victim told Chin Human Rights Organization.
“I make very little profits from wool trading. I had to give 100,000 Kyats to the soldiers because I was carrying 8 bags of wool. Such big amount of money is playing into the capitals, not to mention the profits. They are just ruining our family’s livelihood,” the woman explained.
According to the victim, Burmese soldiers from the same Battalion are regularly on the prowl for traders in the area, at least on a weekly basis to squeeze money out of Chin traders.
REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS IGNORED
14 March 2009: A request that was made a decade ago to the military regime for additional school teachers at an elementary school in Falam Township is still being ignored, a local person told Chin Human Rights Organization.
An elementary school at Kamone Chaung, Wai Bu Lah Village Tract of Falam Township, which was formally recognized as a government school in 1992, has only two teachers to teach nearly 200 students from Kindergarten class to Grade 4. The school’s request for three additional teachers since 1998 has not been responded to by the authorities to date.
By comparison, a similar request by another elementary school located just nine miles away in Thayakung village, Kalay Townshio of Sagaing Division, was granted almost immediately, just three years after the request was made, in 2007.
The headman of Kamone Chaung Village U Ni Thang said, “Not having adequate number of teachers has left the children illiterate. Even the 4th Graders cannot recite Burmese alphabets from start to finish.”
Another villager said, “Some 4th Graders cannot properly spell their own names. The classrooms are not even partitioned.”
Similarly, in recent years more children are reported to be dropping out of primary schools in Rih Sub-township areas due to inadequate teachers and other economic hardships.
Kamone Chaung Village was established in 1984 by U Ki Pe and U Ngwe Mang. The village now has 56 households. Six villages in the surrounding areas rely on the elementary school in Kamone Chaung for their children’s education.
SELF-RELIANCE TO AVOID GOVT.’S EXPLOITATION AND RED-TAPE
15 March 2009: More communities are initiating self-support projects instead of relying on the military government for development in order to avoid bureaucratic red-tapes and other exploitative measures by government officials, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
A hydro electric power plant construction project being initiated by communities in Kya Inn village, Kalay Township, Sagaing Division exemplifies such efforts. Started in early 2009, the power plant is expected to produce a 250 Kilowatt electrical power.
“When the government did something for us, they usually demanded back twice what was worth from the community [in the form of ‘donations’ and forced labor], and that is why it is more worthwhile to initiate things entirely on our own altogether,” one villager explained.
He continued, “It is one thing they [the government] always took advantage of us, but it is another when we have to wait forever for approval to our requests. So it is more sensible not to ask from them at all and to initiate things on our own.” He explained that a request made to the authorities since 1998 by the community asking the government to build an irrigation system that would supply water to more than 10,000 acres of farmland was never responded to.
To avoid such lengthy bureaucratic procedures and possible exploitative measures, Chin communities in Wai Bu Lah Village Tract had also built a bridge through a self-support project.
WIDESPREAD CORRUPTIONS BLAMED FOR CONSTANT BLACKOUT
16 March 2009: Residents of Gangaw, Magwe Division are forced to live in virtual darkness due to widespread corruptions by officials working at the Department of Electricity, a town resident reported to Chin Human Rights Organization.
Corruption reportedly runs through all levels of officials within the Township Department of Electricity, from the department’s head U Tua Lan Thang all the way down to the lowest level. The officials are allegedly ‘excessively’ selling off [for personal profits] diesel fuel meant to power the electricity plant in Gangaw, leaving inadequate power supplies for the town residents.
Residents are only getting electricity supplies for just one hour a day for four days out of an entire week, according to one resident. A 2007 supply chart submitted by the department to higher authorities however indicated that residents received a three-hour electricity supply each day of the week.
One woman resident said, “I don’t know exactly how much fuel they [the power officials] have illegally sold off, but the electricity current is so low that even when you touch the open wire it won’t have an electrocuting effect. We have to light candles even when we have the electricity.”
