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Page last updated at 06:51 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Burma's 'abused Chin need help'

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

Chin woman, refugee camp, Malaysia 2007
Chin people flee persecution and hardship on the Indian-Burma border

The US group Human Rights Watch has called for better protection of the Chins, one of Burma's least known and most persecuted minorities.

Ill-treatment of many ethnic minorities by the Burmese military has been extensively documented by international human rights groups.

But Human Rights Watch say there has been little attention given to the plight of the Chins.

Chin state is isolated, located along Burma's western border with India.

The group says they are subjected to routine abuse and forced labour by the Burmese army, but often face discrimination and hostility when they flee into India.

Grim fate

What must it be like to be the hungriest and perhaps the most repressed region of a country like Burma?

Map

That is the grim fate of the Chins, one of Burma's many large ethnic minorities, according to Human Rights Watch.

Living among the steep hills along Burma's western border, the Chins are subjected to routine abuse by the Burmese army, says the new report.

It is based on extensive interviews with Chins who have fled into the Indian state of Mizoram.

It documents forced labour, sexual abuse, torture and extra-judicial killings.

Their plight is compounded by acute food shortages - the UN's World Food Programme estimates that food consumption in Chin state is the lowest in Burma.

Recently it has been afflicted by a plague of rats which have eaten much of what little they can grow on the barren hillsides.

The state is tightly controlled by the Burmese military and access to foreigners restricted.

Unlike minorities such as the Karen on Burma's eastern border, who can flee to Thailand when they face army harassment, almost no international attention has been given to the Chins.

Human Rights Watch says that even when they reach India they get little help, and are often forcibly repatriated.



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