Saturday, February 6, 2010

Chin Refugee in Malaysia

There are more than 27000 Chin refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia of which two third of them are not registered by UNHCR office and hiding in jungles and staying separately in urban areas in fear of authority detection and arrest. Since Malaysia is not UN signatory on Refugee Convention, all refugees are arrested as illegal immigrants. To get matter worse, male refugees are caned before they are deported to Thai border. Many women refugees in Malaysia who were arrested and deported to Thai border face serious abuse by human smuggler ring based at the border.

Although UNHCR is the only home refugees can approach for documentation, UNHCR does not register most asylum-seekers which left thousands of Chin asylum-seekers as undocumented aliens in Malaysia. For a person without any kind of document, it is very difficult to approach hospitals and clinics in time of illness. Unregistered refugee are illegal immigrant in Malaysia.

The recent announcement by the Home Ministry of Malaysia to issue Identification for refugee is a good news for the refugee, as they will recognized with refugee status. We anticipated that the difficult situation will changed for better.

Who are the Chin People?

The Chin are one of the ethnic groups in Myanmar. The Chins are found mainly in western part of Myanmar (the Chin State) and numbered circa 1.5 million. They also live in nearby Indian states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur and Assam. Owing to Mizo influence and Baptist missionaries' intervention, 80%-90% of the population are Christians. However, a sizable minority of the Chin adhere to their traditional tribal beliefs, as well as to Theravada Buddhism. A small group of individuals from Mizoram claimed that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel, that of Bnei Menashe tribe, some have since resettled in that country.

The Chin are one of the large ethnic minority groups in Myanmar. The Chin people are of Tibeto-Burman groups and they probably came to Myanmar, especially the Chindwin valley in the late 9-10 century A.D. Most Chin people moved westward and they probably settled in the present Chin State around 1300-1400 A.D

Why they leave the country?

Chin people are leaving their home-town on a daily basis, the population is decreasing year by year. Human Rights Watch documents a wide range of human rights abuses carried out by the Burmese army and government officials. The abuses include forced labor, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, religious repression and other restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Now most Chin people are suffering the effects of famine, which was brought by bamboo flowering in the state leading to multiplication of rats. Crops have been destroyed by rats, flies and bugs since late 2006.

People are also suffering not only from diseases. Due to the onset of famine, Chin people cannot purchase even mosquito nets, sometimes they are going without food all day long. Most of them are suffering from malaria as they sleep without mosquito nets at night. Some are suffering from gastric since they have been eating roots and leaves.

The teenagers cannot attend formal school as they have to work in other countries for their livelihood as refugee, most of time as illegal refugee. The local leader and pastors are telling Chin people not to leave. The population of Chin State has been decreasing annually, especially after 1989.

Chin people leave for Malaysia, India and other countries like USA, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Australia.

Documentary film: Refugee for sale in Malaysia, documentary by a local TV(in Chinese)

As a member of Asean countries; and neighbor of Myanmar; it is time we give our helping hands to the refugee from Burma, regardless of race and religion. At the same time we hope that political pressure from the world will forced Myanmar's Junta to give power back to civilian government elected by people. This will solved the refugee problem when the livelihood of the people are secured and life become stable.

Related articles

1. "brain food" - Series on the Chin refugee Children of Burma living in Malaysia ,
2. Chin Refugee Committee,
3. Chin Refugee Committee Malaysia,
4. Without refuge: Chin refugees in India and Malaysia,
6. The Chin People of Burma: Unsafe in Burma, Unprotected in India,

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