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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 17:48 GMT
Tamil rebels 'coercing diaspora'
Tamil Tiger rebels
The rebels are seeking autonomy for minority Tamils
Tamil people around the world are being intimidated and threatened into giving money to Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels, according to a new report.

The extortion of money from Tamils living in North America and Europe has been stepped up recently to fund a "final war", says Human Rights Watch.

The rebels said the allegations were untrue and designed to discredit them.

A recent upsurge in violence between the rebels and security forces in Sri Lanka has cost at least 120 lives.

Sri Lankan officials and leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have agreed to curb the unrest and hold more talks in April on a threadbare truce.

Fear

Human Rights Watch says a new "aggressive and systematic fundraising drive" was launched by the Tigers in late 2005, coinciding with a sharp rise in violence in Sri Lanka.

The culture of fear is so strong that even Tamils who don't support them [rebels] still feel they have no choice but to give money
Human Rights Watch

Its report said some Tamils living overseas were being coerced and intimidated into giving the LTTE money.

About 800,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live abroad, mostly in the UK and Canada.

The report said many members of the Tamil diaspora or their relatives had "suffered human rights violations at the hands of the Sinhala-dominated Sri Lankan government" and actively supported the Tamil Tigers.

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"But the culture of fear is so strong that even Tamils who don't support them [the rebels] still feel they have no choice but to give money," the New York-based group said.

It called on the governments of Canada and Britain to protect Tamils living there.

Those interviewed for the report talk of door-to-door teams making frequent visits and threatening violence against family members.

They say those collecting the money claim it is to fund a so-called "final war", although the rebels and the Sri Lankan government restarted are supposed to be in the middle of peace talks.

The LTTE does not have any agents or its members to go and collect money from anybody anywhere in the world
Rebel political leader SP Thamilselvan

"Sri Lankan Tamils living in the West fear that if they speak out about Tamil Tiger abuses, they may put themselves and their families at risk," said Jo Becker, author of the report.

But rebel political leader SP Thamilselvan said the report was baseless.

"The LTTE does not have any agents or its members to go and collect money from anybody anywhere in the world," he told the BBC.

"What happens is the Tamils living overseas collect money because they know that these people are affected by war and therefore deserve assistance by their own brethren."

The Canadian Tamil Congress, a prominent expatriate group, said the report was based on "anecdotal evidence and misguided assumptions".

"There has not been a single prosecution for extortion in Canada amongst the Tamil community," it said.

Talks

Correspondents say financial contributions have made the Tamil Tigers into one of the world's richest militant organisations, as well as one of the most lethal.

The rebels are proscribed as a terrorist group in both the UK and the US.

The Tigers and the Sri Lankan government met in Geneva last month and agreed to abide by the fragile 2002 ceasefire. More than 60,000 people died during two decades of conflict in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil Tigers want autonomy for minority Tamils in the north and east.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has said the solution to the conflict lies in a unitary state.


Do you agree with the findings of the report? Do you live in the Tamil diaspora? Have you been the subject of extortion?

Your comments:

This is absolutely true. I was threatened by LTTE members to give funds otherwise I was told my family in Jaffna will be harmed. Thanks for bringing this thing to worlds attention.
Siva, London,Uk

I am a Tamil who now lives in the UK. i dont give money to the LTTE. i was never asked for money by the LTTE let alone being forced to give money. I know a lot of Tamils who contribute to the LTTE, but in all the cases I know, it has been of thier own accord and not under any pressure.
Anonymous

I'm from a very large extended Tamil family in London and no one has ever been harassed by tigers or anyone associated with them. In fact, there are some successful family members that send considerable amounts of money to LTTE accounts. Any negative harassment in the tamil community is between young Tamil gangs often with other such gangs! T
Tharan, London

I have personally seen the collection for the 'final war' happen in London. So that bit is true. I am not, however sure about LTTE forcing people to pay up. To be frank, if one doesn't want to give money, they can say so. On the other hand, there have been true stories about intimidation by LTTE when these ex-patriates go back to Sri Lanka on holidays. Those who hadn't contributed are mal-treated and are forced to pay...Not everything is black and white!
Mayoo, London UK

There may be some sort of isolated cases but it can not be accepted totally that LTTE has been demanding funds. These are the fabricated stories against LTTE and Tamils living in Sri Lanka under state terrorism of Sinhalese government. Very often Tamils diaspora used to come voluntarily to send funds or enrol themselves for the right cause of LTTE. All these stories are well fabricated by break away groupe karuna, fully supported by Sinhalese governments in the south to block any peace talks.
saintclair

I live in the Tamil diaspora. I was not asked to contribute to the final war or anything else.
Vijay Kumar, London, UK

Tamil dispora supported by 90% of Tamils all around the world how come this should be happen this is a false news created by SL intelligence and all Tamils believe in LTTE>>>
Anon, Canada

This has been the case for many years. They are a hardcore bunch whose survival depends on war. It goes like this if there is no war majority of the bogus asylum seekers will be deported from western countries. The Tamils must stop the double standard and come out of their cocoon.
Muhammad Ariff, Dublin

This is absolutely wrong. This message is created by the Sri Lankan government and their Tamil pets. No one has been treated like this. I never heard about this fund raising and threatening. I request you to make sure the reality of the news before you publish such wrong messages like this because we respect the BBC is a neutral Media. Don't damage your image!!!.
Loges, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

The report is not only true but long overdue. Everytime a country tries to send some Tamil refugees home, the LTTE responds by acts of violence in Srilanka to send message to Western countries that all is not peaceful in the Tamil Areas. If one could stop such coercive financing the LTTE would be forced to negotiate more rationally and the refugees could go home.
Jai Singh, Kaiseraugst, Switzerland

I am a Tamil Canadian. I disagree with the finding. What is the number of samples? This report is totally biased, and it seems to have an intention to bash LTTE. It is insane to say that Tamils who living in a western countries with fear of LTTE. The truth is that Tamils support LTTE. Instead of accepting this truth, HRW try to find other way around.
Vel Velauthapillai, Ottawa

After reading this news, I am very pleased BBC gave important for the Tamil people human right violation by LTTE. Every thing said in this report is accurate and experienced by all Tamil living abroad past 25 years. THANKS
Mani, London uk



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A Tamil describes how he was subjected to extortion



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