Rhododendron News


Human Rights:


New Buddhist Pagoda Being Built in Chin State with Forced Labor

Burmese Army on the Rampage of Extortion


District-wide Eviction Left Hundreds of Chin Refugees Shelterless in Mizoram

Chin Refugees in Another District of Mizoram To Be Evicted in January 2003

Ignored Chin Refugees In New Delhi:

The Case of Pu J Lal Kung

The Case of Ms. Cer Cin Sang (Mikhaing)

The Case of Ms. Tha Hlei Sung ( Sungsung)

The Case of Mr. That Ci Lian

The Long and Winding Road to Asylum

Refugees and Displaced Persons

Letter & Press Release:

CHRO’s Letter to Chin Churches and Communities Overseas


Facts & Arguments:

Mizo Hnahthlak (or) Mizo Group By R. Vanlawma




New Buddhist Pagoda Being Built in Chin State with Forced Labor

November 20, 2002

Chin Human Rights Organization


A small Christian village in northern Chin State is the site for a new Buddhist pagoda being built by the Burmese military regime, State Peace and Development Council SPDC, as part of a program to promote Buddhism in a region where the inhabitants are predominantly Christians. Construction of the new pagoda is ongoing at Lentlang, a small village in Tiddim Township, which is located on a major trade route between India and Burma. Authorities are forcing all commercial vehicles mostly operated by Christians passing through the route to carry sand, bricks and other materials needed for building the pagoda at Lentlang.


At least about 10 to 20 small trucks are passing through the border trade route every day, and the trucks are made to transport construction materials from nearby villages of Haimual, Rihkhawdar and Malsawm, without any compensation for their services.


The pagoda construction project was initially supervised by Lieutenant Moe Kyaw Hein from Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion 269, jointly with officers from the local immigration and police forces. However, since the beginning of 2002, the task was taken over by Light Infantry Battalion 266 after they failed to meet the projected date of completion. The officers in charge of the project were reportedly severely reprimanded by higher SPDC authorities.


Residents of Lentlang village, according to available information, are all Christians.


The construction of a new pagoda in Lentlang is among several Buddhist pagodas the military regime has built across Chin State since early 1990s. In 1997, the regime constructed a pagoda at Rih Khawdar village, just eight miles away from Lentlang village. Christians were forced to build and contribute money for the construction of the pagoda. Upon completion of the current construction, the pagoda is expected to stand much taller and larger in size than the one that was built at Rih Khawdar five years ago.


While building new Buddhist pagodas in various parts of Chin State often by using Christians as forced laborers, since 1997 the Burmese military regime has ceased to give Christians permits for building any new church buildings in Chin state.



Burmese Army on the Rampage of Extortion

December 19, 2002


Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 266 based in Ruazua town, Southern Chinland is collecting chickens and goats from villagers in the township. Each village is being asked to provide two chickens and two goats to the army so that the battalion can raise them in the army farm. Each village is also being asked to provide 4800 Kyats to the army to cover the cost of raising the chickens and goats.


Ruzua acquired a township status in 2002, becoming the tenth township headquarters in Chin State. As part of the development project for the newly created township headquarters, the Burmese army had used extensive forced labor and extortion.


The extortion was the result of a meeting decision within Light Infantry Battalion 266 on November 21, 2001. Chaired by its commander Lieutenant Colonel Ngwe Toe and attended by all gazette and non-commissioned officers in the battalion, the meeting made a number of decisions including the creation of an army farm, to build a Karaoke Hall, and to fence the army camp.


The army has already collected about 200 chickens and 50 goats from the Chin villagers all for free. One chicken is worth Kyats 1300 to 2000 and a goat is worth Kyat 8000 to 13000 at the present market rate in the area.





District-wide Eviction Left Hundreds of Chin Refugees Shelterless in Mizoram

Aizawl, November 23, 2002


Chin refugees in parts of Mizoram may all be chased out as soon as before Christmas. According to CHRO source, District Authority of Lunglei, the second biggest town in Mizoram state of India has decided to drive out all “foreigners” before Christmas. The “foreigners” includes immigrants from other Indian states who illegally came to Mizoram state in search of better economic opportunities, and Chin refugees from Burma who sought sanctuary there to escape persecutions in their homeland.


Chin refugees are the main targets for the ongoing campaign against the foreigners in the district of Lunglei, and many of them have already been evicted not too long a go. Although only those living in the town were targeted, a district-wide eviction is now being implemented in Lunglei area.


In June 2002, a meeting was held in Lunglei town in order to make decision on how to drive out all the foreigners from the district, and the district authorities are now implementing the decision made in that meeting. The meeting was attended by several social and organizations such as Young Mizo Association ( YMA), Members of Village Council, Mizo Hmeichhia Insuihkhawm Pawl ( Mizo Women Union ), Mizo Upa Pawl ( Mizo Senior Citizen Association, Young People Conference ( YPC), Young Adventure Club ( YAC ), Consummer Association, and Tualchhung Kohhran Committee (Local Religious Committee). Local units of Mizo National Front, the political party currently controlling the state government, and Mizo People’s Conference also endorsed the decision.


The decision to expel foreigners was signed by Chair person. Secretaries of each of the thirteen organizations attending the meeting also signed the order.


The decision warned local house owners to not rent out their houses to Chin refugees.


It is estimated that there are about 1,500 families of Chin refugees in the whole Lunglei district including 600 to 700 families who are in living in Lunglei town itself. A few of them who are able to afford some money have managed to escape to New Delhi to seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Office. However, most families are forced to seek sanctuary elsewhere in Mizoram State, where they are likely to risk other security problems.


