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Rhododendron News Bulletin, CHRO's
- Subject: Rhododendron News Bulletin, CHRO's
- From: chinhro@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sun, 23 May 1999 19:42:00
Subject: Rhododendron News Bulletin, CHRO's May Issue
RHODODENDRON NEWS BULLETIN
CHIN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
50 Bell Street N # 2, Ottawa, ON K1R 7C7, Canada
Ph/Fx: 613 234 2485 Email: chokhlei@xxxxxxxxxxx
II No. 4 May 1999
CHIN HUNGER STRIKERS SENT TO JAIL IN NEW DELHI
Source: MIZZIMA News Group
Nine Burmese refugees who went on a hunger strike on March 22nd in front of
UNHCR offices in New Delhi were sent to Tihar Central Jail. The strikers
were arrested by police a second time on March 25th when they returned to
make their silent protest against the rejection of their claim to refugee
They appeared in court and were represented by Rajesh Talwar, the Legal
Counsel of the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre ( SAHRDC ). The
refugees were formally charged under Section 14 of the Foreigners' Act of
1946 with illegal entry into India and were sentenced to be held in legal
custody. Under the act, they could be given a maximum 3 months in jail after
which they would face deportation back to Burma.
The youthful refugees, between the ages of 16 and 27, mostly from Chin State
in Burma, crossed the Indo-Burma border areas about a year ago to take
refugee in India due to repressive measures of the military regime in Burma.
They applied to the UNHCR office in New Delhi for refugee status but their
cases were rejected.
The strikers were taken away by police on March 24 from a roadside platform
where they were lying in front of the UNHCR office but were released later
the same evening. They returned to their post the next morning.
In a letter to the Chief of Mission of the UNHCR, they said they preferred
to die in front of UNHCR office in Delhi rather than go back to Burma where
they would be imprisoned or killed by the military regime.
In reply, the UNHCR warned the refugees to call off their strike saying that
police intervention would be called for, should they refuse to do so. It had
examined their cases, the UNHCR said, and found no grounds to recognize them
Meanwhile, in a letter directed to the UNHCR, the General Secretary of
India's Samata Party, Ms. Jaya Jaitly, asked the UN refugee organization to
review the cases of the nine. She said Samata had been providing sympathy
and support on a purely humanitarian basis to refugees who had come to India
to escape jail or death in Burma.
Ravi Nair, Executive Director of the SAHRDC, said that his organization
would challenge the case of the arrested Burmese refugees as well as the
1946 Foreigners' Act in Supreme Court of India. He plans to organize an
international campaign to question the UNHCR's unwillingness to address the
problems of the Burmese asylum seekers in India.
CAUGHT IN A CROSSFIRE - VILLAGE LIFE IN PALETWA TOWNSHIP
The following interviews were conducted in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of
Bangladesh by a human rights monitor from Images Asia in February1999. These
Chin villagers interviewed came from 3 villages in Paletwa township,
Southern Chin State: Khan Tlang, Lung Phum and Tahai. They all fled to
Bangladesh during the first half of 1998.Several armed opposition groups are
active in that area and as a result the Burmese Army is carrying out a
brutal counter insurgency programme against the civilian population.
Excessive forced labour, portering and extortions are systematically imposed
on the villagers. At the same time, these villagers have to pay taxes to the
opposition groups. In this region the tax burden is especially heavy as
several ethnic opposition armies, Chin and Rakhine ( Arakanese ), are
operating and they are all targetting the same villages for funds. Those
villagers are caught in a crossfire. Ironically it is because they provide
funds to the "insurgents" that the Burmese Army conduct such harsh
retaliation campaigns. Their communities and livelihoods being destroyed,
they have no choice but to abandon their villages. Many families seem to
move first to the border area, becoming internally displaced. As the
situation is not substantially better along the border, they gradually cross
the international border and take shelter in the Mizoram State of India or
the Chittagong Hill tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. It is estimated that between
500 and 1,000 Chin refugees are scattered in the Hill tracts in Bangladesh
and are surviving in difficult conditions. A larger number have chosen to
escape to Mizoram where it is easier to mingle ethnically and
Name : "Zing Par" (not her real name)
Sex: FemaleAge: 41
Occupation: Slash-and-burn farmer
Marital status: Married with 3 children (2 daughters and one son) Her
husband is sick and cannot work, she supports the family alone
Interview date: 5.2.1999
Q : When did you arrive here?
