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.