For Immediate Release
18 March 2008
Critical Point: Humanitarian Disaster in the Making in Western Burma
Ottawa, Canada: Chin Human Rights Organization is calling for urgent and concerted international relief efforts to address growing humanitarian crisis in Chinland that has brought much devastation to hundreds of villages along Burma`s western border.
A severe reduction in harvest and food productions following simultaneous mass flowering of bamboos through vast areas of the state is causing massive shortage of food for communities primarily dependent on traditional agricultural system.
Bamboo is the main vegetation in much of southern Chin State and the areas along the border with India`s Mizoram. Mass flowering of bamboos is usually followed by an explosion of rat populations, leading to the decimation of basic crops and paddy fields in the area. At least three devastating famines associated with bamboo flowering, which happens about every 50 years, have been recorded in this area since the 1860s.
Chin Human Rights Organization believes that at least 120 Chin villages along the borders with India and Bangladesh, totaling no less than 50,000 people or roughly ten per cent of the entire population of Chin State, may be directly affected by the famine. According to latest information, at least 150 families from southern Chin State have fled to Mizoram and Bangldesh.
A further mass migratory movement of people is likely as more communities are finding themselves rapidly running out of food supplies.
“We are at a critical point because it really is a humanitarian disaster in the making. Without timely and effective response, the consequence could be disastrous. It is a matter of great urgency that the international community pay immediate attention to this situation,“ says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization, who recently returned from a visit to India-Burma border.
“Unfortunately, this tragic natural cycle is made worse by the military regime’s repressive policies against the Chin people where the Burmese soldiers are just living off the local populations through forced labor, extortion and enslavement.“ he says.
In comparison, the Indian government has spent tens of millions of dollars in an effort to forestall and manage a massive famine that was predicted in the adjacent northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur where bamboo grows heavily.
The present area of Chin State covers 13907 square kilometers and roughly one fifth of that area is vegetated with bamboos.
Exacerbating this natural calamity is a man-made catastrophe caused by the policies of systematic neglect and outright repression by the military junta.
A typical urban-dwelling family in Chin State pays over 200, 000 Kyats a year to the military government in mandatory `donations,` fines and taxes, while a rural household is forced to pay at least 100, 000 Kyats per year. Under this circumstance, Chin people have been for years forced to live in abject poverty.
It is important to note that in October of 2007, the United Nations Country Team in Burma and 13 international non-governmental organizations working in the country had already cautioned the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Burma. But rather than cooperating and working together with international agencies to address the crisis, the military regime expelled Mr. Charles Petrie, the head of UN mission in Burma after accusing him of giving disparaging remarks about the country’s humanitarian conditions. Given this kind of negative attitude and complete indifference by the military regime, a disaster was just waiting to happen.
Given the magnitude and urgency of this latest crisis, Chin Human Rights Organization is calling on all relevant international aid agencies including the World Food Program to carry out urgent relief efforts in Chin State by any means possible, including through existing aid mechanisms inside Burma and cross-border aid program from neighboring India and Bangladesh.
For more information contact:
Salai Bawi Lian Mang (CHRO Executive Director)
Victor Biak Lian (CHRO Member of Board of Director)
Amy Alexander (CHRO Regional Advocacy and Campaign Officer)