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Burma: Visit to the India-Burma Border

By Christian Solidarity Worldwide  •  December 1, 2010

“We have been ruled by the army for 48 years. The army has killed our hopes.” – A Chin pastor

“The elections amount to nothing more than a change of clothes for the military. They are completely unacceptable.” – A Chin refugee

In eastern Burma, the regime is carrying out military offensives against ethnic civilians, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and rape, torture, forced labour and killings. Civilians, including women, children and the elderly, are sometimes shot at point-blank range. In western and northern Burma, the regime is also cruelly suppressing the ethnic nationalities, although the tactics vary.

The Chin people in western Burma are among the poorest, most marginalised and most persecuted peoples of Burma, targeted for their ethnicity, their political opposition to the regime and their religion, Christianity. Inhabiting Chin State along the border with India and Bangladesh, as well as much of Sagaing Division, the Chin are subjected to extortion, forced labour, rape, torture and religious persecution which have been documented by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in previous reports and by the United Nations, U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch and the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO). In addition, access to health care and education is extremely limited and as a result many people die of preventable or treatable diseases and are denied opportunities due to lack of education. Since 2007, the Chin people have suffered a chronic food shortage caused by a natural phenomenon of the flowering of the bamboo, which occurs every fifty years. Rats are attracted by the rich fruit produced by the flowering bamboo. Once the fruit supply is exhausted, rats then destroy rice and corn fields and consume rice supplies, other food sources and almost all means of livelihood and survival. At least 100,000 people in more than 200 villages were affected by this humanitarian emergency, according to CHRO,1 and many died of hunger and famine-related disease. CHRO estimates at least 54 deaths2, but many more may have occurred without being reported or documented. Although the recovery is beginning, particularly in northern Chin State, the effects of the food shortage are expected to continue for several more years, while in southern Chin State, particularly in remote areas of Paletwa, Mindat, Matupi and Kanpalet townships, the food security crisis is continuing.

CSW travelled to Mizoram State, on the India-Burma border with a delegation led by Baroness Cox, Chief Executive of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), from 22-28 November, 2010. CSW has made four previous visits to the India-Burma border since 2004 and has been advocating on behalf of the Chin people, including the victims of the chronic food shortage, to secure humanitarian assistance and international support.
During the visit, the delegation received information about the conduct of the elections on 7 November, as well as examples of human rights violations, including forced labour. The delegation also heard evidence of the dire and desperate conditions in Chin State caused by lack of health care and education provision, and met community health workers who are being trained to provide basic health care in their villages.
CSW met Chin civil society organisations, which cannot be named for security reasons, and had meetings with Ministers in the Government of Mizoram and the former Chief Minister of Mizoram and President of the main opposition party, the Mizoram National Front, Mr. Zoramthanga.

In New Delhi, CSW visited Chin refugees and had meetings with several Indian Members of Parliament, the Indian National Congress party, civil society organisations and media and the British High Commission.

Download full report here.

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This post is in: Crimes Against Humanity, Ethnic Nationalities, Human Rights

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