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Burmese asylum-seekers on hunger st

Burmese asylum-seekers on hunger strike in New Delhi

New Delhi, May 8, 2001
Mizzima News Group (www.mizzima.com)

Some Burmese asylum-seekers whose plight for the refugee status were 
allegedly not heard by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 
(UNHCR) office in New Delhi have staged a hunger strike in front of the 
UNHCR office in New Delhi. Total 24 Burmese nationals, including eight women 
and a six-month old baby are sitting in front of the UNHCR office on Lodhi 
Road today and they said that they are determined to stage an indefinite 
hunger strike until they receive a favorable response to their plight from 
the UNHCR office.

The asylum-seekers, most of them are Chin ethnic minority nationals from 
Burma, claimed that they left their native places in Burma due to "brutal 
repression of the military regime" there. "We came to India to take shelter, 
as we could no longer live in our country, which is being ruled by the 
military regime. We were victims of the brutal military repression and many 
of us were detained, arrested while we were in Burma. Some of us were forced 
to work as free laborers in the government's infrastructure projects", said 
a press release of the hunger strikers.

After crossing the Indo-Burma border areas, most of them had lived in 
Mizoram State of India for some time and then they moved to New Delhi. They 
alleged that they have been waiting for several months and some for even 
years for the refugee status from UNHCR office in New Delhi. They said that 
UNHCR has not given any positive answer to their repeated appeals either to 
expedite their cases or to reconsider their cases.

This correspondent talked to one of the protestors, a 21-year old Mr. Tum 
Tling. He, together with his mother and two younger sisters, had lived in 
Hakha Township in Chin State of Burma. The soldiers from the army battalion 
based in Hakha Township, one day, came to their house and took away fishes 
from their fish-breeding ponds. Mr. Tum Tling complained about this to the 
local army commander. But, the next day, more number of soldiers came to 
their place and took away their cattle. Mr. Tum Tling defied the soldiers 
with the catapult and thus later in the evening, he was arrested by the 

"I was detained for more than a month in the army camp during which I was 
interrogated and tortured every evening. They asked me whether I am 
associated with the Chin National Front which is a Chin rebel organization", 
said Mr. Tum Tling. After a month, he was released but the army took him to 
the front-line as "porter" to carry the army equipments and ammunition. On 
the way, he fled from the army convoy and escaped to Mizoram State, which is 
bordering with Burma.

In July last year, he applied for the refugee status from the UNHCR office 
in New Delhi. After one interview in the same month, his case has been 
pending since then.

There are similar stories of other Burmese asylum-seekers who left their 
dears and nears due to repression of the Burmese military government. Their 
plight for the legal protection and assistance from the UNHCR has not heard 
kindly by the UNHCR office in India. "We know that we may die in this 
action. However, for us there is no difference whether we die in front of 
UNHCR office or we die at an isolated roadside. We do not have a place to 
stay, anything to eat and many times the police in Delhi harassed us", said 
their statement.

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