“Gangaw probably has the lowest rate of electricity supply among all the cities in the country. These people do not have the slightest sympathy for the fellow human beings other than their own welfare,” she continued.
Similar allegation of corruptions involved the Gangaw District Peace and Development Council Chairman Major Htay Oo who in 2005 embezzled much of the money sanctioned for road maintenance in Gangaw Town.
ILLEGAL ROAD TOLLS COLLECTED FROM VEHICLE OWNERS
17 March 2009: Police personnel from Tiddim Township Police Department are regularly collecting illegal tolls from owners of private vehicles plying the Tiddim-Tio route, a traveler told Chin Human Rights Organization.
A police inspector and his men who were recently charged with security for the upcoming elections in 2010 in Tiddim Township have been collecting road tolls from vehicles travelling on Tiddim-Tio route without any fixed amount. According to one traveler interviewed by CHRO, the police typically would not let go of the vehicle until the owner paid them whatever amount that they had demanded.
“This so-called road toll is in addition to what we had already paid as vehicle toll. They are obviously not concerned about security; all they want is to make fast money,” one driver said.
Similarly, Sergeant Oo Htun and his military unit who are charged with security in Thayakung area of Kalay Township, Sagaing Division have been illegally collecting extortionate amount of money from vehicles passing through Kalay-Gangaw road.
VILLAGE COMMUNITY IMPOVERISHED BY FORCED LABOR
18 March 2009: A village community is increasingly burdened and impoverished by incessant forced labor demands associated with a government-run Jatropha [a type of bio-fuel] plantation project.
Kamone Chaung village is located in Wai Bu Lah Village Tract of Falam Township, northern Chin State. Since December 2008, an entire community in the village has been forced to work on Jatropha plantation without pay by orders of Falam Township Department of Forestry. A resident of the village told Chin Human Rights Organization that the villagers were forced to clear a 6-acre land of forest near the village as well as forced to perform other kind of forced labor for the plantation.
“Our village was already dealing with severe food shortages and families have been reduced to working for a day’s meal each day. Having to perform forced labor for an extended period has really affected our survival ability,” said a villager whose identity is withheld for security purpose.
He continued, “The common sentiment of the people here is that this government is only there to cause us trouble. They forced us to do various kinds of forced labor for them including planting and cultivating Jatropha, yet they wouldn’t build an irrigation that would really have benefited the community here.”
The Jatropha plantation project was first started in Kimone Chaung Village in 2006, with the promise that the fruit produced would be purchased back by the authorities. Instead, the recent orders to cultivate more Jatropha meant that the authorities have not only bought back the fruits produced from the 2006 planting, they are compelling villagers to more of unpaid labor.
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AGAINST CHIN FARMERS CONTINUES IN SAGAING DIVISION
19 March 2009: Chin farmers in Kalay Township, Sagaing Division are being unjustly targeted for collection of unofficial levy, an informed resident of the area told Chin Human Rights Organization.
Thayakung village, located in Sagaing Division’s Kalay Township, has about 300 household and is heavily populated by Chin people, the majority of whom are farmers. Since 2005, the Chin farmers have been subject to an unofficial levy on their farm produce at the rate of 3 Tins (roughly 60 kilograms) of rice per every acre of paddy cultivated.
U Maung Sa, current Chairman of Htautkyant Village Tract Peace and Development Council issued the order to collect levy from Chin farmers without any written official documents from higher authorities. He said that the levies collected from Chin farmers would be used towards repairing damaged bridges within the Village Tract. No bridges has been repaired or maintained in the area since the collection began in 2005.
“Imagine how much money U Maung Sa already has accumulated since 2005. There are nearly 500 acres of farmland in Thayakung village. And we haven’t heard about any bridge being repaired in the last several years,” a member of Thayakung Village Council said.
Similarly, Forestry Department in Falam Township, citing land tax, has been demanding from Chin farmers from Wai Bu Lah Village Tract two Tins [roughly 40 kilograms] of rice per every acre of paddy cultivated.
