VOA: Human Rights Watch Calls for Aid to Burma Refugees in India

Human Rights Watch Calls for Aid to Burma Refugees in India
By Ron Corben
28 January 2009    

Rights group, Human Rights Watch, is calling for India to provide access to the United Nations to assist up to 100,000 Burmese ethnic Chin who have fled persecution and poverty in Burma. Human Rights Watch accuses Burma’s military government of wide-ranging rights abuses in Chin state.

A Human Rights Watch report  is calling for Burma’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, to halt ongoing human rights abuses against the ethnic Chin – a largely Christian community living in western Burma.

The three-year investigation of those who had fled persecution and are living in India, Thailand, and Malaysia said Burma’s military regularly imprisoned ethnic Chin to stifle political dissent.

Chin state is one of Burma’s most remote and poorest regions, bordering India’s Mizoram State.  Official access to the border regions in Mizoram is restricted by the Indian authorities.

Amy Alexander
Amy Alexander
Report researcher and writer Amy Alexander says abuses by Burma’s military had gone largely under reported.

“Human Rights Watch has documented widespread killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and mistreatment, forced labor, reprisals against the opposition, restrictions on movement, freedom of expression and religious freedom, as well as extortion and confiscation of personal property,” she said.

Cases cited included those of political prisoners, their hands tied, being hung from ceilings and beaten with sticks.  Later cloths were placed over their faces and they were dunked into water until they lost consciousness.

Over the years up to 100,000 Chin have fled into India’s Mizoram state, where they are at risk of discrimination and abuse by local groups and deportation to Burma.  A campaign in 2003 lead to 10,000 Chin being sent back to Burma.  Human Rights Watch says those  people who are sent back often face detention and even death.

Sara Colm
Sara Colm
Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Sara Colm said about 4,000 Chin have trekked 1,600 kilometers to New Delhi to seek refugee status.

“We have people fleeing really repressive human rights situations in Burma to India and there is no access to them by the UNHCR,” she said. “We are calling today for pressure to be brought to bear on the Indian government to allow United Nations officials access to the border regions of Burma on a permanent basis and not force asylum seekers to have to make the long trek down to New Delhi.”

The director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, Salai Bawi Lian Mang, welcomed the report.

“I hope it will mark a great impact and it shows how serious the situation in Burma is,” he said. “In Chin State people suffer religious persecution – 90 percent of Chin is Christian and then the Burmese Government has been systematically persecuting Chin Christian for the past two decades.”

The report called for the Association of South East Asian Nations, European Union, and the United States to increase pressure on Burma to improve humanitarian assistance to the Chin.

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