Burmese soldiers are systematically using forced labor, torture and rape to persecute majority-Christian residents of Chin state in western Burma, according to a report released today. Entitled, “Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State,” the report by Physicians for Human Rights documented “extraordinary levels of state violence” against the Chin ethnic population.
The Chin are estimated to be 90 percent Christian, and the study indicates that it is therefore difficult to separate religious attacks from ethnic and other human rights abuses. Persecution of Christians is reportedly part of a wider campaign by the Burmese junta to create a uniform society in which the only accepted religion is Buddhism, according to a 2007 government memo circulated in Karen state giving instructions on how to drive Christians out of the state.
Respondents specifically targeted for their Christian faith and ethnicity said soldiers had threatened them with the destruction of their homes or villages and threatened to harm or kill family members. A total of 71 households from 13 of 90 villages and towns surveyed also said government authorities had destroyed their local church buildings.
The most brutal attacks included the forced conscription, abduction or murder of children under the age of 15, and the rape of men, women and children. Burmese soldiers were responsible for 94.2 percent of all specifically ethnic and religious incidents in the survey.
When asked why the Burmese army acted as it did, 15 percent of respondents answered, “Because we are Christians.” Another 23 percent replied, “To persecute us,” and a further 23 percent said, “Because we are Chin.”
Carole J. Collins
Director, Persecuted Christians Fund