Food Relief Distributed To Villagers As Loans In Chin State
22 December, 2009: Mautam-affected villagers in some areas of Burma’s Chin State are reportedly required to repay for ‘food relief’ given to them as they are provided as loans, not as food aids, according to a recent report released early this month by HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust) and CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide).
The report said; “In some areas, international funds for emergency food relief channeled through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are allegedly being provided as loans, instead of aid, to malnourished villagers, repayable at 200 per cent interest.”
During their trip to the Indian-Burma border late last month, a delegation led by Baroness Cox, Chief Executive of HART, was told by representatives of the Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee that in at least 17 villages in Paletwa Township, the worst affected part of Chin State, the local UNDP have distributed international funds in the form of loans, instead of providing food aid.
Villagers claim, the report added, they have been told they must repay twice the amount they are given, either in cash or in rice bags.
CSW and HART have written to UNDP to request an urgent investigation.
The delegation, which also met with Kachin refugees, received evidence from Kachin and Chin states of religious persecution, forced labour and attempted ‘cultural genocide’.
Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, said: “The plight of the Chin people of Burma is desperate. They are facing severe poverty, drastically compounded by a chronic food shortage and lack of health care, as well as cultural genocide, religious persecution, rape and forced labour. It is time for the international community, including India, to act decisively to provide political and humanitarian support to the people of Burma, including the Chin. India, the world’s largest democracy, must stop siding with one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.”
“The international community must intensify efforts to secure a transition to genuine federal democracy, in which equal rights for Burma’s ethnic nationalities are fully guaranteed. We renew our call for a universal arms embargo, a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity, and international humanitarian assistance to the ethnic nationalities who so desperately and urgently need aid to prevent further loss of life and suffering.”
Chronic food shortages and continuing severe human rights violations are taking place in Chin and Kachin states in Burma.
Baroness Cox said: “Burma’s military regime must be called to account for gross human rights violations, and required to immediately release democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all 2,000-plus political prisoners. The junta’s crimes include a campaign of cultural genocide against the Chin people. As part of that campaign, the junta is deliberately denying access to health care and education in many parts of Chin State. The humanitarian crisis facing the Chin people is dire and requires urgent action.”
“Furthermore, it is vital that India be persuaded to stop uncritically supporting the regime in Burma and instead provide support to the people of Burma. It is essential that all initiatives to promote democracy in Burma must fully involve all the ethnic national peoples, who comprise 40 percent of the population of Burma and who have endured systematic violations of human rights, as the military regime pursues its policies of Burmanisation and the forced imposition of Buddhism.”
Over the past two years Chin State has been devastated by a chronic food shortage caused by the flowering of bamboo, a natural phenomenon which occurs every fifty years. The bamboo flowering attracts plagues of rats, which then destroy rice fields, rice supplies and almost all means of survival for the local population.
The Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) estimates that at least 100,000 people in over 200 villages are severely affected.
During a recent fact finding visit to the India-Burma border, the delegation of CSW and HART had meetings with the Chief Minister of Mizoram State, local officials, and Chin civil society, political and humanitarian organizations.
Van Biak Thang