Photos of Chin refugees: September 2007
All the people of Burma live under oppression but like other ethnic minorities, the Chin are especially targeted for attack.
The Chin State, in western Burma, is an area slightly smaller than Switzerland. The Chin State borders India and Bangladesh. There are seven main tribes and dialects. The terrain in Chin State is very mountainous. The current population in the Chin State is approximately 530,000, while over 700,000 Chin live in other parts of Burma.
The persecution by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Burmas military regime, has forced over 130,000 Chin people to leave Burma. Approximately 100,000 live in India, 27,000 in Malaysia and others have gone to the United States, Europe and other countries.
The SPDC / Burma Army has 8 permanent battalions in the Chin State and others rotate through for a total of 13. There is little fighting as the Burma Army is quick to punish villages if the resistance attacks the Burma Army. There are not many landmines.
This report was completed by the Free Burma Rangers after a mission to the border area and covers the education and health situations in Chin State. It also describes the persecution of the Chin people by the Burma Army, including cases of beatings, abduction of a child and forced labor. In other interviews conducted by FBR, villagers who had fled Chin State to a neighboring country told of the abuses they faced such as forced portering, extortion, forced marriage, rape, land confiscation and forced participation in village militia that carry out SPDC orders.
In one case, the Burma Army paralyzed one man while beating him in December 2005. His then 66-year-old father was beaten also. His father was an internally displaced person hiding in Chin State until recently leaving Burma looking for a better home for his family.
There is no education available after 10th grade in Chin State (15-16 years old) and no universities. In the Chin State there are 25 high schools, 83 middle schools, 1,167 primary schools and 184 nursery schools. These figures come from the Chin National Council, which proposes to develop Chin unity and has membership comprised of womens, youth and social welfare organizations working in the Chin State.
Students must go to other areas in Burma to go to college or do any further studies. The quality of education is low, more teachers are needed and teachers cannot survive on their teaching salary alone.
Health care is not easily available in Chin State. There are hospitals in larger towns, but many villagers cannot afford the travel costs to get there. If villagers are able to reach the hospital, medicines are in short supply even if they do have money to purchase them.
In spite of the challenges the people of Chin State face, the people in exile and inside Burma have not given up and many work together to provided needed material, medical, educational and capacity building support.
Local Chin groups are working to provide regular medical care, community development programs, increased support for teachers, womens and youth programs. The have good capacity but are in need of additional support to conduct trainings and expand their programs.
Interview #1 : Son Beaten and paralyzed by the Burma Army
September 17, 2007
Name: Mr. U*
Age: 68 years old
Village: Village A
His son was 23 years old at that time and they also beat him. His son is now paralyzed after that beating. Mr. U now suffers back pain and is unable to pick up heavy things or move very quickly.
On 28 December, 2005, 14 Burma Army soldiers came arrested his son, daughter in law and him. The soldiers tied his son and daughter in law under the house. They kicked him, hit him and put a pistol to his head. The soldiers said they would kill them if dont tell them where the resistance groups were. The arrest and beatings started at 7 p.m. and lasted until 9 a.m. the next morning. The soldiers tried to hang him and his son upside down but the rope was too small and he said they didnt want to kill him and take responsibility for that. He believes his son was paralyzed because the soldiers were beating his back with their guns.
His Daughter-in-law was not kicked or beaten. They were going to hang her upside down but she had a sarong on and she had no trousers. She was pregnant then at that time. They didnt torture her.
The soldiers ate all of the familys dried beef and chicken. When they were released they had no food left. The soldiers took his son, pointed guns at his back and forced him to go with them. He was gone with the soldiers for three nights. During those three days, Mr. U lived with worry and tears, believing that the soldiers had killed his son.
His son returned and one time they went to another area and saw a doctor. They said nothing could be done for his sons paralysis. Mr. U said they can only rely on prayer because there was no medical assistance available. His son now has developed problems with sight and hearing.
Mr. U is a farmer and in Chin State he had a field house near his farm. The Burma Army soldiers accused him and said, You support student groups. They accused and tortured him.
Mr. U has been sent 4 warnings to leave his village. In 2005 nearby SPDC authorities sent him a letter saying he needed to move from the village because he was supporting the resistance. In August 2007 his 4th warning to leave the village came and he finally complied. At the time of this interview, he had left Burma and had only been in a neighboring country for three nights.
He requested the interviewer to tell their stories to others because he cant go back to Burma.
Interview #2 3-year-old son abducted by the Burma Army and held for 8 hours with no food or water.
September 17, 2007
Name: Mrs. M.*
Age: 32 years old
With her son, 7 years old
The Burma Army captured Mrs. Ms son in 2002 and held him for eight hours by the Burma Army with no food or water.