Influx of Chin refugees into India northeastern States have steadily occurred during the last decade since the Burmese military junta began expanding its military establishments in Chin State that resulted in a range of human rights abuse against Chin civilians. Due to close cultural, linguistic and religious ties with India’s Mizo people, Chin refugees who escaped into India have previously been able to live along side the local Mizos without much security problems. However, they are frequently caught in campaigns against foreigners resulting in mass arrests and forced repatriation of hundreds of Chins to Burma.


India has not recognized Burmese refugees nor does it allow UNHCR access to the border region where most refugees are concentrated. Instead, since 1995, it has closed down refugee camps along Mizoram border, and many Chin asylum seekers have been forcibly repatriated to Burma in the years that followed. Currently, an estimated 500, 00 Chin refugees are now living as illegal immigrants in Mizoram.



Chin Refugees in Another District of Mizoram To Be Evicted in January 2003


December 19, 2002


Eviction order has been issued to Chin refugees living in part of Dampui village of Serchip district, according to information provided by a Chin refugee living in the area. The order came from the district authority, stating that all Chin refugees residing in northern part of Dampui village must evacuate the area before January 3, 2003.


On December 1, 2002, the village chairman of Dampui summoned all Chin refugees living in the jurisdiction and informed them that they must evacuate the area no later than January 15, 2003. Any refugees who do not leave the area before the specified date will be fined 500 Rupees per month up to three months, and anyone who fails to leave the area after three months will be handed over to the Mizoram Police, the order said.


The order also said that the refugees stay in the jungle during the month of December and that they would be allowed to come to the village only on Sundays to buy foodstuffs and other basic commodities.


No shops or businesses are open on Sunday in the whole Mizoram state since it is a holiday for Mizo people who are mostly Christians.


The order further forbade worship services for Chin refugees after January 15, 2003. The Lai Christian Fellowship, a place where Chin Refugees in the area conduct worship services in their own language, is not to be shut down.


The Chin refugees’ repeated appeals to Dampui village authority had met with no success.


There are about 80 Chin refugees including families currently living in Dampui village, after they fled military repression and religious persecutions in Burma. Most of them are making their living as casual laborers. The eviction of Chin refugees is part of a larger effort to get rid of “foreigners” from Mizoram state when the campaign was intensified in 2000.


Ignored Chin Refugees In New Delhi


The Case of Pu J Lal Kung


Name : Pu J Lal Kung

Sex : Male

Ethnicity : Chin

Religion : Christian

Marital status : Married

Family members : 5

Date of interview: 16/11/2002

Place of Interview: Janak Puri, New Delhi

Date of arrival in India : 15/11/1999



CHRO: Tell us about your life in Burma?

Lal Kung: I was born on 18th March 1957 at Kalay valley, Hakha lay, Sagaing Division, Burma. On 14th October 1980 I got married to Hram Mem(Par Mawii). We have 4 children. We lived in Tahan, Kalay, Sagaing Division, Burma. I am a farmer. We had 5-acre wide paddy field. In January 1995, for the construction of Kalay-Gangaw rail way, the military junta took all of our fields without giving even one kyat for that. This is the only way of earning our lives and when we lost our field I became jobless for a moment. So we shifted to Chin state in 1996 for our further survival. We made a rest house, sold food and meal in between Thlua Lam village and Hraing Khan village of Thantlang Township. This is the way where the merchants travel to Mizoram, India.



CHRO: What made you unable to stay in your country?

Lal Kung: First of all, the military took away our 5-acre paddy fields without giving any penny to us, which was the main source of our livelihood from our ancestors. Then, having no idea what to do next, we shifted to the Chin State in 1996. On the road between Thlua Lam village and Hraing Khan village which is the route used by the merchants to India, we run a rest house for the passers by. We sold food and also let them use to stay at nights if it was inconvenient for them to go further at nights. As you know, since it was the only road to go to India and vice versa, the CNF also used that road and used to have a food at our shop. Since they were fully armed we were also afraid of them and did what they asked us to do without any complaint. Life was steady till the beginning months of the year 1999 by doing that business. But, on the end of 1999, the military army came to know about the CNF using our house for shelter. They started accusing us that we supported the CNF and member of CNF. They would oftenly came to our house and making threats to us in various ways. But soon after their warning, the CNF also came to our house and asked for food. Having no option left, we gave them as they might harm us too if they were not pleased. Then, when the military people knew that incidence, they really got frustrated and beat me. The worst thing they did was burning our rest house in our sights only. Then they arrested me and led me to Thantlang to imprison me on that day itself. It was 14th November 1999. But, by God’s sake, I found my way to escape from them on the way. I ran to the border side and got to Sangau village, Mizoram, India. In my absence, my family left in there was tortured by the military asking my where abouts. When they couldn’t bear it all, they joined me where I lived and we were united again in Sangau village, India.



CHRO: Since you were a foreigner did the local people and the authority give any trouble or harm to you when you were living in Mizoram?

Lal Kung: We moved to Zawlpui from Sangau when my family could join me. There was no harm in the first. We had lived in harmony with the local people. But when we made the sugar cane field and got success in that, they became jealous and tried to find faults on whatever we do. We were hard workers since Burma and knew how to do well in farming. Our farm had become the most successful one, which gave the best result in our village. It was almost Rs.80000 that we got from our farm per year. We got a more comfortable live gradually and that made them feel jealous of us. So, they started complaining to their village council that we were foreigners and that is why we could not made or use any of their farms or did any kind of business on their land. The villagers destroyed all of our sugar cane plants and drove away us from their village. They started discriminating us. They also found faults on our religion. We are the only United Pentecostal Church believers and since they are Presbyterians, they said that we could not use the ration card, or the cemetery if something happened to us. They told us that we could not find wood from the forest and that we could not take any advantage of their land. On some nights, the youth drunkards throw stones to our house and that affected my wife’s health. She soon became too weak and suffered a heart disease. So she was taken to the Hospital and for her operation, she needed a bottle of blood donated. But there was none who wanted to donate her blood. At last, we begged the Indian soldiers and when the empathy was there in their hearts, that soldiers donated their blood to my wife. Then the YMA president Lal Dong Liana and Lal Rin Puia Chairman of the Village Council gave a warning to us that stated that we had to leave here by 15 of June. As we had nowhere to go, we came to Delhi on 21st April 2002.



