Myanmarese Christian refugees allege persecution by junta

By Sangzuala Hmar

Aizawl, (IANS) Myanmarese Christian refugees settled in Mizoram have accused the military junta of religious persecution, saying it desecrated churches and molested women.

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“I could bear everything else, but abusing my religion (Christianity) was the only one thing I could not tolerate. The military even pulled down churches and forced us to erect statues of the Buddha,” Thanga, a Myanmarese refugee in Mizoram, said.

“We had no other choice but to run away and take shelter in Mizoram. We were threatened, abused and our women molested,” he added.

Lalpianthang, originally from the Chin State in Myanmar and now settled in Aizawl, has similar tales of woes.

“Before I came to Mizoram, my life in the Chin Hills was a living hell. Every day, I had to think of one way or the other how to avoid the ruthless hands of the military men,” she said.

There are an estimated 20,000 Chin refugees in Mizoram. The Chin community belongs to the same ethnic stock as the Mizos of Mizoram.

Thangtinlian was another woman from the Chin State. “We were leading a peaceful life with our family until one day the Myanmarese army came and tore our dreams and life apart by torturing us,” she said amid sobs.

Thangtinlian now works as a maid in Aizawl. “This is like a heaven compared to our life in Myanmar.”

The Zo Reunification Organisation, an Aizawl-based rights group advocating the return of the refugees to their homeland and restoration of democracy in Myanmar, said it was behind the Chin people.

“The Chin people could be asked to return only if Myanmar has a democratic government. The Chin people are our brothers and sisters and they count on us for our support,” Lalmuanpuia Punte, general secretary of the Organisation, said.