Burma, The Maldives and India (Dalits) update
30th January 2006

The human rights and humanitarian crisis in Burma continues on a daily basis. In a recent email from the Free Burma Rangers, a relief organisation working deep in the conflict zones of Burma, further evidence was released of the plight of the over one million Internally Displaced People, on the run, pursued by the Burma Army, trapped in the jungle without food, medicine or shelter. The Free Burma Rangers write: "While we were moving out with the family of Sa Nu Nu who were fleeing the Burma Army (see previous report), two more Karenni families from the same village joined us as they also faced death from the Burma Army. The son of one of the families, Saw Naw Ku, had been captured at the same time of Saw Nu Nu and six others. All were tortured and one man killed and decapitated, but Saw Naw Ku managed to escape after Saw Nu Nu escaped. This family of five; Saw Naw Ku, his two young sisters and mother and father were very weak and sick. The mother was vomiting and collapsed as we walked with her. She cried and we could see she was not just physically sick but also very distraught to be leaving her home, farm and homeland. We gave her an IV, prayed with her and rigged a hammock stretcher and carried her on to a safer area. She is now resting at a mobile clinic at which we arrived yesterday and is improving. The three families will be moved as soon as possible to a refugee camp. (see http://www.freeburmarangers.org/ for further information)

On Friday, 3rd February a Day of Action is being planned to put public pressure on the French oil company TOTAL to withdraw from Burma. TOTAL is the single largest European company investing in Burma, and one of the largest single worldwide sources of revenue for the military regime. There is evidence to show that TOTAL's investments have allowed the regime to purchase more arms. Furthermore, the gas pipeline in which TOTAL is a significant shareholder was constructed in ethnic nationality areas resulting in widespread rape, forced labour and destruction of villages. For further details see

The Association for the Prevention of Torture and Ill-Treatment in The Maldives have published a new report this month detailing the use of torture, called "Blood on the Beaches: Torture and Ill-Treatment in The Maldives". According to the report, there are absolutely no comprehensive rules governing the conduct of the police, the operation of the criminal justice system and the treatment of detainees and as a result, torture and abuse is widespread. One of the most common forms of torture is tying a prisoner to a coconut palm tree and leaving him/her for as long as a week in that position. Further details in the report, available at http://www.aptim.org/documents.html

There have been several reports of rape, violence and discrimination against Dalits (so-called "untouchables") in the past week. According to the Dalit Freedom Network, these incidents occur on a daily basis and are too numerous to report. The Dalits, according to the Dalit Freedom Network, are "not considered to be part of the human society, but something, which is beyond that. The Dalits perform the most menial and degrading jobs. Sometimes Dalits perform important jobs, but this is mostly not socially recognised. Dalits are seen as polluting for higher caste people. If a higher caste Hindu is touched by an untouchable or even had a Dalit's shadow across them, they consider themselves to be polluted and have to go through a rigorous series of rituals to be cleansed."  In India there are approximately 250 million Dalits. This means that 25% of the population is Dalit. It also means that in a country, where everybody is supposed to have equal rights and opportunities, 1 out of 4 persons is condemned to be untouchable and is denied even the most basic human rights. For further information see www.dalitnetwork.org and read an article by Dr. Joseph D'Souza at http://www.josephdsouza.com/