CHRO: How is your refugee status now?

Lal Kung: We arrived to Delhi on 21st April 2002 and we instantly reported the UNHCR and gave the application. We were interviewed on 27th July 2000. We received the rejected letter from UNHCR on 27th August 2002.


CHRO: How do you survive now? Are you employed now?

Lal Kung: It was incomparable with the urban life and the village life. It is really tough to earn our lives here. Since we don’t know Hindi and English, nobody wants to give us jobs though we approach everywhere which seem to have a vacant place for work. I sold vegetables among our community. And sometimes we got assistance from our Church, the UPC. That is the way we are living here till today.


CHRO: How do you think of the UNHCR when you have been rejected?

Lal Kung: I feel really desperate and disappointed. At the same time, I feel really sad and think that there is no right for us. Though we didn’t commit any sin, we were chased by the army form our home country and then again drove away by the Mizos. There is no one to rely on. Sometimes I really wonder what goes wrong with the world now? There is no justice in the world today. I do feel dejected, depressed whenever I think of our family future. Our future is totally dark. I was really taken aback that even though I could show the proper documents that we received from the Mizo Authority that we couldn’t stay there any longer. What I want most is that the UNHCR would take into consideration of our case deeply so that we may be able to be recognized as refugees.


CHRO: How do you feel about your security?

Lal Kung: Whenever I see the polices, the soldiers or whosoever who wears the office uniforms, I really got scared and run away from them immediately as we were constantly tortured by them in Burma and in Mizoram. We don’t feel secure, as we know that we can be deported at any time by the Indian authority. This makes me feel insane.


The Case of Ms. Mikhaing


Name : Mikhaing (Cer Cin Sang)

Sex : Female

Ethnicity: Chin

Religion : Christian

Marital status: Single

Date of Interview: 13/11/2002

Place of Interview: Janak Puri, New Delhi

Date of arrival in India: 16/May/2000


CHRO: Tell us about your life in Chin state, Burma?

Mikhaing: I was born on 13/02/1978 in Hakha Township, Chin state of Burma. I passed my Matriculation in 1996 from Basic Education High School, Hakha. After that I served as a clerk in SPDC Office in Thantlang more than tow years.


CHRO: Why did you leave from your own home country?

Mikhaing: Because I distributed both UNLD magazines that were all about democracy and human rights concern and Chin state Constitution drafting which were written by my uncle Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong and Pu Lian Uk (MP) who are exiles in the west. I got the magazines on 08/05/2000 through Chin Development Committee (CRDC). I distributed to each and every person of Democracy activists in Than Tlang Township. When the MI came to know all these things, they immediately came to our house and found the magazine under my bed. Pertaining with this, my mother was imprisoned, as they could not arrest me. The military MI has been trying to arrest me since then. Therefore, I fled to Mizoram State of India to seek my safety.


CHRO: How do you feel about your physical security?

Mikhaing: I do not feel good. Because I’m afraid of the local people and I know that I could be deported back to Burma by the Indian authority. In 2000,many Chin refugees were sent back to Burma by the Indian authority. I am leading a difficult life here because our landlords and our neighbors do not like visiting. Since we do not have work, we would like to visit each other. We would like to share our sufferings among our community. However, neighbors’ complained about us and we have to move from one place to another every now and then. Once a stone fell down in front of our room. Our neighbor accused us of throwing a stone. So, we were afraid and we moved to another apartment. At one house that we rent about 5 months back, we were unfairly accused by our landlord that we were stealthily use the electricity for cooking meals though we didn’t use it at all. He took away all the electricity appliances with him and beat severely whom I live together, Salai Za Ceu Lian and Salai Tluang Val Lian. Till now we haven’t been given back our appliances. He told us that we have to pay Rs.2000 for those appliances if we want them back. On the very next day we shifted to another house, as we were drove out by him. Whenever we want to go shopping at the market, we must have a male to accompany us otherwise some guys would try to tease us in an improper ways. So, life is not easy at all.


CHRO: Tell us about your indefinite hunger strike in front of the UNHCR?

Mikhaing: On May 30,2000, I submitted my application for refugee status to the UNHCR. I was interviewed only on October 6,2000 and I received rejected letter by post on November 13,2000.And again I submitted appealing letter. Then I waited for six months. I made so many calls to the UNHCR Office and asked for the result. No response was there on my request. So, I was so clear that the UNHCR did not process our cases properly. They ignored our cases along with other 24 people.


On May 8,2001, we began an indefinite hunger strike in front of the UNHCR office in 14, Jor Bagh, Lodi Road, New Delhi. Since we did not have refugee status for 6 months, there is no reason for us to stay in New Delhi. We stayed with friends who have financial assistance from UNHCR. We were lying before the UNHCR office silently. We were not allowed to use UNHCR’s restrooms.


On the seventh day of the hunger strike, I was too weak and felt stomach pain. On the eighth-day, Two of my friends and I lost our conscious and were taken to the hospital named All India Institute of Medical Science by the police. When I was there, I had three injections on my right arm and was put on three drips. Then I felt stronger.


