London, UK: In attempt to draw attention to the ‘unknown’ devastating famine in Chin State, a Chin delegation made a three-day visit to the UK, which ended last Friday. The trip was sponsored by the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) and hosted by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The delegation comprising Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), Cheery Zahau of Women League of Chinland (WLC) and a Mara-Chin medical student, Sasa met with Ministers and MPs including Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague MP and joint chairman of the all party parliamentary group on Burma, John Bercow MP, and visited various offices including UK Departments for International Development (DFID), World Vision and Tearfund.
Baroness Cox, C.E.O of HART said: “We are delighted to have Cheery Zahau, Victor Biak Lian and Sasa here in the UK. Their activism on behalf of the Chin state and the people of Burma is invaluable and the vital meetings in the week are crucial to the international struggle to bring relief and justice to the people of Burma.”
The Chin trio highlighted how this disaster has brought extreme food shortage in the jungle-covered mountainous region in Southern part of Chin State and how it has been still largely unknown to the international community. They also stressed the fact that many Chin people from the famine-affected area have already started fleeing and migrating into the nearest Indian-Burma border.
Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW said: “This is a unique opportunity to highlight at senior levels in British government and parliament the plight of both the Chin people and Burma as a whole. The Chin people in particular, have long been forgotten, and their suffering has been ignored: we hope that through this visit they will receive increased attention and action from the international community.”
The famine, locally known as mautam or mangtam, happens every fifty years when the bamboo trees produce flowers and seeds which are believed to make rats sexually active and proliferative. Infestation of rats has led to massive destruction of crops and even rice stocks stored by the villagers.
Benny Manser, 24, a photographer from Aylesbury, UK who visited affected villages in Chin State from Mizoram State last month, told The Telegraph about seeing stick-thin children and old women who hardly had the strength left to dig up roots to eat, and about villagers telling of vast packs of rats, thousands strong, which would turn up overnight out of the bamboo thickets and eat everything in sight.
Similar rat-infested famine happens in Mizoram State of India and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh but governments of both countries have prepared and responded effectively to ease the situation while Burma’s military dictatorship still denies the existence of famine in the country. Yet the SPDC’s soldiers have escalated the condition worse by blocking humanitarian aids and forcing the villagers as porters.
“People from inside Chin State have to travel on foot through the jungle for many days to fetch bags of rice for their families since the military authorities do not allow aids from outside,” reported the Chin delegation. Cheery Zahau said according to The Telegraph: “We don’t really know what is happening deep inside Chin State where there are no telephones or roads. We fear that thousands will die if no help is made available.”
During their UK visit, the delegation also spotlighted other issues concerning Chin refugees in neighbouring countries such as India, Thailand and Malaysia, SPDC’s rigged referendum, religious persecutions and human rights violations inflicted on the Chin people. They also called for British and international supports to find alternate ways of giving pressure on the regime and to convene a multi-party talk on Burma.
The delegation also met with the Chin and other ethnic friends from Burma living in the UK.
HART is a non-denominational aid and advocacy charity founded by Baroness Cox, which focuses primarily on people largely ignored by the media and not served by major aid organisations. CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
Van Biak Thang
22 June, 2008