01/28/2009, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Chin Christian minority victim of persecution by Myanmar dictatorship

Human Rights Watch releases report substantiating situation. It contains 140 interviews collected over a three-year period highlighting cases of abuse, torture, forced labour and other forms of discrimination based on religion. “We are like a forgotten peole,” one witness said.
Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar’s military regime is committing widespread abuses against the mainly Christian Chin ethnic group, who face forced labour, torture and religiously-motivated persecution, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report that contains statements by various members of the Chin community, complaining about abuses and violations of basic rights by Myanmar troops executing orders of the ruling junta.

The report features interviews conducted between 2005 and 2008 with about 140 Chin; some living in exile abroad, others in their traditional homeland.

Ethnic Chin are subject to intimidation and threats by the junta, which is bent on curtailing any form of dissent. HRW has recorded violations like restrictions on freedom of movement; regularly seizing and extorting money, food, and property; exacting forced labour, and religious persecution.

“We are like slaves; we have to do everything [the army] tells us to do,” one Chin man said, who accusingly added: “We are like a forgotten people.”

Even those who were able to find refuge abroad, especially in the north-eastern Indian State of Mizoram on the border of Myanmar, complain about discrimination and religiously-motivated abuses.

For instance, Chin men and women are used by the Myanmar army as porters or sent into mine fields ahead of the troops.

“The army has called me many times to porter . . . . One time I tried to refuse to go because I was so tired and the things we are made to carry are very heavy. When I tried to refuse, they beat me. They said: ‘You are living under our authority. You have no choice. You must do what we say’,” a Chin woman from Thantlang township said.

Myanmar has a population of 57 million people divided in 135 distinct ethnic groups, mostly Buddhist, some in open conflict with the Myanmar state in a struggle for independence.

Ethnic Chin represent 1 per cent of the total population and are 90 per cent Christian, living in the north-western mountainous region of country, on the border with India.

They too are at war with the central government under the leadership of the Chin National Front.

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