As soon as I was discharged from the hospital on the next day , I again joined the demonstration. Chief of Mission of UNHCR, Mr. Mahiga told us to stop the hunger strike and to go back home. We told him that we had no home to return. We asked him to protect us. Then, the local police came to us and forced us to stop our demonstration on May 16,2001. All refugees in New Delhi also joined one-day hunger strike in supporting our matter. All Burmese Student League (ABSL) took us to their office, as we have no home to return. We stayed more than one month at there .On July 9,2001, I was interviewed again and rejected again on 19, July, 2001.After receiving rejected letter from UNHCR, I went to their office to meet the officer but I could not meet them. I wrote so many applications but still now I receive no response from them. My mind goes blank whenever I think of my future life.


CHRO: How do you survive without getting financial assistance from UNHCR?

Mikhaing: When I think of my survival in here, I wonder God’s love to me even though I do not deserve. God provide me food and cloth through my friends from our community in here. I stay along with my friends those who get SA from UNHCR. I lived at the various houses shifting one after another whom I knew from Burma itself. I lived at Pu Tawk Cung Ling’s house for 3 months and then again shifted to Salai Tin Mg Win (BU 618) and lived there for 5 months. At the present I am living with Salai Za Ceu Lian and Tluang Val Lian.


CHRO: Do you want to return to Burma?

Mikhaing: Definitely, I do want to. But then when it is so sure that you would be arrested and tortured, what is the use of returning home??


CHRO: How do you feel about being rejected by UNHCR?

Mikhaing: I am so sad and feel hurt inside. What I knew about the UNHCR is that it is the place, which give refuge and shelter to the people who have been forced to leave his or her own country, home, etc for political or religious reasons, or because there is a war, shortage of food, etc. And then why I was rejected when I am a refugee? I feel that there is no justice on earth at all because even the UNHCR people neglect us. If they see us in their own eyes how the junta torture and how we suffer in Burma, they would be very sorrowful and sympathize us. The only question that I want to ask them is if they put themselves in my place, how would they be. Even though I am a refugee, I was not recognized as a refugee by the UNHCR. Therefore until and unless they recognize me as a refugee, I would fight for it till I get. You know, nobody wants to be regarded as refugee in the world. But why we keep on asking that?? Because there is no other choice left for us. We need protection.



The Case of Ms. Sungsung


Name : Tha Hlei Sung (Sung Sung)

Sex : Female

Ethnicity : Chin

Religion : Christian

Marital status : Single

Date of Interview: 13/11/2002

Date of arrival in India : 17/01/2000


CHRO: What made you flee from your home country?

Sungsung: My father is the president of the National League for Democracy and our basement is their office. I am also the staff member of the party. In September 1999, UN GS Mr.Desoto arrived to Burma. When they came to know of his arrival, Pu Cin Sian Thang (Zomi National Congress), Khin Tun Oo (Shan National League for Democracy) and Dr. Saw Mra Aung (Arakan) met him in Yangoon, the capital of Burma. They were arrested when the MI knew their secret meeting with him. With connection of their arrest, NLD and People Representative Committee stealthily wrote the statement and they sent that book to our office too. I received that book in my hand and the MI knew that I had that one. They came to our house and searched for that book thoroughly and found it. I was not at home when the MI came to our house and my father was arrested. After I was searched by the junta for a long time, I fled to India by the help of my friends.


CHRO: Do you hold any legal protection from UNHCR now?

Sungsung: No. I arrived to New Delhi on 17/01/2000 and I gave them the report on 20/01/2000. I was interviewed on 09/03/2000. I was rejected on 21/09/2000. I wrote the appealing letter and was called again for re-interview on 09/11/2000. Since then I don’t get any response from the UNHCR about my status. I wrote so many applications, called the office several times and sent fax every now and then to them, but I am totally neglected. Till date I am not informed that whether I get the refugee status or I am rejected. That is why, I myself is not sure that I got refugee status or not. I do not know where I stand now.


CHRO: Could you tell me about your hunger strike in front of UNHCR office?

Sungsung: Pertaining with my status, I didn’t get any information from the UNHCR for a long time. I just got upset for their behaviors and I started hunger strike on 08./05/2001 no matter what. After participating in hunger strike, I was again called for re-interview on 05/06/2001They told me that they would send my result by post, but till now I didn’t receive any letter from them. No matter how I tried to contact them, they just ignored me and don’t take any action on my case. As a result from that hunger strike, now I have the permanent stomach pain.


CHRO: How do you survive without getting any financial assistance from UNHCR?

Sungsung: When the other people are trying paths for getting smoother lives, but for me, I wonder how would I eat today and tomorrow. Being a girl from the other side, it is very tough to get a job over here. Besides that, I have difficulty in languages i.e., in Hindi. Salai Za Ceu Lian (BU-434) and Salai Tluang Val Lian (BU-519) sympathize me a lot and let me live with them without giving any penny to them.


CHRO: After you left your home country, do you get any news about your family?

Sungsung: After I left my home, I got two letters from my family through traders. Other than that, I could not contact my family. I dare not do that because it is quite dangerous for them if they receive any communication from New Delhi. If the military junta knows that, they would arrest my family. Therefore, I cannot make any contacts with my family.


CHRO: How do you feel about the UNHCR when you are just ignored?

Sungsung: I really feel sad that I am ignored for more than two years. I came here just counting on the UNHCR that they are the ones who would take care of the refugees. But things are different. Life is too difficult in here. There are a big gap and difference between the local people and us. The way we eat, the way we lead our life styles, culture, religion, language and to make thing worse we are disdained and bullied by the local people. Whenever I think of my situation that I was an ignored person, I really couldn’t bear. There were times that I got too much depressions and tensions for my life. If I lead my life just like that for another one year, it would surely affect my mental and physical health. I wish that the other fellow would not suffer like me, I wish that the UNHCR would not repeat the same thing like the way they treat on me.