INADEQUATE DEVELOPMENT BUDGET LEADS TO FORCED LABOR
20 March 2008: Residents of Rih Town of northern Chin State ended up having to provide unpaid labor due to ‘grossly’ inadequate budget provided by the military regime to pave a 2-kilometer-long main road of the town.
Started in September 2008 and set for completion in April of 2009, the military regime sanctioned a mere 10 million Kyats for the project, just a fraction of the actual budget needed to complete the project.
A member of the Special Public Works Team (12) based in Gangaw observed, “In a normal situation, we need at least 15 barrels of asphalt and 50 million Kyats to construct a one-mile asphalt road. It is ridiculous that the authorities would expect that a mere 10 million Kyats would do the job to pave a 2-mile-long road. This is nothing but sheer oppression.”
A Chin resident of the town said, “This is only very typical of the military regime. It is their way of showing that they have the power over the Chin people, that they can do whatever they please to oppress us socially, religiously and ethnically.”
UNFAIR SALARY CUT FOR GOVT. EMPLOYEES IN CHIN STATE
22 March 2009: Unlike their counterparts from any other States or Division in Burma, government employees in Chin State have their meager monthly salary cut for as much as 7000 to 8000 Kyats each month, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
Although unofficial, the cut in salary is affecting all public employees in the State, making it even more difficult for families of government employees to make ends meet. Not practiced in any other States or Divisions within Burma, the monthly salary cut in Chin State is meant to cover the costs of ‘entertainment activities’ for visiting ‘junta dignitaries’ as well as to cover the cost of procuring Jatropha [a type of bio-fuel] and tea seedlings.
“Because of the arbitrary cut in our monthly salary our family now has faced an even more difficult challenge for survival. I had to tell my 8 Grader son to discontinue school, can you imagine how difficult and sad a decision that is?’ said one distraught father and resident of Rih Town.
Another government employee said, “Those of us who are government employees now have to live in a vicious cycle of debts, and at the mercy of businessmen from whom we borrow money.”
Since 2006, public employees in Chin State have been forced to engage in forced labor during weekends to work at government-run tea and Jatropha plantation farms, have their monthly salary cut for the costs to cover ‘entertainment activities’ for high level junta officials visiting the State.
8 FAMILIES RELOCATED TO AVOID INCESSANT FORCED LABOR AND EXTORTION
25 March 2009: Eight families from Rezua sub-township were forced to relocate to other places to avoid incessant forced labor demands and extortion by the Burmese army in their areas, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.
Sergeant U Than Hlaing, patrol unit (II) commander from Matupi-based Light Infantry Battalion (140) has been accused of forcing civilians in Rezua area to porter for the army on virtually a weekly basis and extorting thousands of Kyats from each household in the entire area. Each household is reportedly paying 15,000 Kyats a year to the Sergeant: 5000 Kyats for home tax, 3000 Kyats for road toll, 5000 Kyats for farm tax and another 2000 Kyats for water.
No longer able to keep up with the forced labor demands and arbitrary taxes, eight families from Ruavan village of Rezua sub-township relocated to Kamone Chaung village of Falam Township.
“You don’t see such excessive amount of arbitrary taxes being collected in other places. Having to do forced labor regularly on top of that is too much to bear,” said U Ni Lan, a local resident.
A Corporal from Burmese army LIB (5) based in Gangaw commented, “At best two-thirds of the money will be pocketed by the Sergeant and only a third of that money be submitted to higher authorities. That kind of money collection has become a profitable side income for army personnel on patrol in the front line.”
Grossly underpaid and under-supplied, Burmese army operation in Chin State has been virtually living off the local population through forced labor, extortion and confiscation of livestock and properties.
SPDC AUTHORITIES SHUT DOWN CHIN CHURCH IN RANGOON
Van Biak Thang
26 April, 2009: The local authorities in North Dagon Township, Rangoon closed down the Dai Christian Fellowship Church last Sunday, 19 April while the church pastor was attending an International Brethren Conference in Malaysia.