Zing Par : We fled our village because we had to suffer too much. We were
tortured by the Burmese Army! They forced us to work for them all the time.
Even, we, the women and the girls, were forced to work in their camp, while
they took our husbands and all the men as porters during their patrol. When
our husbands went as porters, they didn't receive any food. There is an army
camp in Khan Tlang. We don't know which battalion, but their headquarters
are in Paletwa. We, the women and children, were called to cut grass in
their camp for the whole day, everyday. They didn't give us any food, nor
any wages for our labour. We didn't get anything from the army. Moreover,
they collected rice and money from us. The Burmese soldiers are living off
the people. We could no longer endure this unbearable situation, so we
decided to leave Khan Tlang and flee to the border. We stayed in a village
there for a while in 1997 [on the Burma side of the border]. One night in
February 1998, we were informed that the army had surrounded our place. All
the villagers decided to run away secretly. We couldn't carry anything. We
fled with only the clothes that we were wearing and with our children. It
was night time. The army was chasing us and fired at us. The next morning we
crossed the border just before the soldiers caught up with us. Here is my
husband. He is a sick man. He is suffering from malnutrition because the
army always called him as a porter and they never gave him any food [he is
very thin and cannot walk properly].He was suffering so much. That is why he
became like this. Because of the army!
Q : Did all the villagers from Khan Tlang flee?
Zing Par : There were about 150 families. Most of them fled. Only one family
is left there because they have connection with the Army. Some fled to
Bangladesh, but most went to Mizoram. Because in Mizoram, the people are
Mizos [same ethnic group]. It is easier for us to get work and survive
Q : How often did your husband have to be a porter?
Zing Par : Two or three times a week! We couldn't work for ourselves. Every
time, he had to carry for one day, or two days each time. Sometimes they
even called him at night.
Q : How many days could he work in a month?
The Husband : In a month, I could only stay about 5 days at home. Even in
the rainy season, when there was flood, we could not sleep, and we were
forced to cross rivers.
Q : What did you have to do at the army camp?
Zing Par : They ordered me to carry sand from the river bank to the road.
Inside their camp, but also outside in the village. They were building a
road. The men had to carry for them as porters and, at the same time, the
women had to work in the army camp. Only the elderly people and the small
children could stay at home. Fathers and mothers, as well as the elder
brothers and sisters had to work. My youngest daughter here is now 12 years
old. She had to carry water at the army camp too.
Q : How did the soldiers call the workers?
Zing Par : The soldiers came by themselves in our village, and grabbed
anyone at random. Everyday like that!
Q : Did they ever beat anyone?
Zing Par : Of course! When we were working, they beat us. They kicked us
with their boots. They forced me to carry sand from the river and I was too
slow. They beat me to force me to work faster.
Another Villager : Even though we were working for them, they forced us to
work very fast. When I was carrying, my head load was very heavy and I
couldn't walk fast. Then they kicked me with their boots and hit me with a
bamboo stick. They hit my legs and my back quite badly. I also had to repair
their barracks, fetch water from the river and build fences around their
Q : When did that happen?
Zing Par : Since CNF started their activities. Since that time, we are
suffering a lot.
A Villager : When we are going to our fields with a bag of rice, they
accuse us that we are carrying it to CNF, and they beat us. In the past we
had to do a little bit of labour for them, not much, but after CNF started
operating, it became continuous and serious. More and more?
Zing Par : They ( the Burmese soldiers )come to check our rice. If we have 3
kg of rice, they take 2 kg for themselves. Moreover, every month, they
collect 500 Kyats from each family. They also take from us whatever animals
we had, our chickens, our pigs. They never pay for anything they take.
Whenever they see that the animal is fat enough to eat, they demand it from
us. When we go and ask for compensation, they beat us and answered to us:
"This is what you have to do! You must give us!"
A Villager : They ( the Burmese soldiers ) even said: "This is not your
country. This is our country! If you don't want to give us, then go away
from this country!"
Zing Par : Anything they see in our house they steal. They even take our own
properties, our clothes. They stole my back-strap loom and my money. They
robbed 1,000 Kyats from me. In front of me! They came into my house and
pointed a gun at me, and then they robbed me.
Q : What do you think about CNF?