The Case of That Ci Lian


Name : That Ci Lian

Age : 22 Yr

Sex : Male

Ethnicity : Chin

Religion : Christian

Marital status : Single

Date of Interview: 10/11/2002

Place of Interview: Janak Puri, New Delhi

Date of arrival in India : 12/04/2000


CHRO: Tell us about your life in Chin State, Burma?

That Ci Lian: I was born on 27/12/1980 in Thantlang Township, Chin State. I am the fifth son of Pu Than Cung and Pi Par Men. I passed my matriculation in 1999. After I had passed my 10th, the university student leaders and I strongly against the military for there were so many human rights violation in Chin State.


CHRO: Why did you leave from your home country?

That Ci Lian: I have left my country because of my insecure life in there. On 27/04/2000 Command Commander Hla Myint Tun was supposed to have a round to Thantlang Township. So, some of the youth and I planned to make a poster and paste it in front of their office. The poster was all about the human rights violations in Chin state like the junta destroyed the Cross, our sacred symbol, order for banning of construction of churches. When we had a secret meeting for that issue on 26th night, the news broke out and the junta came to know about our plot. The soldiers came to the house where we hold the meeting and tried to arrest us. Somehow I could manage to escape from their hands but three of my friends were arrested.


CHRO: How is your status now after you had fled from Burma?

That Ci Lian: I arrived to Mizoram on 12th April 2000. When the YMA arrested the foreigners, I again set forth to Delhi and I got here on 14th May 2000. As soon as I got here I sought a legal protection from UNHCR and was interviewed on 09th August 2000. I was on the pending state for months, 9 months to be exact. When my result was not known for a long time, I did hunger strike demonstration for seven days. It affected and was called again for re-interview but soon after I was rejected. Since then I am neglected by the UNHCR office though I tried several ways like making a call to the office, lodging appealing letters, sending faxes for taking my case into their consideration. But it was all in vain.


CHRO: How do you survive without the financial assistance from the UNHCR Office? Are you employed now?

That Ci Lian: Because of my lack of knowledge in Hindi and English languages, I could not work permanent at one place. Because of my different face and look from other Indian it is very difficult to get a job. They didn’t believe me at first. Sometimes I washed the dishes in tea stall. I got Rs.700 per month for doing that. Even in that job, I am sacked if the Indian are there to do that. I live my life without job for several days. At those times, I survived by the helps of my friends from our community who has already got financial assistances from the UNHCR. They would share me from their SA when they draw Rs.1400 each per month. In our locality, there are the night bazaars on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night and I collect the wasted and unwanted vegetables that are thrown by the sellers. This is how I survive here.


CHRO: Do you want to return to Burma?

That Ci Lian: Of course, why not!! This is my ever-wanted wish; this is what I wanted to do first. But there is no question for that because obviously, I would certainly be arrested by the military if I go back to Burma. Oh…I really miss my family.


CHRO: How do you feel about your mental and physical security without having the legal protection?

That Ci Lian: I passed several nights without having a wink of sleep. I am so worried even if my employers scold me because I am afraid that I have no legal documents to stay here. Given the fact that I have no UNHCR Certificate and visa, I can be deported by the Indian government at any time, any second. This make me feel going wild in sometimes.


CHRO: Till now, your country does not seem on the way to democracy and you haven’t got the UNHCR certificate. So, how do you plan for your further survival?

That Ci Lian: There is no way for returning back to Burma until and unless our country gets freedom from the junta. In here also, I don’t say that my life is secure but things are better in here. Anyhow I still can earn my livelihood. Until and unless I am deported by the Indian Government and my country gets democracy, I would fight for my survival. I would always try to get the legal protection from the UNHCR.



The Long and Winding Road to Asylum

Burmese refugees in New Delhi have traveled a hard road in their pursuit of legal recognition. The agency responsible for assisting these asylum-seekers has not made their lives any easier.

By Tony Broadmoor/New Delhi

( Report about refugees from The Irrawady News November 2002)


“The road for a refugee is only as long as you make it,” reads a poster hanging in the lobby of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in New Delhi. Outside, over 200 asylum seekers from Burma are protesting in front of the compound, pleading for interviews, for recognition as a refugee, and for a simple piece of paper confirming their status as a “person of concern”, which would allow them to stay legally in India.


Nearly half of the demonstrators say that their asylum applications have already been rejected by the UNHCR for unknown reasons. Others continue to wait for the organization to hear their cases despite arriving in New Delhi months ago.


Asylum seekers, human rights lawyers and Indian activists say that besides the confusing application process, the mission in New Delhi also lacks accountability, offers no support system for refugees whose asylum status is pending—for over one year in some cases—and is trying to implement unrealistic programs of self-reliance for the refugees. To make the recognition process run more smoothly, demonstrators say refugees deserve greater attention and compassion from UNHCR officials. Moreover, they say the influence of the Indian government now pervades all facets of the refugee’s existence.


“Without UNHCR recognition you are liable to be arrested at any time,” says Soe Myint, editor of the New Delhi-based Mizzima News Service, an online newspaper covering India-Burma relations.


The UNHCR in New Delhi recognized its first Burmese refugee in 1990 and now the city is home to the largest recognized urban refugee population in the world, including nearly 1,000 from Burma. The vast majority of the 13,000 recognized refugees in the capital hail from Afghanistan.