SPDC’s local authorities came to the church in the evening and ordered not to do any worship services again, according to one of the church leaders, who added: “This is the only church service that the Dai people in Rangoon have and it is becoming a rendezvous for all of us. Unfortunately, the church has been closed down and every church member feels really sad so we need your special fervent prayer for help.”
One of the church leaders, who asks not to be named for security reasons, said the DCF church, which has got about 70 regular church-goers, was ordered to close and stop holding church services without giving any reasons by three local authority officers.
An orphanage ‘Victoria Childcare Home’ with about 15 children being looked after by the Dai Christian Fellowship (DCF) was also included in the recent closure. Other churches based in Ward 46 of North Dagon were said to have been locked on the same day but the number has not yet been known.
UK-based Dai-Chin pastor, Rev. Shwekey Hoipang, who co-founded the church in late 2007, told Chinland Guardian: “The Military Regime makes a series of raids to close down the churches, Bible colleges and orphanages in Rangoon in April 2009. It is clear that the Military Regime’s strategy is to destroy the Christian activities one by one and one place to another discretely. It is an ongoing plan of the Military Regime to wipe out the Christian in Burma.”
It is estimated that more than 200 Dai people, one of the Chin tribes from Southern Chin State, live in Rangoon, former capital of Burma.
Since December 2008, more than 100 churches in Rangoon’s South Dagon and Pabedan townships have been shut down, about 50 pastors forced to sign the documents promising to stop holding church services, and 80 per cent of churches in Rangoon affected, according to a report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) early this year.
Burma’s military regime has been condemned by international communities and Chin Christians across the world for its brutal yet escalating crackdowns on Christian activities in the country.
CHRISTIANS FORCED TO CONTRIBUTE WOOD TOWARDS PAGODA CONSTRUCTION
Van Biak Thang
26 April, 2009: The SPDC’s local authority has ordered villages in Thantlang Township, Chin State to donate 12-feet long wood planks for a pagoda being constructed at Lungler village near the Indian-Burmese border, sources disclosed.
One local traveller from Lunger village reportedly said the pagoda construction is going on now and other villages around Lungler including Tlangpi, Tlanglo and Lungding are forced to provide a total of 16 wood planks each.
The pagoda construction has started since March 2009, now nearing its completion and 7 Buddhist monks are said to be coming to the village late this month, according to an Internet-based newsletter yesterday.
Villagers from Lungler and nearby suffered much from a series of forced labour, portering and money-extortion to renovate a military camp of the Light Infantry Battalion (266) stationed at Lungler village, according to Khonumthung News last year.
The Chin people, mostly dependent on wood for cooking as electricity is not fully available, have faced an increasing shortage of wood throughout Chin State due to deforestation and a slash-and-burn farming system.
Food Crisis in Chinland
FOOD SCARCITY LIKELY TO WORSEN IN CHIN STATE – AID GROUP
by Salai Pi Pi
New Delhi (Mizzima) – The scarcity of food in rat-infested Chin State in western Burma, is likely to escalate during the monsoons, according to a relief group in exile.
Salai Cinzah, Chairman of the Chin Humanitarian Relief Committee (CHRC), in exile, said on Monday, the villagers, the victims of food shortage caused by rat infestation in Chin state, were worried as the coming monsoons would disrupt the ongoing relief assistance by the International Non-government Organizations (INGOs) and NGOs.
“They [villagers] are worried that the shortage of food will get worse in the monsoons, as the weather will make it difficult to access the places, where they are staying and the inflow of aid from outside and inside Burma would be hampered,” Cinzah told Mizzima.
The rat infested Chin state, is the most backward and least developed state in military ruled Burma, where only a few villages can be accessed by car during the rainy season, making transportation of food and other commodities difficult and expensive.