February 27, 2002, Mrs Ms husband was arrested as being supportive of the resistance movement in Chin State. They suspected his brother of drug dealing because he had money. His brothers house was next door to his and the soldiers didnt find anything suspicious in his brothers house so they searched his. They had a resistance group magazine in it. They arrested him and took the books. He read political magazines secretly but its very dangerous to have this kind of literature in the Chin State. He was sentenced to 9 years in prison for having banned books.
He escaped from prison on 13 June at 11 a.m.. He was able to escape while the soldiers were sleeping. He told them he wanted to go to the toilet, which they allowed, but he took the keys and escaped through the gate. The soldiers followed almost immediately. He hid nearby the camp and they didnt find him and when they had passed by he ran away. He had both foot and hand chains on. He broke the chains with a stone in the jungle. He had chains around his waist- connected to his hands and feet. He broke the clip/clasp on the chain.
On June 13 at 1 p.m., Mrs. M was away from her village when 5 Burma Army soldiers came to their village looking for her husband. The boy didnt know where his father was. They asked the boy over and over where the father was. The family tried to keep the boy but he authorities took him and put him in custody. The soldiers bribed him with a jeep ride and other promises and took him away from his home. He loves cars so believed they were being nice to him. The army camp was 2 miles away from their home.
She believes that if she had been there, she would have been held in custody until they found her husband. The boy cried so much in custody that he exhausted himself. They were afraid that he would die on them so they let him go that same night.
The room where they kept him had no window. It was where they put criminals. It was long, dark and had a mud floor. There were wood walls. The soldiers didnt give him any food or water. He was there for approximately 8 hours.
The father had fled. The mother went to a neighboring country because her family members told her what had happened. The family brought her son to the border and they met up there, a 4-day walk from their home. They left Burma.
The family is together in now outside of Burma and they live together. The father works as a daily laborer. He leaves for 3 weeks at a time. The boy cries at midnight usually. Before when he saw a blue or green car he would run away. He is at a local school and doing well.
Mr. M is 32 years old. They have 4 children. Mrs. M works as farmer when people hire her. They like it here and feel its safer than Chin State but they dont tell their story.
She said that if they go back to Burma they will be persecuted, arrested and/or tortured. They cant go back but are fearful here because cant tell their story. They cant travel to get refugee status because dont have enough money.
Interview #3 Man arrested and tortured
September 17, 2007
Name: Mr. Z*
Age: 36 years old
On 5 November, 2005, 20 Burma Army soldiers came to his village and said they didnt let them know the resistance groups were around. They arrested him and tortured him. They selected 7 soldiers to torture him. He fell down. They picked him up and beat him for 2 hours. They took turns punching and kicking him. He was unconscious for part of the time. They pointed a gun at him and said that the next time they would kill him if they didnt inform on the resistance. The soldiers then used big sticks and beat him on his head- 5 wounds on his head. Also his ears, arms and right leg were hurt. The soldiers who beat him were Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 268. The soldiers took him with them to another army camp which was 15 miles away. They tied him up and he couldnt walk fast.
They said he supported the resistance groups. Put him in jail (police at the army camp) for 8 days. When in prison at the army camp his relatives came to feed him 2 times per day. The soldiers gave him no food. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison. One of his aunts followed him to the town where he was imprisoned and fed him while he was in prison. She was from somewhere else. They didnt allow visits, only people to give them food. He was released and came to India. He is married now and has one child. They rent a house. He cant work everyday because of the beatings he got by the Burma Army. When he feels better he works. He wasnt tortured in prison.
Interview #4 Forced Labor and Beating
September 18, 2007
Name: Mr. C*
Age: 41 years old
There is a Burma Army camp 1 km from his village. Burma Army LIB 266 is stationed there with 15 permanent soldiers and additional soldiers there during patrols.
In their village they face forced portering. They must carry Burma Army ammunition when the soldiers go on patrol. This is a constant order. They patrol on paths, not on main roads. They cant use a flashlight, talk or smoke while with the soldiers on patrol. If any of the porters stumble they are beaten. If they hear gunfire, everyone is supposed to get on the ground and stay there. The porters have to bring or find their own food. The youngest porter that Mr. C has seen was 10 years old.
In the Chin State, water is rare in some places. The villagers have to go a long distance to find it in some cases. In their village, villagers are required to go two times per week and get water for the Burma Army. One person from each family gets water for the BA camp. The soldiers use it for washing, bathing and drinking. Mr. C said it might be ok to help them with water for drinking but this makes the villagers like the soldiers servants. The camp is built by wood fences built by the villagers. The gate is never shut and when villagers livestock goes into the camp, the soldiers shoot it and eat it with no compensation offered. When the soldiers rations are brought from a larger town and dropped off in the village, men women and children all carry it to the camp.
The situation for the Chin people is very bad but they are doing their best and need more help.
Thank and God bless you,
(*Names and village names are changed for the security of those interviewed and their families still in Burma.)
For more information:
Chin Human Rights Organization www.chro.org
Christian Solidarity Worldwide www.csw.org.uk
Womens League of Chinland www.chinwomen.org