BBC: Chin Villagers Suffer Abuses By Burma’s Soldiers
25 April 2010: In a BBC documentary presented by Simon Reeve last Sunday, Chin villagers spoke out how they have been abused and persecuted by SPDC’s army soldiers patrolling along the Indian-Burma border.
The elderly man in one village told the BBC team how the soldiers had slapped, shouted at, and threatened the villagers, adding: “One afternoon, they asked us for money but we didn’t give it to them. Then, they beat me up three times.”
When asked if the soldiers represent the government, he said: “We don’t see them as our government. They don’t treat us like what a government should. If the smallest are hungry, a good government will feed them. A good government will help those who are in trouble. But this government is totally the opposite, instead they take whatever they want from us.”
Living mainly in the hilly west of the country near the Indian border, the Chin people are one of the most persecuted ethnic nationalities in Burma. Yet their plight is little known in the rest of the world.
Presenter Simon Reeve said: “It was an extraordinary journey. The villagers I met gave me horrifying accounts of the abuses they suffer at the hands of Burmese troops.”
In London’s Metro newspaper yesterday, Simon recalled his trip to Chin State, saying that leaving Burma was a frightening experience. But I take these risks beacause we are trying to tell the stories of forgotten people in a forgotten part of the world.
He added: “I cried when I left the Burmese people. I spent two weeks with them after entering the country covertly from Bangladesh. They have a terrible time under the Burmese regime and I felt more connected to them than anywhere else. I would even consider some of them friends.”
“Whenever the troops are in the village, it involves forced labour, extortion, child labours, and sometime rapes,” exiled Chin human rights activist Cheery Zahau told Simon and his two-man crew while trekking along the trail in the Chin jungle.
The team also met with a group of Free Burma Rangers providing free medical treatment to the villagers. One of the FBR team members said: “We come to help out people any way we can, for example, by bringing medical aids. In our land, there are many ill people because the government delibrately denies medical help.”
Asked when the last time the Burmese goverment’s doctors or nurses came to the village, one of the elderly villagers said: “No, never. I have never seen them come here, not once in ten years.”
The Chin are subjected to forced labour, torture, rape, arbitrary arrest and extra-judicial killings as part of a Burmese government policy to suppress the Chin people and their ethnic identity, according to US organisation Human Rights Watch.
Like other ethnic groups in Burma, the Chin who are mainly Christians have been abandoned, ignored, oppressed and persecuted for decades by the ruling military regime.
Van Biak Thang