A report by Human Rights Watch called on the military government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Wednesday to end ongoing rights abuse against the largely Christian ethnic Chin population in the country’s west. The New York-based rights group also called on India to provide better protection for the Chin refugees who have fled to the state of Mizoram, which borders Myanmar.
The high military presence has deeply affected the lives of Christian Chin in western Myanmar
The report, which was released in Bangkok, documents a wide range of abuses that have taken place over recent years, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, forced labour, torture, beatings, religious repression and the destruction of Christian crosses.
A senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, Sara Colm, said the high military presence in Chin had deeply affected people’s lives, as they were “basically being controlled and ruined by the system.”
She said that people had told them about hardships in Chin state, “where they can’t get to their own farms because they are forced to work for the military, for example building roads for free. Through this report today and our research we’re trying to expose the problems of western Burma.”
Problems in India too
There are also problems in India, where up to 100,000 Chin have fled into the state of Mizoram to escape persecution and poverty in recent years.
Many of them face discrimination and the constant threat of arrest and deportation back to Myanmar where they are at risk of imprisonment and death.
Amy Alexander, a researcher and co-writer of the report, said that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) had “requested access to Mizoram but so far had been denied it by the Indian government.” She urged Delhi to allow “access to this very large population in need of protection.”
Some 4,000 Chin have trekked over 2,000 kilometres to the UNHCR offices in Delhi to seek registration.
Food shortages exacerbating situation
There are likely to be more Chin coming into India as the situation they face in Myanmar is further exacerbated by a serious food shortage after rats infested the local fields. The director of the Chin Human Rights Organisation, Salai Bawi Lian Mang, said 70 percent of the population was living below the poverty line and 40 percent faced severe food shortages.
“According to our research and report, over 200 villages have nothing to eat and above 100,000 Chin are at the brink of starvation -- and Chin state is facing famine and the government of Burma -- the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) is doing nothing so this is a very serious situation.”
The Human Rights Watch report calls for the military to halt its abuses and allow international aid and humanitarian relief organisations access to Chin state as well as urging India to accede to the 1951 Refugee Convention and end the forced deportations of Chin.
Moreover, it appeals to the international community to increase pressure on Myanmar.