Most of the affected areas are over 160 kilometres away from the places where most of the relief agencies’ field offices are established in Chin state.
Cinzah said, though there are some INGOs and NGOs distributing aid and money to the most critical areas in southern Chin state, there are a lot of affected villages facing shortage of food and which needs to be given assistance.
“Although, some villages have received aid from INGOs and NGOs, a lot of villages are still facing insufficiency of food and need help,” he said.
He added, “The worst thing is that there is no sign of reduction in the number of rats that damage the crops on the field, consume food grains and other food items.”
Last month, the World Food Program (WFP) in its report said, the food scarcity of vulnerable households in Chin state remains precarious as their purchasing power continues to be limited due to the loss of crops, while the situation of early 2009 seems to be stabilizing, with the relief aid of the international community.
Moreover, in addition to emergency food assistance, WFP which serves as a coordinating agency of several relief agencies in Chin state also said, “Some agencies have begun to distribute seeds for winter crops, and take preventive measures against future infestations.”
WFP and its coordinating relief agencies have responded to the food crisis in Chin state by projecting a “Food for Work” programme in 3 townships and “Food plus Cash for Work” programme in 5 townships.
The report said, “The activities focus on improving productive assets that increase their food security, such as agricultural land development, construction of trafficable roads, as well as other projects identified by the communities themselves.”
WFP also expected that the assistance project, of USD 708,000 given by United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Denmark, would benefit a total of 6,360 households in 50 villages and added, it had requested European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) to support another additional 7,500 beneficiaries with 203 tons of food as well as to carry out a food security survey.
Meanwhile, Terah, another relief worker from the Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC) told Mizzima that the new symptoms of food scarcity was found in the areas of Chin’s southern township Paletwa near northern Arakan state.
“We are told that some villages in Paletwa Township near Arakan state also experienced shortage of food as rats began damaging the crops in the fields,” said Terah.
Source: Mizzima News
Date: 20 Apr 2009
Situations of Refugees
MORE CHIN REFUGEES FOUND DETAINED IN MALAYSIA
Van Biak Thang
04 April, 2009: An ‘unknown’ number of Chin refugees have been found detained in Malaysia after a team of three UNHCR officers and three interpreters visited the Langkap detention centre at Teluk Intan in Perak last Monday.
A source said more than an estimated 200 refugees are in the detention centre and about 40 percent of it are Chin including women. The Langkap detention centre has been known among the refugees as having the worst condition with caning punishment.
Mr. Bawi Ceu, who has been detained since July 2008 when he was arrested with many other Chin refugees at Cameron Highland, was quoted as saying: “We were sentenced by the court to two strokes of the cane and 7-month imprisonment last December. It is not easy as we are just being cooped up. There are many Chin refugees in this centre and please pray for all of us.”
The Chin detainees, according to one Chin witness, have no other places to sleep but on the cement floor without blankets and also get ill frequently as they are not given enough food. He said those who do not speak and understand Malaysian are shouted at, threatened and even slapped. The Chin refugees face harsh condition and abuses in detention camps where slapping and kicking are common and normal, he added.
On 1 April 2009, two lorries full of newly arrested refugees arrived at the Langkap detention centre and more than 20 Chin refugees were included. “We shouted if there were any Chin refugees in the lorries. Raising their hands, some women melted into tears and cried once they heard our voices in Chin. After encouraging them, we left uncomfortably,” continued the Chin refugee witness.
The Malaysian government has since January, 2009 stopped deporting refugees into the Thai-Malaysian border where a deported refugee could get into the hands of human traffickers.
The current situation of Chin refugees in Malaysia has raised grave concerns among the Chin communities and an email prayer request has been circulated and launched across the globe for especially those who are being detained and facing rough condition in Malaysian detention camps.
CHIN SUFFERS FROM INADEQUATE ACCESS TO PROTECTION IN INDIA
07 Apr 2009 – New Delhi: The Chin people of Burma, who are living in the Indian capital, suffers from less access to humanitarian relief and services by the local government and also the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in New Delhi.
