Report: Myanmar's Chin people persecuted
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer
FOX NEWS: http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2009Jan27/0,4670,ASMyanmarChin,00.html
BANGKOK, Thailand — The "forgotten" Chin people, Christians living in the remote mountains of northwestern Myanmar, are subject to forced labor, torture, extrajudicial killings and religious persecution by the country's military regime, a human rights group said Wednesday.
A report by the New York-based Human Right Watch said tens of thousands have fled the Chin homeland into neighboring India, where they face abuse and the risk of being forced back into Myanmar.
"The Chin are unsafe in Burma and unprotected in India, but just because these abuses happen far from Delhi and Rangoon (Yangon) does not mean the Chin should remain `forgotten people,'" the report said.
It said the regime also continues to commit atrocities against its other ethnic minorities.
Myanmar's ruling junta has been widely accused of widespread human rights violations in ethnic minority areas where anti-government insurgent groups are fighting for autonomy. The government has repeatedly denied such charges, but an e-mailed request for comment on the new report was not immediately answered.
A top official for India's Mizoram state, Chief Secretary Vanhela Pachau, said he hadn't seen the report and could not comment.
Human Rights Watch said insurgents of the Chin National Front also committed abuses, including the extortion of money from villagers to fund their operations.
"(The police) hit me in my mouth and broke my front teeth. They split my head open and I was bleeding badly. They also shocked me with electricity. We kept telling them that we didn't know anything," said a Chin man accused of supporting the insurgents, who are small in number and largely ineffective.
He was one of some 140 Chin people interviewed by the human rights group from 2005 to 2008. The group said the names of those interviewed were withheld to prevent reprisals.
A number spoke of being forced out of their villages to serve as unpaid porters for the army or to build roads, sentry posts and army barracks.
"We are like slaves, we have to do everything (the army) tells us to do," another Chin man said.
The report said the regime, attempting to suppress minority cultures, was destroying churches, interfering with worship services and promoting Buddhism through threats and inducements. Some 90 percent of the Chin are Christians, most of them adherents to the American Baptist Church.
The suffering of the Chin, the report said, was compounded by recent food shortages and famine caused by a massive rat infestation in Chin State, already one of the poorest regions of Myanmar.
"For too long, ethnic groups like the Chin have borne the brunt of abusive military rule in Burma," said the report, using the former name for the country.
Ethnic insurgencies erupted in Myanmar in the late 1940s when the country gained independence from Great Britain.
Former junta member Gen. Khin Nyunt negotiated cease-fires with 17 of the insurgent groups before he was ousted by rival generals in 2004.
Among rebels still fighting are groups from the Karen, Karenni, Shan and Chin minorities.
At least half a million minority people have been internally displaced in eastern Myanmar as a result of the regime's brutal military campaigns while refugees continue to flee to the Thai-Myanmar border. More than 145,000 refugees receive international humanitarian assistance in Thai border camps.
Associated Press writer Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi contributed to this report.
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