But since 1990, much has changed politically inside and outside India, including the more engaging line New Delhi has taken with Rangoon. Also, the UNHCR’s budget is feeling the effects of year-on-year cuts, causing critics to charge that the organization is disengaging from the international stage.


“The UNHCR’s problems are more than bureaucratic,” says Indian human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar, who has been working for refugee rights in New Delhi for nearly 15 years. “They have withdrawn from the international scene due to massive funding cuts.”


The New Delhi mission agrees that this year’s budget of US $1.2 million, down 20 percent from last year, is inadequate and that the cutbacks are having a direct impact on the condition of the refugees. They stop short, however, of acknowledging that they are gradually shifting the responsibility of caring for the refugees to NGOs.


The most conspicuous effects of the budget cuts include a lengthened recognition process for asylum seekers and an increase in the number of rejected applicants, although some blame these problems on the Indian government’s influence over the UNHCR. During the wait, the refugees are at their most vulnerable as they lack money with no opportunity to earn an income. Their financial problems are particularly acute in New Delhi where poverty is already rampant among its homegrown population.


Loom Na, 26, arrived in New Delhi from Kachin State, Burma in August and must wait until the end of this year for her case to be heard. Here, her fate is uncertain, but Loom Na has no alternative to staying in New Delhi as she faces arrest back home for her political activities. She now lives with nearly 30 other refugees in a one-room flat in Vikas Puri slum. Even as a group, it is difficult to pay the $30 monthly rent, and the protracted application process has only added to their financial burden. Some have resorted to scavenging vegetables and looking for handouts at nearby markets. “My security is very important to me,” Loom Na says of her immediate concerns. “But now we are facing a lot of problems. We don’t have blankets, food or facilities.”


But the UNHCR says it is not their responsibility to provide assistance to asylum seekers during the application process. Instead, refugees like Loom Na must ensure their own survival.


“They do what they have to do,” says Wei-Meng Lim-Kabaa, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the UNHCR office in New Delhi. “It is not our concern. Except for their protection concerning deportation… they have to fend for themselves.” She adds that exceptions are made, but that it is difficult to assess the needs of refugees awaiting verdicts concerning asylum status while providing for them during the waiting period drains resources.


Sources in New Delhi say the Indian government has told the UNHCR to curtail the number of recognized Burmese refugees, an accusation the UNHCR categorically denies.


The UNHCR, whose mandate does not cover the India-Burma border in the northeast, agrees that warming bilateral relations may have affected the situation there. In the mid-1990s, refugee camps along the border were disbanded and thousands were repatriated to Burma, but an estimated 50,000 remain. This is not the case in New Delhi, however, which the UNHCR says still holds a “tolerant attitude” towards refugees.


India has not ratified any UN convention on refugees nor have they passed legislation of their own to deal with their burgeoning refugee population. According to a report issued by the New Delhi-based South Asian Human Rights Documentation Center (SAHRDC), this legislative lacunae has “led to the use of refugees as pawns in regional geo-politics” by the Indian government. SAHRDC cites incidents of forced repatriation by Indian authorities to support their claims.


“The Indian government is playing footsies with the Burmese regime and it is affecting refugees,” says Ravi Nair, executive director of the SAHRDC. He adds that the UNHCR has been ineffective in staving off this external influence. “They [UNHCR] are always looking over their shoulder to see what the Indian government and Geneva [UNHCR headquarters] are saying.”


But refugees are not the only group to come under fire since the government’s policy shift. Over the last two years, two prominent Burmese journalists working on Indian soil have been arrested. Although both have since been released, their activities continue to be monitored. Neither has received any support from the UNHCR, says Soe Myint, who was mysteriously re-arrested in April, 12 years after hijacking an airplane with a bar of soap disguised as a bomb—a move he hoped would win international support for Burma’s democracy movement.


“The UNHCR advised me to tell Soe Myint to ease up on his activities,” charges his lawyer, Haksar. “They asked, ‘can’t you tell him to stop?’ As a human rights lawyer I can’t ask a journalist to not write.”


Other critics in New Delhi say that rather than fulfilling their mandate in protecting refugees, the UNHCR is more concerned with maintaining its presence and positive rapport with the Indian government—a relationship they say is not in tune with democratic principles. “The UNHCR is colluding with the government in restricting press freedoms,” says Nair, when asked about the two Burmese journalists. “The UNHCR has nothing to do with bloody protection.”


The UNHCR, however, maintains that they only advise Burmese journalists to keep a low profile so as not to ruin it for the other Burmese here. “We don’t encourage them to take up political activities,” says Wei-Meng. “Why should a couple of people jeopardize the whole community? They are staying here on the goodwill of the Indian government.”


Indian activists say this is a central reason they became involved in helping the Burmese refugees. They say it is imperative to supply refugees with resources to help strengthen their political skills instead of following the UNHCR line, which they say could stunt their political growth. “When the UNHCR does not take the issue of refugees seriously, someone else must become involved,” says E Deenadayalan, general secretary of the New Delhi-based The Other Media, a research group that follows politically sensitive issues. “We have to help sharpen and broaden their political consciousness.”


Refugees who have been recognized by the UNHCR here also say the organization has not been doing enough and that their vision of self-reliance for asylum seekers in New Delhi is unrealistic given the lack of jobs.


Most single Burmese asylum seekers receive 1,400 rupees (US $30) per month; wives and children of married men receive an additional 600 rupees per month. But according to the SAHRDC, some recent arrivals have been denied a subsistence allowance (SA). And as part of the new self-reliance scheme, the UNHCR has been reviewing cases to assess who they feel no longer needs to receive SA. However, critics say the UNHCR has revoked SA without notice, leaving refugees few options to ensure their survival.


