Two Pastors arrested in Thantlang, Chin State
Chin Human Rights Organization CHRO received the following report on 20th September 1999 from reliable source. On 26 June, 1999, a soldier of the 266 Light Infantry Battalion led by 2nd Lieutenant Myo Kyaw, deserted his unit, near Tlangpi village.
The villagers of Tlangpi and of Farrawn, which is one of its neighboring villages, were in no way responsible for his defection, but the chairmen of these villages and other neighboring villages were arrested, taken to Haka, and severely tortured, for it. The chairman of Tlangpi village was given a twelve-year sentence with rigorous imprisonment and the others also two to three-year sentences, with rigorous imprisonment All the chairmen of the villages in Zahnak Tlang area of the Thantlang Township, Chin State viz. of Lungler, Bungkhua, Dawn, Ralpel, Saikah, Fungkah, Thangzang, Sihhmuh, Ruabuk, Ruakhua, have also been arrested by the same Battalion. Also all the chairmen of the “yatkwets” ( block ) in Thantlang Town, viz Pu No Lal Ling of School “Yatkwet”, Pu Van Hnun of Market “Yatkwet”, and Pu Ceu Hnin of TABC “Yatkwet”, have been arrested and tortured, and one of them, viz Pu Ceu Hnin of TABC “Yatkwet”was so severely tortured that all his front teeth were knocked out. A good civilian in Thantlang town, by the name of Al Bik, was also arrested, taken to the Camp of the Military Intelligence at Rung Tlang in Hakha, and has been kept in isolation, allowing nobody to see him. All these arrests were allegedly made on the flimsy evidence that they were in sympathy with the Chin National Front CNF.
When all these arrests and atrocities were taking place, the senior pastor of the Thantlang Baptist Church, the Rev. Biak Kam, who is over 60years of age, and the General Secretary of the Thantlang Association of Baptist Churches, the Rev. Thawng Kam, called a meeting as to how to negotiate with the military authorities in charge of the area and to make a request for their release. But before they could meet with the military authority, the military authority have them also arrested at night on September 7,1999, accusing them of calling a meeting without their knowledge or permission. They were sent away hastily and secretly by night the same night, onfoot,30 miles away, to the Military Out Post in Lungler village. They have been kept there. Nothing has been heard about them, as no one was allowed to see them; hopefully they were not tortured. These two Baptist pastors were almost arrested once at the time of the problem which arose out of matters related to erecting a cross on a hill west of Thantlang in January 1999 and it could very well be that they were secretly observed and shadowed.
Thantlang Baptist Church is the biggest church in Thantlang Township with a membership of over 3000 and Thantlang Association of Baptist Churches(TABC) is a full fledge association, with a membership of 44 village churches, under the Zomi Baptist Convention, which in turn is a full fledge convention under the Myanmar Baptist Convention, which is a national convention of all the Baptist Churches in Burma. There is a great fear that all of them would be tortured and their lives be in danger of death. All the men in Thantlang town have evacuated for fear of being arrested by the military.
Myanmar Christians flee to India alleging persecution
(Source : Rangoon Post)
GUWAHATI, India, Aug 20 (AFP)
More than 1,000 Christian tribal in Myanmar have fled across the border into India this month, alleging persecution by the military junta and Buddhist monks, church leaders said Friday. The Naga tribals, mostly from eight villages in the Sagaing district of northern Myanmar, crossed into the far northeastern Indian state of Nagaland, according to Reverend Zhabu Terhuja, general secretary of the Nagaland Baptist Church Council. “Buddhist monks aided by Myanmar soldiers have been forcing the Christian Nagas residing in that country to convert to Buddhism,” Terhuja told AFP by telephone from the Naga capital Kohima. There are an estimated 20,000 Naga tribals in Myanmar. “Some Myanmarese Nagas are taking shelter in a border village called Pangsa following alleged persecution by the army,” said local police chief L.T. Lotha. “But there is no law and order as such due to the exodus,” Lothi said, Church leaders said the Naga Christians were being forced to close down their churches, which had then been desecrated or used as kitchens by the Myanmar army. Reverend Bonny Resu, secretary general of the Asian Baptist Federation said the issue had been taken up with the Myanmar Baptist Convention “so that they can apprise the government about the reports of persecution.” However, Buddhist leaders here questioned the validity of the reports. “Even if your father or mother accepts another religion, being a son you cannot force them to reconvert to Buddhism. So the question of converting Christians to Buddhism by force does not arise,” said Gyanpal Bhiku, a Buddhist monk and member of the Northeast Buddhist Federation.
