Burma’s poorest state is seeing increasing numbers of youths leaving in search of better prospects as poverty gnaws away at the social fabric of the region and risks sparking an exodus of its population.
That’s the message being targeted at the Burmese government, and follows a workshop in Rangoon comprised of more than 200 Chin academics who painted a bleak picture of the future of the northwestern state.
“Chin state is the poorest of all 14 [administrative regions] in Burma and we can stop the migration of Chin only when we find a solution to this situation, otherwise we will not be able to stop this,” said Dr Kam Cin Daa of the Myanmar Society Development Company Limited, which organised the forum.
Famine has long played a part in the scourge of poverty in the region: a freak phenomenon occurs there every 50 years with the flowering of bamboo plants, which attracts rats in their millions who gorge on crops. Thousands of acres of crops have been lost in Chin state since the flowering began in 2007, causing the UN to warn that the state needed around 23,000 tons of food aid to counter the famine.
Army abuse there is also prevalent: in January the US-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, released a report stating that state-sanctioned abuses in Chin state are widespread.
Of 621 randomly selected households, one in seven 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.
Despite the extent of problems there, Chin state rarely makes the headlines. Thousands of Chin have fled into neighbouring India to escape the poor quality of living, and it is the youth who have left a gaping hole.
Dr Kam Cin Daa said that many children have moved to Rangoon or Mandalay and young adults left to find work in other countries. “This leaves only elderly people in Chin state so there aren’t many people left who can work for [its] development,” he said.
Findings from the discussion will be presented to the government, which has pledged to reduce endemic poverty in Burma.