London, UK: Burma has been isolated from the outside world by the military regime for decades and so has further been Chin State within the country. Burma’s military dictatorship is internationally condemned and ill-famed for its brutality in practicing human rights abuses against its own peoples. Yet, little is exposed and known about the Chin people and their long sufferings from Burma’s junta. Many Chin people fled their homeland to various countries near and far.
Two British Parliamentarians with a delegation from Christians Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust) made an historic visit to Chin refugees on the India-Burma border last week. The visit organised by CSW was the first time a member of the British House of Commons has made to the Chin people and the third time for Baroness Cox and CSW.
John Bercow MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, and Baroness Caroline Cox, a member of the House of Lords and CEO of HART, with a delegation from CSW UK, CSW Australia and HART returned with reports of gross human rights violations inflicted on the Chin people by the military regime.
The delegation heard first-hand accounts of horrific forms of torture, conditions in prison camps, forced labour, rape, religious persecution, forced marriage and cultural genocide. According to one witness, prisoners in Chin State face even more severe torture and living conditions than in other prisons because it is a more isolated part of the country. He described how prisoners are shackled and chained, yoked like oxen and forced to plough fields and if they attempt to escape they are placed on a fire to burn, stabbed with knives, and then forced into a tub of salt water.
One witness told the delegation how he had been arrested and hung upside down for an entire night, with soldiers beating him and banging his body against a pillar continuously. Another man was beaten so badly he is now paralysed. Numerous further testimonies of torture, forced labour and sexual violence are documented in CSW’s report on the visit, which is released today.
Commenting on the visit, John Bercow said: “The military dictatorship in Burma is notorious for its savage human rights abuses. The desperate suffering of the ethnic nationals in eastern Burma has been extensively catalogued, but this compelling report draws on extensive eye-witness accounts to highlight just how grievously the Chin people are suffering at the hands of Burma’s sadistic tyrants. These proud but vulnerable people need help now. This report is a call to the international community to speak with one voice and demand that the dictatorship in Burma stop terrorising its people.”
Baroness Cox added: “It is time to turn rhetoric into action. The UN Security Council must set out specific objectives to be met by the regime, with clear timelines and benchmarks. If the regime fails to meet such goals, including the release of political prisoners by a specific date, it should face increased sanctions. Burma’s neighbours, particularly India, China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), must use their influence with the regime to bring an end to the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the military. In particular, India should re-examine its conscience and stop providing arms and military training to the regime. India should also reconsider its economic investments in Burma, until a meaningful transition to democracy is underway. The suffering of the people of Burma has gone on too long with too little action.”
Benedict Rogers, Advocacy Officer for South Asia at CSW, who organised the visit and authored the report, said: “The visit and subsequent report come at a time when the world’s attention is once again on Burma. The country is witnessing the biggest protest movement against the regime in a decade. Over 200 people have been arrested, yet Buddhist monks are continuing to march in the streets. CSW is delighted that the United Nations Security Council held an informal meeting last week to discuss the escalating crisis. We hope that the report on our recent visit will remind the international community of the ongoing violations of human rights which must also be addressed and that this visit will help raise awareness about the plight of the Chin people who have long been forgotten.”
Christians Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights organisation specialising in religious freedom, has made previous visits to the Chin people on the India-Burma border in 2004 and 2006, and also organised earlier this year a delegation of Chin activists to visit London, Brussels, Berlin and Washington, DC to raise international awareness.
For more information, interviews with John Bercow MP and to obtain a copy of the report, please contact Penny Hollings, Campaigns and Media Manager at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 07823 329663, email: [email protected] or visit www.csw.org.uk. To contact Baroness Cox please call 020 8204 7336 or email: [email protected] .
Van Biak Thang
26 September, 2007