“The UNHCR always threatens to take our SA away,” says Dr Ro Ding, an active Burmese dissident in New Delhi. “We all want to work but it is very difficult.”


According to the UNHCR’s policy on refugees in urban areas: “[U]nassisted refugees cannot be regarded as ‘self-reliant’ if they are living in abject poverty and are obliged to engage in illicit activities in order to survive.… Refugees who have very limited access to public services and social support systems cannot realistically be expected to attain self-reliance.”


Critics of the program say that self-reliance is unattainable for most refugees and that it is shortsighted to think otherwise. “They [UNHCR] have done really inhumane things,” says Haksar. “They cut stipends without notice, putting refugees out on the streets, and they are not accountable to the refugees at any point in time.”


However, the UNHCR says they have new proactive programs that remain in their “embryonic” stages that will allow for greater self-sufficiency among refugees. “We don’t want to see people live on handouts forever,” says the UNHCR’s Wei-Ming. “I think we have embarked on a new procedure to cultivate self-reliance.” But when asked whether the agency has been guilty of cutting SA without notice, the Deputy Chief of Mission replied, “I don’t think so…. I don’t know, we are moving towards a new system.”


Nobody disputes that the UNHCR’s job is difficult, but the role the UNHCR is attempting to play is no longer plausible, especially given the budget cuts and resource constraints. “The UNHCR is the only protection a refugee has,” says Haskar.


Whether the UNHCR implements a new scheme to alleviate the refugees’ burden is unclear, but if they fail to do so, the long, hard road for Burmese refugees in India will most likely lead to nowhere.


Refugees and Displaced Persons

(By Human Rights Watch)



A refugee is someone with a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, who is outside of his or her country of nationality and unable or unwilling to return. Refugees are forced from their countries by war, civil conflict, political strife or gross human rights abuses. There were an estimated 14.9 million refugees in the world in 2001 – people who had crossed an international border to seek safety – and at least 22 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been uprooted within their own countries.



Enshrined in Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right “to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” This principle recognizes that victims of human rights abuse must be able to leave their country freely and to seek refuge elsewhere. Governments frequently see refugees as a threat or a burden, refusing to respect this core principle of human rights and refugee protection.



The global refugee crisis affects every continent and almost every country. In 2001, 78 percent of all refugees came from 10 areas: Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa, Eritrea, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Somalia and Sudan. Palestinians are the world’s oldest and largest refugee population, and make up more than one fourth of all refugees. Asia hosts 45 percent of all refugees, followed by Africa (30 percent), Europe (19 percent) and North America (5 percent).



Throughout history, people have fled their homes to escape persecution. In the aftermath of World War II, the international community included the right to asylum in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created to protect and assist refugees, and, in 1951, the United Nations adopted the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a legally binding treaty that, by February 2002, had been ratified by 140 countries.



In the past 50 years, states have largely regressed in their commitment to protect refugees, with the wealthy industrialized states of Europe, North America and Australia – which first established the international refugee protection system – adopting particularly hostile and restrictive policies. Governments have subjected refugees to arbitrary arrest, detention, denial of social and economic rights and closed borders. In the worst cases, the most fundamental principle of refugee protection, nonrefoulement, is violated, and refugees are forcibly returned to countries where they face persecution. Since September 11, many countries have pushed through emergency anti-terrorism legislation that curtails the rights of refugees.



Human Rights Watch believes the right to asylum is a matter of life and death and cannot be compromised. In our work to stop human rights abuses in countries around the world, we seek to address the root causes that force people to flee. We also advocate for greater protection for refugees and IDPs and for an end to the abuses they suffer when they reach supposed safety. Human Rights Watch calls on the United Nations and on governments everywhere to uphold their obligations to protect refugees and to respect their rights – regardless of where they are from or where they seek refuge.





CHRO’s Letter to Chin Churches and Communities Overseas


Chin Human Rights Organization


To all international Chin Churches/Communities and Fellowship.


December 18, 2002


Reference: Chin Refugee in Delhi, India


Dear Compatriots,


I am writing on behalf of Chin Human Rights Organization to appeal to your esteemed Church/Fellowship to consider the possibility of making contribution towards assisting Chin refugees in New Delhi, India who are currently facing acute humanitarian crisis there.

Chin refugees started arriving to New Delhi after fleeing persecution under the military regime in Burma to seek international legal protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Although it has been a slow yet steady flight from the Chinland, the massive outflow of refugee claimants from Chinland occurred during the last few months, making it difficult for those already settled in New Delhi as recognized refugees to accommodate all the new arrivals.


Most of these newly arrived Chin refugees have not been recognized as refugees by UNHCR, making them ineligible to receive any form of social and financial assistance provided by the UNHCR Office. Currently, there are at least 400 individuals facing acute humanitarian crisis as a result of not being eligible to receive any form of assistance due to not haing been recognized as UNHCR mandated refugees. Initial assessment conducted by Chin Human Rights Organization shows the need for urgent relief assistance for them to continue surviving while they await their applications to be approved by UNHCR.


Our field assessment shows that most of these refugees are living off the generosity and helps of their fellow recognized refugees in New Delhi, struggling through the most precarious social conditions.


In trying to find ways to ameliorate their situation, we have explored a number of options. We have held a meeting with responsible UNHCR officials to boost their chances of being accepted as mandated refugees. Although we have obtained assurances from the UNHCR Chief of Mission in India regarding his office commitment to making quick and reasonable determination of refugee status for Chin refugees, we obtain no assurance towards helping them with their humanitarian needs while they await this process.