100 Civilian men detained in the Church
On 26 June 1999 a Burmese soldier disappeared from a patrolling army unit enroute to Tlangpi village from Lung Ding village of Thantlang Township, Chin State.
The disappeared soldier was among the 34 soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 266 led by 2nd Lieutenant Kyaw Soe, based at Lungler army camp located north of Thantlang town near the Indian border.The soldier who was extremely exhausted due to hunger was left behind half way during the patrolling.
Upon noticing the disappearance on arrival at the destination village, the commander 2nd Lt. Kyaw Soe ordered a section of army to search for the lost soldier overnight. However, instead of searching for the soldier, the assigned soldiers met on the way with smugglers who herded cattle to be sold in Mizoram State of India and extorted Kyats 50000 from them.
On the next day the commander with his soldiers vainly headed for Farrawn village to find the soldier. They returned to Tlangpi and ordered the villagers to find the soldier. However, the attempt too proved to be futile. They returned to Lungler camp to report the matter to Captain Phyu Win, 266 Second Battalion Commander & temporary camp Commander who just arrived to the camp ahead of him.
Under the Command of Captain Phyu Win the soldiers again immediately went back to Tlangpi village.On 1 July 1999, the Captain forcibly ordered a total of more than 100 villagers, 40 villagers each from Lung Ding and Tlangpi villages, members of Village PDC of Tahtlang village and another 15 villagers from the same village to search for the lost soldier. Some villagers who were afraid of being forced to find the soldier had to go on hiding in the farm. Worried that those already taken to search the soldier will escape, the soldier kept them in a Church in Tlangpi and strictly guarded them outside.
The arrested villagers had to sleep without blankets and had to be fed by Tlangpi villagers. Despair of the search, the Captain finally ordered his inferiors to arrest every male in the village indiscriminately at midnight to clear trees and bushes around the cart way linking Lungding-Tlangpi-Farrawn. The villagers however dared not defy the order.
The lost soldier is still yet to be found and the villagers are facing immense difficulty as the incident coincided with the cultivation season by which they make their living. This forced labors by the army had badly affected the farm work of the villagers and they(villagers) are likely to face a new wave of crop shortage within the next years. The 100 arrested villagers are still in the army detention.
PASTORS ARRESTED IN CHINLAND
Christian persecution is on the rise in Burma .The Military authorities have pulled down a cross put up to commemorate 100 years of Christianity among the Chin people.
They also arrested and interogated 26 pastors ( and Church elders ). The gospel was brought to the area in 1899 by American Baptist missionaries.Since then, almost the entire Chin population have become believers.
To commemorate the centenary of Christianity in their homeland the people of Thantlang put up a cross on their hill. The Burmese Army ordered them to pull it down. When they refused, soldiers arrested six pastors and destroyed the cross.
The people then stage a 24hr-prayer vigil effectively a general strike in their homes. The army promptly cut the phone lines and arrested 20 more pastors ( Church Elders ) for interrogation.
Chin believers in America have stage protest outside the Myanmar Embassy in Washington. They called on the military regime to stop intimidating and arresting Christians and to replant the crosses they have pulled down.
It’s the latest in along line of acts a gainst the Chin people by the Buddhist military authorities. Churches have been turned into army camps, pastors have been beaten, and Christians have been forced to register as Buddhist in a census.
A police directive in 1992 demanded that the authorities oppose the spread of the Christian religion in every family, fight and oppose the preaching of Christian in every place, and “fight”the Christian religion by both soft and cruel methods. They have even taken Christian children and initiated them as Buddhist novices in a monastery. In some places the persecution and intimidation has been so intense that entire villages have fled to India to seek sanctuary.
Almost 90 percent of the Burmese people are Buddhist. Christians from the largest religious minority with 6.5 percent are professing faith in Jesus. Yet among the chin, 90 percent are Christians. Neither Buddhism nor Christianity is the natural religion of Burma. The success of the Christian faith among the Chin is due in part to the native religious belief in one God who is the guardian of the universe and an afterlife.
What is happening to the chin is an extension of the forced Burmanisation and ethnic cleansing taking place in the country. The Christian Karen and Karenni have also been targeted for persecution. Yet according to the Burmese constitution ”the State shall not make any discrimination on the ground of religious faith or belief'”. The Universal declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of religion is a significantinternational standard that one would hope all countries would aspire to. ChinChristian leaders in exile in America say junta is deliberately trying to provoke trouble to justify their military presence in Chin territory.They believe the army is trying to stoke up an insurgency to provide the excuse to hold on to power indefinitely.
