UN rights envoy awestruck by levels of poverty in Chin State
22 August 2013: The level of poverty in Chin State has alarmed Tomás Ojea Quintana, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma who made his first ever trip to one of the most isolated regions in Burma.
Mr. Quintana said in his statement yesterday that the Chin communities have suffered from neglect from the central government over the years.
“With the country opening up, development will come, but it is important that this process occurs in a participatory, transparent, accountable and equal manner,” he said.
“The process of development and the exploitation natural resources there should benefit the Chin communities,” added the UN expert who had just returned from his first trip to Chin State.
Over 70 percent of the population in Chin State live under the poverty line, making it the poorest state in the whole of Burma.
During his 8th trip to Burma, Mr. Quintana travelled to Mindat and Kanpetlet towns in southern Chin State, also visiting Christian churches and government-controlled Na Ta La schools.
He stressed the situation on ‘bureaucratic obstacles’ towards opening spaces for Christian worship.
The Na Ta La residential schools, run under military-dominated Ministry for Border Affairs, has been accused of taking coercive measures to convert Chin Christian students to Buddhism.
Salai Za Uk Ling, Program Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), said: “Graduates of the Na Ta La schools have guaranteed government positions, but only if they are Buddhists. This is a clear reflection that discrimination on the ground of religious identity is entrenched within the Na Ta La school system.”
“This is why we have been calling for the abolition of these schools and to instead properly finance the state education system where everyone can enjoy equal access to good education.”
A CHRO delegation provided a briefing to Mr. Quintana last week in Rangoon, on the eve of his visit to Chin State.
Some local leaders complained of not getting the chance to present to Mr. Quintana about their ongoing experiences of human rights abuses.
The UN Special Rapporteur made a two-day trip to Chin State. He also visited other ethnic States of Rakhine, Shan and Kachin as well as Meikhtila in Mandalay region.
During his ten-day visit, Mr. Quinta was denied permission to visit Kachin State’s Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).#