Based on the result of this meeting, and the assessment we conducted among the refugees, we found that there is an urgent and immediate assistance for those not yet been recognized as refugees by UNHCR in New Delhi.


On behalf of the Chin refugees, we therefore implore your kind financial and material assistance in meeting the needs of the Chin refugees in crisis in New Delhi.


If your Church/Fellowship decides to make any kinds of assistance towards this purpose, please feel free to contact us and we will let you know the ways in which you could make assistance to these persons in need.


Thank you for your assistance.




Victor Biak Lian


Interim Refugee Coordinator

Chin Human Rights Organization





Mizo Hnahthlak (or) Mizo Group

By: R. Vanlawma (Zalen Cabin)


The Mizo group of people who occupy the hills areas between India and Burma are called by Burmese as Chin and by the Bengalese or Indian as Kukies. We knew very little about them before they had settled in the hills areas between India and Burma.


According to the book the structure of the Chin society written by F.K. Lehman, Head of History Department of Illinois University, U.S.A., in chapter 1, in AD 1397, we first hear of the Shan fortress city of Kalay (the Burmese Kalaymyo)…we do not know, of course whether the Chin of these plains were, as LUCE has suggested pushed up into the hills” Though he could not ascertain how and when the Mizo group were pushed up in the hills, it appeared that the Shan occupied the area after the Mizo group left the areas. So we can presume that the MIZO groups enter the hills in or about 1400 A.D.


Dr. Lehman also mentioned that “ so Chin have recently resettled the Kalay valley (see Hobbs, 1956)” what Mr. Hobbs meant are those who returned at the Kalay valley from the present Mizoram under Sailo chief who thought that it would be better to live in the areas where is no regular famines called Mautam or Thingtam. In or about 1930 after Thingtam famine, they made habitation at Tahan near kalaymyo and Khampat near the old side of Khampat fortress believes to be the place occupied by the Shan people after the Mizo group left their plain areas.


When they were in Lentlang areas they were divided into many clans, each having its own language and leaders and fought each one another for clan supremacy. So it can be presumed some clans left the areas by crossing Tiau Rivers even before 1600 A.D. The latest group who crosses the Tiau was Lushai clan under at a place called Selesih under the Chairmanship of Kawhla at about 1350 A.D. Some clans who preferred the Sailo chiefs to be their leaders were Ralte and Fanai in addition to Lushai clan. Small fraction of other clans also included in the list, so Selesih was a very of great settlement having a great influence to those who first crossed the Tiau river and easily occupied the whole of the area covered by the present Mizoram. They claimed that all the area from the Tiau river were their territory which the Falam and other leaders of the east. Respected and never offended against the Sailo chief since sailo controlled various clans, the people under them called themselves as MIZO.


The British, who control the whole of India, when they came in contact with the Sailo chiefs did not like to occupy the area but simply make tea gardens in Cacher safe in 1871. But when they put the whole of Burma under their control in 1885, they could not but decide to occupy the hills area between Burma and India. In 1890 they defeated the greatest Mizo chief Lianphunga. They also occupied the present Chin Hills almost at the same times.


Although the Mizo in India sides were known as Kuki the British knew that the rulling clan was Lushai, so they called it Lusei but mispelt it as Lushai. So all of them were officially known as Lushai and the Land was named Lushai Hills.


The British were very lenient to the hill people between India and Burma, in order to protect them from the assimilation of the more civilized plain peoples, they made inner line regulation were applicable to the Mizo areas.


Then after about 50 years of British rule in the Mizo areas second great World War erupted in 1944 Mahatma Gandhi demanded British withdrawal from India, under the pressure of United States of America, Mr. Churchill, prime minister of British Government conceded and promised to leave India, there were some problems which might delay the date of leaving India fully even after the war. One of his points was the problem of the Hills people between Burma and India.


He announced that the hills people between India and Burma were independence before British ruled over them. They were not under Indian, nor Burmese, nor under any government of the world they were Christians at that time, and it would not be fair to leave them under the Hindu or Buddhist rule. The British Government should help them to stand by their own feet before they had to leave them.


The governor of Assam who administered them was given more power to prepare special administration to suit the future; the post of adviser to the Governor was created to be more effective. Mr. Churchill, hoping to get more votes a time the war with the Japanese was gong on decided to called for election in August 1946, but the U.S.A. was suspicious of Mr. Churchill’s, delaying tactic for withdrawal from India decided to side with Labour Party. So, Conservative party, under the leadership of Mr. Chulchill was defeated in that election, in that way his proposal for the Mizo people was over ruled by making by India independent Act 1947.


When the proposal of Mr. Churchill was known to us “I tried my best to organized apolitical party called government creation of Greater Mizoram, by diong away the International boundary of Tiau river between the East the superintendent, Lushai Hills, Mr. A. Macdonald, ICS the in all authority over the district on the 9th April 1946. And the party soon overwhelmingly spread not only in Lushai Hills but in to the Mizo areas of Manipur and Tripura in India.


Then came “the Indian Independent Act, 1947” sponsored by the Labour party under the leadership of Mr. Atlee, the new Prime Minister. In section no. 7 (c) of that Act, it was started that “ any treaties or agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and any persons having authority in the tribal areas lapses.” In that Act instead of helping us for any length of time so as to enable us to become independent in due course, the British government preferred to leave us alone to have the right to self determination.


Our benefactor, Mr. A. Macdonald gave us his advice that the British Government would not be in a position to become independent, any one of the three Government, India, Pakistan or Burma might invade and force us to become satellite. In his opinion it will be advantage to talk to the India Union to join them under the Scottish pattern. Scotland, though they joined England, they are still be enforced without the sanction of the Scottish people. But for




Share it on

Leave a Comment

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles