Govt urged to address discrimination against Christians in Chin State
24 October 2013: Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, said that the government of Burma should address ‘institutionalized discrimination’ against Christians in Chin State.
In his report to be presented to the UN General Assembly in New York today, he said that he was concerned about a degree of discrimination against Christians in state government structures and administrative procedures.
“This includes discrimination in access to jobs, especially senior positions, within the civil service,” said Mr. Quintana, who made his first visit to Chin State in August 2013.
In Chin State where about 90% of the population are Christian with 11% Buddhist, only 14% of department head positions at the Chin State level and 25% of township administrative officer positions at the township level are held by Christians, according to the report.
He indicated that Christians in Burma’s least developed state still face difficulties in securing permission to build and renovate religious infrastructures due to local planning regulations and administrative requirements.
During his trip to Mindat, Chin State, Mr. Quintana visited government-run Na Ta La schools where Christian pupils face coercion to convert to Buddhism, according to the 2012 report Threats to Our Existence published by the Chin Human Rights Organization.
These residential schools are under the authority of the Ministry for Border Affairs and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
He urged the government to ensure that the cultural and religious rights of the students are fully respected and protected in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Burma is a party.
Contrary to this, Colonel Zaw Min Oo, Minister of Security and Border Affairs in Chin State, has previously denied that there was discrimination against Christian students at the schools, saying the programme was established to help educate orphans and children from poor families.
In response to a question raised by Chin MP Ki Thang Lon during the Chin State parliamentary sessions, he said that the Na Ta La students were trained to become patriotic and good citizens, according to the Chinland Post.
According to the Chin State government’s statistics, there are 484 Buddhist and 290 Christian students in nine Na Ta La schools across Chin State, with 18 Christian and 114 Buddhist teachers.
CHRO’s Advocacy Director Rachel Fleming welcomed Mr. Quintana’s report, saying, “We are delighted that Mr. Quintana has highlighted Chin issues in such a comprehensive way in his report to the UN General Assembly. He also emphasized basic infrastructure problems, and stressed that development should be accountable and non-discriminatory to ensure that it genuinely improves peoples’ lives. We couldn’t agree more.”#