From Thu Aug 10 13:38:00 2000
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2000 23:32:19 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: AI: India bulletin
Article: 102203
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Ethnic Chin from Myanmar

Amnesty International Urgent Action Bulletin, AI Index: ASA 20/40/00, 8 August 2000

Scores of ethnic Chin are reported to have been forcibly returned to Myanmar from the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, and handed over to the Myanmar armed forces. Hundreds more are reportedly detained and facing deportation. Amnesty International is concerned that many of those who have been detained may have well-founded fears of persecution and possibly torture in Myanmar, and are not able to claim asylum in India.

Up to 50,000 ethnic Chin from Myanmar are estimated to be living in Mizoram, which borders on Myanmar. At least 87 were reportedly forcibly returned on 4 August, and several hundred more were reportedly detained in the past few days. The authorities claim the Chin are illegal immigrants and are working illegally.

Among those detained are reported to be relatives of a member of the political opposition in Myanmar. Amnesty International believes that they would be at risk of torture and imprisonment if they were deported.

There are fears that there will be further arrests and deportations, and many Chin have reportedly gone into hiding.

Those detained are reportedly held in several jails and police posts in the state, under the Foreigners Act (see below), which makes no provision for refugees and does not allow those detained to seek asylum.


Ethnic minorities commonly face torture and ill-treatment in Myanmar. The Chin, who are mainly Christian, have also been subjected to massive forcible relocation, forced labour and religious persecution by the mostly Buddhist Myanmar authorities. Churches have been destroyed, pastors have been arrested and harassed, and thousands of Chin civilians have been forced off their ancestral lands by the Myanmar army. The Chin live in both the Chin State of western Myanmar, which borders on India and Bangladesh, and the Sagaing Division of Myanmar.

Thousands of Chin civilians have been forced to work on infrastructure projects, including roads and dams. There is a small armed opposition group in conflict with the central Myanmar authorities, the Chin National Front.

Although India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it is a member of the UNHCR's Executive Committee, and hosts several large refugee populations, including Tibetans, Sri Lankans and Afghans. Any refugee who enters India without authorization is considered an illegal immigrant, and can face up to five years' imprisonment and a fine under the Foreigners Act of 1946. Moreover, India denies the UNHCR access to most refugees, including those in Mizoram, and does not permit outside scrutiny of the situation facing some refugees.

India is bound by the principle of non-refoulement, which obliges states not to forcibly return anyone to a country where they would risk serious human rights violations. The principle of non-refoulement is binding on all states, and is absolute under Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which India signed in October 1997.