Hearing on Chin Issues in Brussels

Thursday 11, July 2013

Bill O’Toole

Myanmar Times

On the eve of U Thein Sein’s presidential visit to Europe, The EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium held a public hearing this week on the ongoing human rights abuses in Chin State.

“What we really hope is that the European Parliament…will raise these questions with Thein Sein in the coming weeks” said Ms. Rachel Fleming, advocacy director for the Chin Human Rights Organization in Chiang Mai.

The hearing began at 10 am on Tuesday, 9 July, and was hosted by Mr. Lazlo Tokes, vice president of the Eurpean Parliament and member of the Christian Democrats party. The two hour session included presentations and testimony from members of the CHRO, Human Rights without Frontiers, and a spokesperson for the Chin National Front, the local militia that has maintained an uneasy cease-fire with the Tatmadaw since December of last year.

“We welcome the reforms that President Thein Sein’s government has introduced, but there is still a long way to go” said Mr. Salai Za Uk Ling, a coordinator for the Chin Human Rights Organization, during his introduction to the hearing.

“Serious human rights abuses continue with impunity, including sexual violence. We want to shed light on the root causes, such as ethnic and religious discrimination, and the urgent need to deepen the reforms.”

CHRO used their time to discuss the litany of abuses that have continued since the civilian government took over in 2010, which include extortion, land confiscation, and sexual assault carried out by Tatmadaw soliders in the region.

According to Ms. Fleming, their researchers found cases of abuse and exploitation as recently as last month.

“We have documented serious sexual assaults in the last six months”, said Ms. Fleming.

The hearing came only days before officials in the EU announced the dates and locations for U Thein Sein’s upcoming visit to Europe, his second this year.

The CHRO reported that the close proximity of the events was a complete coincidence, but they nevertheless consider it good timing.

Speaking on the phone from Chiang Mai, Ms. Fleming said the new government has now been in power for several years, “it’s time to hold him accountable for the conditions in Chin.”

Ms. Fleming went on to say that long-running issues like sexual assaults are “certainly not getting any better,” and said that according to CHRO’s research, soldiers extorting money and food from
local villages has actually become more prevalent since the new government took office.

The president’s office could not be reached for comment.

During his remarks in Brussels, Mr. Salai Za Uk Ling said that solving the entrenched problems of Chin state could impact the entire nation.

The issues that plague so much of rural Myanmar, such as drugs, armed violence, and crushing poverty, are all prevalent and perhaps even greatest in Chin State.

He said that lasting reform in Chin could provide a road map for the rest of the nation.


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