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Chin Christians warn of ongoing abuses

Rights group tours Europe to lobby lawmakers

Mike MacLachlan, London
United Kingdom

September 20, 2012

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Representatives of minority Chin Christians are touring European capitals this week lobbying for support in the face of what they say is widespread religious and ethnic persecution. The four, led by Salai Ling, executive director of the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), visited the British parliament in London last week and are visiting Oslo, Stockholm and Brussels this week. Their aim is to draw lawmakers’ attention to a new CHRO report detailing ongoing human rights violations in western Chin State despite recent political reforms in Myanmar. A “decades-long pattern” of violations of freedom continues today under the new government of President Thein Sein, says the report entitled Threats to our Existence: Persecution of Ethnic Chin Christians in Burma. Drawing on more than 100 interviews conducted over the past two years, it catalogues abuses such as forced labor, torture and coercion to convert to Buddhism, prompting thousands of Chin to flee the country. The report claims that forced conversions occur at the so-called Na Ta La schools, named after the Myanmar acronym for a development program in the country’s border areas. There are 29 such schools in ethnic and religious minority areas, and a third of the students are ethnic Chin. They are prevented from practising Christianity and are often forced to shave their heads and wear monks’ or nuns’ robes. It added that the schools, which are usually free and carry a guarantee of a government job after graduation, “effectively function as a front for a state-sanctioned indoctrination program.” CHRO has urged Western countries to support an inquiry into rights abuses and is appealing to them not to lift sanctions any further until the Myanmar government “demonstrates a robust commitment to human rights.” Related reports Suu Kyi highlights ethnics' plight
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