11/26/2007, 00.00
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The tragedy of young Burmese refugees in India

by Nirmala Carvalho
Montu Ahanthem, children rights activist, appeals to the Indian government demanding action for young Myanmar refugees in Moreh. About 200 minors are stuck in the area, exploited, sick, malnourished; forced into prostitution to survive.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – At a time when the suffering of the Burmese people has come under the spotlight of the international media, the plight of Myanmar refugees in India should not be forgotten, this according to Montu Ahanthem, an activist with the Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR).

Speaking with AsiaNews he said that in Moreh, a small town on the border between India and Myanmar near Manipur, hundreds of children are languishing in need of just about everything.

The area is a transit point for all sorts of goods, including heroin.

In recent years it has become the escape route for endless flow of refugees fleeing Myanmar.

Altogether some 200 Burmese children live in Moreh and villages like Zoldam, Zangoulen, Changtung and T. Nampao which are further away from the border.

The children have special needs but lack any economic support.

Parents can only provide support by getting into the prostitution. As a result of this many children are pushed into the streets and workplaces, compelled to work for their parents and for their own survival.

Young girls have had to enter into prostitution with many of them sexually abused and exploited.

Most children are malnourished, suffering from malaria, fever, dysentery, diarrhoea and scabies as well as psychoses and trauma, not to mention communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS

The need to scrounge for food every day has made it impossible for them to go to school.

Local Christian communities are helping the refugees by providing some medical care and MACR cannot do too much.

For this reason Montu Ahanthem has made an appeal to the Indian government to make help for young Burmese refugees a priority.

Unfortunately, the local political situation is very tense and is not very helpful to any kind of intervention.

Moreh is under Indian army control to stop drug trafficking, smuggling and rebel infiltrations.

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