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Army abuse in Chin state ‘extraordinary’

State-sanctioned abuses in Chin state are widespread and in many cases may qualify as crimes against humanity, the authors of a comprehensive survey-based report claim.

The situation in Burma’s remote northwestern ethnic state has to date been left out of much of the debate on whether crimes against humanity and war crimes are occurring in Burma.

The UN is under pressure to launch an investigation into what legal experts claim is a mountain of evidence that suggests such crimes may have been committed by the Burmese military, particularly in the country’s ethnic border regions, such as Karen state.

A new report by the US-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, adds fuel to that fire, alleging that it found “widespread reports of human rights violations among 621 randomly selected households” in Chin state. At least eight of those types of violations “fall within the purview of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and may constitute crimes against humanity”.

One in seven of these houses reported that at least one family member had been tortured or subjected to “inhumane treatment” by Burmese troops, who committed 98 percent of the recorded abuses, while 570 households were subjected to what qualifies under international law as a crime against humanity.

One third of all forcible conscriptions into the army were of children under the age of 15, which is illegal under both international law and Burmese domestic law. One in eight of the Chin households had at one point been forcibly displaced.

“The data don’t lie and this report puts in stark light the horrors that the Chin people are enduring,” said Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights, in a statement released with the report. “No nation has the right to oppress its people, but to the extent that we abandon those people, we allow the crimes to continue.” PHR’s deputy director, Richard Sollom, said that the levels of violence against civilians there was “extraordinary”.

The report includes a foreward by former UN Chief Prosecutor Richard J. Goldstone and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, who said that “the results are devastating”. Goldstone said that it should give further impetus to the UN to establish a Commission of Inquiry into whether crimes against humanity are being committed.

The survey comprised 87 questions asked by surveyors between February and March last year. Similar findings were recorded in a 2009 report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, who called on the government in neighbouring Mizoram state in India to extend protection to Chin who have fled across the border.

Chin state has also been struck by a severe famine in recent years that stems from mass infestation of rats in farmland who devour crops and grain. The rats are attracted to the flowering of the bamboo plant, a phenomenon that occurs only twice a century.


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