In a new report released today, the Chin Human Rights Organization finds that Ch people seeking protection as refugees face prolonged wait-periods in extremely poor conditions with very little access to humanitarian relief.
The CHRO has appealed New Delhi and the UNHCR to ensure that Chin in Delhi have access to expedient and fair protection mechanisms as well as basic human necessities.
“So many Chin in Delhi live in deplorable conditions- without jobs, without basic amenities, without access to social services,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, executive director of CHRO adding “In fact, the Chin are refugees in desperate need of protection, but it takes years to gain protection by the UNHCR. Meanwhile, the Chin are living on the bare margins of society in Delhi.”
Currently, the estimated Chin population in Delhi is 4,200- the largest asylum-seeking population from Burma living in Delhi.
Sixty-six percent of the Chin community are unemployed and those who are employed typically work 10- to 12-hour days for less than Rs. 70 (US$1.35) per day. Illnesses are common and access to affordable and quality healthcare is limited. More than half of those Chin who died in 2007 and 2008 succumbed to easily treatable and preventable health problems, such as diarrhea, stated in a statement issued by CHRO from California.
Mentionable that, hundreds of thousands of people of Chin were forced to leave their homes in the Burmese province to escape from severe ethnic and religious persecution of the military regime. They arrive in India in search of security and the hope of enjoying basic freedoms. Currently, some 75,000 to 100,000 ethnic Chin from Burma are living on the India-Burma border State of Mizoram.
As UNHCR has no access and provides no protection to the Chin population living in Mizoram, the only available means of protection in India is to travel some 2,400 kilometers to Delhi. Due to the significant distance and expense of this trip, only a small minority of the Chin population in India is able to make it to Delhi. As of December 2008, the population of Chin in Delhi numbered 4,200.
Although UNHCR supports several programs to provide for and improve the welfare of the Chin community, many of these programs are inadequate and ineffective to meet the community needs. Access to such programs is limited to UNHCR-recognized refugees and more than half of the Chin community in New Delhi are not eligible to benefit from such programs.
OVER 200 BURMESE ARRESTED IN MALAYSIA
by Salai Pi Pi
New Delhi (Mizzima) – In a fresh crackdown on migrants, Malaysian authorities arrested at least 200 Burmese nationals on Wednesday, in Kuala Lumpur.
During a joint operation conducted by the Malaysian police, immigration officials and peoples’ volunteer corps – RELA – on Wednesday, at least 200 Burmese nationals, both possessing legal documents as well as illegal migrants, were picked up at Zalam Imbi in Kuala Lumpur.
“At around 7:00 pm yesterday, they started launching the operation in Imbi near Times Square. It took over two hours,” Bawi Hre, Chairman of the Chin Refugee Committee- Malaysia, who is following the case closely, told Mizzima.
“Some were arrested on the streets and some were picked up from their residence,” he added.
He said, among the arrested Burmese, including women and children, several of them were registered refugees of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while some have legal travel documents. However, many of them are illegal migrants, seeking jobs.
“They took them [the Burmese nationals] to the nearby immigration centre in Putrajaya, where they are being temporarily detained,” he said. “I have heard that they will be taken to Bukit Jali [a suburban town in Kuala Lumpur],” he elaborated.
Nearly a hundred of the detained Burmese, who had legal documents, were later released.
Kyaw Htoo Aung, Assistant Secretary of Malaysia-based Burmese Workers’ Rights Protection Committee (BWRPC) told Mizzima, that during the operation, RELA and the police used batons against the Burmese nationals, who are now being detained.
“They used batons in the operation and beat some Burmese nationals,” Kyaw Htoo Aung said.
Although, such operations against illegal migrants and arrest of Burmese workers are not uncommon, the arrests on Wednesday were significant as it included several children as well as women, he said.
