//Seven Myanmarese seek refugee status in India

Seven Myanmarese seek refugee status in India

[ Sunday, January 29, 2006 10:22:27 amIANS ]

NEW DELHI: Seven Myanmar nationals who have fled the military regime have been on hunger strike in New Delhi since January 16 seeking refugee status in India.

"The military junta has no respect for civilians and returning to Myanmar will be suicidal. So we will continue our hunger strike," said Thwang Hu, 34, seated on a pavement outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office.

"The military rulers tortured us for three years and they even molested my sister in 1998," Hu, who belongs to the Chin tribe, said.

Camping under a tree, braving the cold winter nights, Hu and his friends say they have not had any food for almost a fortnight. Their health has deteriorated and they are hardly able to speak.

"Only the children are taking food, none of us has eaten a morsel. We are determined to protest until the UNHCR accedes to our demand," Hu said. India is home to over 50,000 refugees from Myanmar, and 1,500 are living in New Delhi. Another Myanmarese, who gave his age as 33, said: "We submitted our application with the UNHCR three years back but there has been no response from them."

The seven Myanmar nationals along with three children fled to India in 2000 and spent two years in Mizoram before coming to New Delhi seeking refugee status in India. "Unless democracy is restored in Myanmar, it would be very difficult to return," he added. "We have resolved to die here rather than be sent back to Myanmar and get tortured to death. We do not want to leave India."

Said a spokeswoman for the Chin Students Union in Delhi University: "We consider India a great country. If UNHCR can help, they will live here with self-respect and earn a livelihood."

But Nayana Bose, associate external relations officer at UNHCR, said: "The applications from these people have been rejected and they will have to provide more information on their condition in Myanmar. After that the case may be reviewed afresh."