The Honorable Atal Bihari Vajpayee
South Block, Raisina HillNew Delhi 110011
September 3, 2003
Dear Prime Minister Vajpayee:
We are writing to express our concern for the well being and safety of close to 50,000 Burmese who have sought refuge in the Northeastern State of Mizoram since the 1988 pro-democracy uprising that ended in violence and on-going persecution in Burma. Refugees International (RI) has learned that recent campaigns by local Indian groups with the support of local government authorities have forced over 5,000 Burmese Chin to abandon their homes and either go into hiding or return to Burma, a country with a well-documented record of human rights abuses against ethnic minorities.
As an organization that monitors the humanitarian and protection needs of refugees, RI applauds the Government of India for providing a safe haven for Burmese in India. Based on RI’s on-going research in the region we can confirm that many Burmese have sought refuge based on political persecution or human rights abuses by the military. This is true for members of various ethnic groups, including those from Chin State.
Over the past two months, more than 5,000 Burmese living and working in Mizoram, have been forced to leave their homes by local groups such as the Young Mizo Association (YMA). They have been told to return to Burma where RI has documented abuses of ethnic minorities in the form of beatings, torture, rapes and summary executions. According to RI interviews with former Chin deportees from Mizoram, there is a danger of being sent to labor camps and prisons, where they risk torture, illness, and death.
We understand that local police are supporting the actions of the YMA and are involved in deportations, an act in violation of international customary law. We are aware that some Burmese are involved in illegal activities, including drug trafficking, that your government has every right to address this problem under Indian law. These individuals, however, should not be confused with law-abiding people who have found refuge in India from persecution by the Burmese government.
We request that the Government of India take steps to stop the harassment and forced deportations of Chin refugees in Mizoram. We request that the Government of India allow those Burmese fleeing a well-founded fear of persecution to stay in Mizoram and that local police allow entry to those fleeing persecution in Burma. Finally, we encourage you to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist these people so that India does not have to shoulder the sole burden of protecting them or caring for their humanitarian needs.
We thank you for your attention to these matters and look forward to learning more about how your government will take steps to protect Chin refugees in Mizoram.
Kenneth H. Bacon
Cc.: Mr. Zoramthanga, Mizoram Chief MinisterMr. J.H Zoremthanga,Young Mizo Association General SecretaryMr. Lianzuala- President, Young Mizo Association Central Office