Rights groups and Bar Association in Malaysia have voiced their concern against the government-backed RELA groups’ action against migrants. RELA has attracted severe criticism by rights groups and campaigners for its harsh crackdowns on illegal migrants and foreign nationals.
Malaysia, which is one of the emerging economies of Southeast Asia has long been a refuge for millions of migrant workers from regional countries, including Burma, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.
However, with the world economy in recession, observers say that Malaysia is conducting fresh operations on migrants since mid-2008, in order to reduce the burden of its citizens losing jobs.
Min Thein, officer in-charge of the Malaysia-branch of the Burmese political party, – Democratic Party for New Society (DPNS), – said, “The recent operation might be because of the impact of the global recession, which also hit the Malaysian economy. And it is also an act, to prevent more influx of migrants into the country.”
According to him, Malaysia, since last year, has intensified its crackdown on migrants far more than in the past. Since the beginning of this year, at least 1,000 Burmese nationals have been arrested and are being detained in detention centres or immigration camps.
In the first week of April, about 200 Burmese nationals were arrested in Kuala Lumpur and are being detained at the Lengang and other detention centres.
According to Kyaw Htoo Aung, there are about 500,000 Burmese nationals commonly working in restaurants and construction sites in Malaysia. While several of them have legal documents including over 30,000 UNHCR recognized refugees, the majority are left without any legal documents to stay.
Source: Mizzima News
Date: 23 Apr 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mai Dawt Chin Plato Van Rung Mang
Program Officer- Delhi Field Officer
Asalatpur, Janakpuri Asalatpur, Janakpuri
Delhi, India Delhi, India
Tel: +91.11.2561.7368 Tel: +91.11.2561.7368
Chin in Delhi, India Lack Adequate Protection and Humanitarian Support
Delhi; April 3, 2009: In a new report released today, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) finds Chin in Delhi seeking protection as refugees face prolonged wait-periods in extremely poor conditions with very little access to humanitarian relief or services. CHRO calls on the Government of India and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure Chin in Delhi have access to expedient and fair protection mechanisms as well as basic human necessities.
Waiting on the Margins: An Assessment of the Situation of Chin Refugees in Delhi documents the limited protections available to the Chin community and their living conditions in Delhi. Due to long processing delays at UNHCR, it takes on average more than two years to receive refugee recognition- four times longer than mandated by UNHCR guidelines. As a result, more than half of the Chin population in Delhi have cases pending with UNHCR and are not yet recognized as refugees. Without UNHCR-recognition, Chin are not eligible for essential social services and humanitarian relief provided by UNHCR-partner organizations.
“So many Chin in Delhi live in deplorable conditions- without jobs, without basic amenities, without access to social services,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, executive director of CHRO. “In fact, the Chin are refugees in desperate need of protection, but it takes years to gain protection by the UNHCR. Meanwhile, the Chin are living on the bare margins of society in Delhi.”
Currently, the estimated Chin population in Delhi is 4,200- the largest asylum-seeking population from Burma living in Delhi. Sixty-six percent of the Chin community are unemployed and those who are employed typically work 10- to 12-hour days for less than Rs. 70 (US$1.35) per day. Illnesses are common and access to affordable and quality healthcare is limited. More than half of those Chin who died in 2007 and 2008 succumbed to easily treatable and preventable health problems, such as diarrhea.
Although UNHCR supports several programs to provide for and improve the welfare of the Chin community, many of these programs are inadequate and ineffective to meet the community needs. Access to such programs is limited to UNHCR-recognized refugees and more than half of the Chin community in Delhi are not eligible to benefit from such programs.
For this reason, the Chin Human Rights Organization urges the Indian government and the UNHCR to:
Ensure Chin refugees and asylum-seekers have unhindered access to effective and expedient protection mechanisms.
Minimize processing delays and corruption that hinder members of the Chin community from obtaining protection and access to crucial benefits and services.
Ensure Chin refugees and asylum-seekers have access to: acceptable and appropriate accommodations; stable and adequate sources of income and job opportunities; and quality and affordable healthcare and education.