Chin leaders say the way to combat oppressionis with tolerance and forgiveness. They are calling on the junta to withdraw their arm forces from the Chin State and stop murder, rape, and robbery of civilians, along with the practice of forced labor, which is a form of modern day slavery.
MONEY FOR PAGODA FESTIVAL
In order to hold Utalin pagoda festival in1998, SPDC army battalion 538 commander Lt.Col. Saw Thun ordered Chin Christian villages such as Pathiantlang (A), Pathiantlang (B), Ramri, Arakan, Pinte, Hemate, Hemapi, Sia Oo, Para to pay Kyats 5000/- and 3- mats per each village before November 10, 1998.
Pastors and evangelists went to the area commander Maj. Zaw Tun Tin and beg him to reconsider the order because it is unusual for Christian to pay money for others’ religion activities. The Major replied them that the money is to hire a play for the festival and the Christians will also watch the play. If you don’t pay the money, action will be taken seriously upon the the villagers and will suffer. The villagers can’t do anything but to obey the army and pay the money.
Regime blocked centennial celebration of christianity in Chin State. Cross destroyed, pastors interrogated in acts of continuing Chistian persecution.
Burma’s military regime has stepped up its persecution of the Chin Christian community which is celebrating the Centennial of Christianity in Chin areas of Burma. Chin pastors are being interrogated and Centennial celebration in Haka, the capital of Chin State have been postponed by the regime at least until April. Chin Christian sought to celebrate their Christianity Centennial from January 1-3,1999 at Thantlang, another city in the Chin State of Burma. The Centennial marks the arrival of American missionaries Rev. Carson and his wife Laura Carson in 1899. On January 5,1999 when the celebration in Thantlang was over, citizen of the town posted a Centennial memorial cross at the top of Vuichip Hill near Thantlang. The Burmese military from Thantlang ordered the citizens of Thantlang to remove the cross they had erected atop the hill. After the citizen refused to removed the cross, soldiers pulled it down and destroyed it. Six Christian pastors from Thantlang, Rev. Thawng Kam, Rev. Biak Kam, Rev. Thantu, Rev. Tha Ceu, Rev. Cung Bik and Rev. Beauty Lily were then taken away from the town and interrogated.
In protest, the whole of Thantlang’s citizenry stage a general strike prayer service and fast at local churches or in their homes the following day (January 6,1999). In retaliation, the military cut all telephone lines to Thantlang and summoned 20 pastors and church leaders from various denominations for interrogation.
On January 9, 1999 churches around Haka joined the protest by holding prayer services. Military officers from Haka told church leaders that if they wanted to put the memorial cross again, they have to apply to the Home Minister in Rangoon. The Military has also ordered the postponement of Centenial celebrations in Haka until april.
The Burmese military is systematically persecuting Christians in Burma and seems intent on “cleansing” the country of its Chin population. Well over 90% of the Chin population in Burma is Christian.
UNCERTAINTY TO CELEBRATE CENTENRY
The uncertainty of celebrating the Chin Christian Centenary to be held in Haka, the capital of Chin State, is reported from inside Burma to CHRO as follows:
“It is likely that we are not going to have the Centenary Celebration” Rev. Tialkap said. The military personnel in Haka said, as Tialkap quoted, ” Your celebrating seems like it is going to be very elaborate. We cannot give you permission to have the celebration because some foreign guests are also invited. You have to seek the permission from the Ministry of Home and Internal Affairs”. Rev. Tialkap told CHRO yesterday (3rd of Feb’99) that a request is being made to the Ministry of Home and Internal Affairs. If the application is turned down, they will proceed by approaching the General Secretary-1(Khin Ngunt). If the General secrectary-1 persists in refusing them, there’s no prospect of celebrating the Centenary.
Although the Centennial Celebration Committee tried to negotiate with military personnel in Haka before approaching the Ministry of Home and Internal Affairs, to see if they would consider not inviting the foreign guests, their attempts were in vain.
MONKS AND SPDC’S SOLDIERS UNITE FOR ONE PURPOSE
Rev. Biakthang (name changed) is a missionary who was sent by the Lautu Christian Association of Thantlang township to Ann town in Arakan State. Rev. Biakthang’s wife unfortunately passed away in October 1996. In November,1998, he left the mission center for Thantlang to attend the Lautu association mass meeting. While he was away, his house was burgled jointly by monks and soldiers. They even dug out his wife’s gravestone and destroyed the stone inscription. In his letter to a friend in December, he wrote “Though I was called by the military office, after interrogations I was released without harm”. He also mentioned in his letter that some evangelists sent by Church of Jesus Christ who work in the area were beaten badly by Buddhist monks together with soldiers