Zing Par : They never entered into our village. Whether they are good or
bad, we don't know. CNF collected funds in our village through the------. We
had to pay anyway. But we feel much worse that we had to support the Burmese
Army. The Burmese Army extorted a lot of money from us, and they also
tortured people. They always inquired about the taxes for CNF but we never
told them. Those who are suffering the most are the traders who are going to
Bangladesh from time to time. They grabbed them, beat them and accused them:
"Of course, you are helping CNF and you are carrying their letters!"
Q : What about landmines?
Zing Par : There were many landmines around our villages. I never heard of
any people stepping on them, but so many animals blew up, especially at
night. We had to be careful for landmines since 1988. The Burmese army
usually warned us not to walk here and there, especially along the small
footpaths, not the main paths that the army and the civilians are using for
traveling [small footpaths are used by opposition armies].
Q : What was the situation in the border village where you stayed in1997?
Zing Par : The situation was not good there either. Several [opposition]
armies were active around there, and they all demanded money from us. But
the Burmese Army was especially bad. One day, the troops stayed overnight in
the village and ordered the people to organise a cultural night. For that,
they called all the villagers to gather at one place. One woman did not join
to attend the programme. The commander of their group, a Lieutenant, saw a
light in her house. He got angry and just fired at the house. She got
Q : What do you hope for the future?
Zing Par : For the future, I hope that we can stay here, and that we could
improve our life like other people. There is a high school here [2 hours
walk away], a market to sell some of our production and some communication
with the outside world. My children can now go to school. My daughter is now
in 2nd Standard and my son in 1st Standard.
Name : "Tin Er" (not his real name)
Sex: MaleAge: Around 45 (not sure himself)
Ethnicity: Pual Nam (Chin sub-group)
Religion: Animist, now Christian
Occupation: Slash-and-burn farmer
Marital status: Married with 3 children
Interview date: 5.2.1999
Q : When did you arrive in Bangladesh?
A : In February 1998. The Burmese Army was treating us like dogs, not like
human beings. Their troops always took us as porters. I was a porter so
often. We even had to bring our own food along with us. They ordered to
carry for 3 days and then we were forced to stay for one month if they did
not find anyone to replace us. Just before fleeing to Bangladesh I was a
porter for 10 days for four times consecutively. In between, I had only 4 or
5 days for myself. We had no time to work.
Q : Have you ever been beaten?
A : When we were porters or when we worked at their rest camp, they beat us
if we were too slow. They beat me when I worked at the rest camp. Also,
once, in 1997, I slid on the way because my load was very heavy. I fell down
and they beat me with a bamboo stick on my legs and in the lower back. They
even hit me on the head. 30 families fled in 1997.
Q : Did they ever kill anyone?
A : They did kill a Khumi Chin. Many Khumi Chin [ one of the Chin tribes in
Southern Chin State] are forced to be porters. One of them was sick and
couldn't walk anymore. He fell down with his load. The soldiers ordered him
to get up and continue walking. But he couldn't. Then the soldiers killed
him with a knife. They cut his belly open and threw his organs in the
Kaladan river. After that, the army charged all the porters 50 Kyats each to
pay compensation to the father of the killed porter. The compensation was
not even paid by the army.
Q : Did you see the killing?
A : I didn't see the killing but it happened near our village in 1996. Our
villagers had to organize the burial of the dead body.
Another man : I saw the dead body. After they killed him on the path just
outside our village, they called us and ordered us to bury him. After the
burial, the soldiers came again to our village and demanded10,000 Kyats from
the villagers to give compensation to his family. This Khumi porter came
from Pa Kang Wa village [Paletwa Township], a Khumi village.
Q : Did you hear about any other killings?
A : They are especially bad with the Rakhine and the Khumis.
Another Man : Around 1989, they caught me on the way back from the market
with other people. They took us all as porters. They were searching for CNF
and Rakhine rebels. Day and night we had to walk without any sleep and
without food. One day, they grabbed a Rakhine in Turuai market to show them
the way. When he missed one junction, they became angry and they cut his
neck. I saw his dead body. They threw it beside the road. We also heard
about 6 killings done by the soldiers of Khan Tlang camp. Six people got
killed at the same time near our village: 4 Khumi and 2 Rakhine. We don't
know why, but we saw the dead bodies and we had to bury them all. I don't
remember exactly when it happened but I was around the time when CNF started
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