Promote, expand, and improve current humanitarian programs that benefit and serve members of the Chin community.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes in Chin State, Burma to escape severe ethnic and religious persecution committed by the military regime of Burma. They arrive in India in search of security and the hope of enjoying basic freedoms. Currently, some 75,000 to 100,000 ethnic Chin from Burma are living on the India-Burma border in India’s northeastern state of Mizoram. As UNHCR has no access and provides no protection to the Chin population living in Mizoram, the only available means of protection in India is to travel some 2,400 kilometers to Delhi. Due to the significant distance and expense of this trip, only a small minority of the Chin population in India is able to make it to Delhi. As of December 2008, the population of Chin in Delhi numbered 4,200.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amy Alexander
Regional Advocacy Officer
U.S. Senate Releases Report on Abuses in Malaysia, Raids Continue
24 April 2009: Even as the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations publicly released its report documenting the mistreatment of Burmese migrants in Malaysia, the Malaysian authorities continue to conduct raids on refugee neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. CHRO calls for UNHCR to take immediate action to intervene on behalf of detained Chin refugees and asylum seekers.
The Malaysian authorities rounded up and detained some 300 migrants, including small children, during raids in the Imbi neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur late Wednesday night, April 22. Over 100 Chin refugees and asylum seekers are among those arrested, including 14 children and two pregnant women. The authorities have been conducting similar raids throughout the city with increasing frequency during this past month.
In the midst of ongoing raids in Malaysia, half the world away, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations publicly released its report Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand, calling on the Malaysian government to address problems of trafficking and other abuses in Malaysia. The report findings include the involvement of Malaysian officials in the arrest, detention, and extortion of Burmese migrants and refugees; mistreatment of detainees in detention facilities, including whippings and torture; and the transfer of Burmese migrants and refugees to traffickers for payment. Burmese migrants and refugees in the hands of traffickers are subject to further extortion and mistreatment and are at risk of being sold into the fishing or sex industry. The report is based on a one-year investigation by the Senate Committee and includes information provided by NGOs, including CHRO, as well as first-hand testimony from trafficking victims.
“Chin refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia have long been subject to abuse and exploitation by Malaysian officials and their operatives,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of CHRO. “We appreciate this initiative by the U.S. government and hope it will put pressure on the Malaysian government to act responsibly towards migrants and refugees living within its borders.”
The 106 Chin refugees and asylum seekers caught up in the raids earlier this week are currently being held in Bukit Jali police station. According to Kennedy Lal Ram Lian, coordinator of the Chin Refugee Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “No one has been released- not even UNHCR card holders.” More than 10 Chin detainees are UNHCR-recognized refugees awaiting resettlement to a third country. If they are deported to the border, they are at risk of being sold to traffickers.
According to the report, any person involved in the trafficking of migrants and refugees may be subject to prosecution not only in Malaysia and Thailand but also in the U.S. under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Based on the report findings, the proposed recommendations of the Committee include:
Investigation and prosecution of persons involved in the trafficking of Burmese and other refugees;
Increased assistance to victims of human trafficking in Malaysia;
Increased funding to local community leaders and political activists to combat the trafficking of persons from Malaysia into southern Thailand;
Consideration of alternatives to detention for refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia;
Free and unhindered access for UNHCR officials to all Malaysian facilities where Burmese persons and other asylum seekers are detained;
Promotion of refugee protection standards in Malaysia.
The full findings and recommendations of the Senate committee report can be found online at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/index.html.
The Chin community represent one of the largest refugee communities from Burma living in Malaysia. For more than ten years, the Chin people have fled to Malaysia to escape persecution, torture, and severe oppression in Burma. In Malaysia they are they are the constant target of harassment, arrest, detention, and deportation by the Malaysian authorities. They are unable to work, receive an education, access healthcare services, or find acceptable living accommodations.