CHRO works with a variety of private and institutional donors and agencies. We also receive supports from diaspora Chin communities and faith-based organizations from different countries around the world. A list of current and past funding partners and organizations may only be provided on request due to the sensitive nature of CHRO’s work.
Chin Human Rights Organization works with local, national, regional and international groups on a range of issues. At the Chin State level, CHRO works with a variety of local partners and has built strong relationship with academic institution, media, civil society, religious and community-based organizations from across the nine townships in the State, as well as groups based outside of neighboring regions, including Sagaing, Magwe and Rakhine State.
- Future Stars (Tonzang)
- Tedim Youth Fellowship (Tedim Township)
- Falam Youth Association (Falam)
- Thantlang Youth Association (Thantlang)
- Chin Youth Organization – Matupi (Matupi)
- Chin Women’s Development Organization (Kanpetlet)
- K’Cho Chin Women’s Organizaion (Mindat)
- Chin Women’s Organization (Paletwa)
In Hakha, CHRO works with groups based in the capital, including Chin Civil Society Network & Chin Media Network
Myanmar Indigenous Peoples/Ethnic Nationalities Network
CHRO is a founding member of the Myanmar Indigenous Peoples/Ethnic Nationalities Network, a 28-member alliance working on indigenous rights issues from across the ethnic states and regions in Myanmar
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
CHRO is an affiliate member of the Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma), a Thai-Burma border-based group consisting of human rights organizations working on documentation and advocacy. The network maintains a common data-base of documented incidents of human rights abuses from across the country.
Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact
CHRO is a member the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and currently sits on its Executive Council. AIPP is a regional organization founded in 1992 by indigenous peoples’ movements. AIPP is committed to the cause of promoting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights and articulating issues of relevance to indigenous peoples. At present, AIPP has 47 members from 14 countries in Asia with 18 indigenous peoples’ national alliances/networks (national formations), 30 local and sub-national organizations. Of this number, 16 are ethnic based organizations, six (6) indigenous women and four (4) are indigenous youth organizations and one (1) organization of indigenous persons with disabilities.
Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
CHRO is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network. APPRN is an open and growing network consisting of more than 434 civil society organizations and individuals from 29 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific region. We do this through information sharing, mutual capacity building, and joint advocacy.
CHRO is a Non-Governmental Organization in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 2018.
In order to meet changing needs & adapt to new operating and security environment following the February 2021 military coup, CHRO operations structure has been reorganized to reflect current situation and realities. Accordingly, CHRO has been restructured into two primary Divisions: Human Rights Division & Humanitarian Division to meet the dual challenges of human rights and humanitarian nature faced by the Chin people in northwest Myanmar.
The decision to expand our programming work to include humanitarian assistance is motivated by the enormity of the humanitarian challenges in the post-coup situation in which a fifth of the population has been displaced as a direct consequence of military expansion and escalating levels of conflicts and related human rights abuses in Chin State and northwest Myanmar. The lack of existing capacity and well-established organizations ready to respond to the fast-growing humanitarian crisis make it necessary for us to step in and fill the vacuum. As a well established organization with a track record of responding to the crises in Chin State over the past nearly three decades, CHRO is naturally well-positioned to take on the challenge. In the meantime, CHRO is committed to building the capacity of local actors and naturing local CSOs and CBOs partners in order to ensure continuity and sustainability with regards to humanitarian efforts in the long run.
The Human Rights Division
Human Rights Division is composed of two thematic programs under the previous structure: Human Rights Documentation Program and Human Rights Education & Freedom of Religion or Belief Program. The Division has two program units, each headed by a manager: Documentation & Accountability Unit and Protection Unit.
Documentation & Accountability Unit: Documentation and Accountability Unit is headed by a Manager (Program Director for HRE & FoRB under previous structure) and is responsible for coordinating all documentation work and data management, in coordination with Manager of Protection Unit (Program Director) and the Advocacy and Research Coordinator. The Unit collects, stores and maintains data and information relating to human rights, and manages field staff working on documentation and data collections across all human rights projects. The Unit works on investigating and developing case files related to serious crimes in order to collect admissible evidence of serious human rights abuses to advance accountability for violations of IHRL/IHL/ICL.
Protection Unit: Protection Unit is headed by a Manager (Program Director for Human Rights Documentation under previous structure) and is responsible for managing protection issues and providing services, including physical protection for vulnerable persons and human rights defenders at risk, shelter, financial and medical support programs. The unit works in coordination with Documentation and Accountability Unit in the collection and management of data and information from the field.
The Humanitarian Division
Humanitarian Division is composed of two thematic programs under the previous structure: Peace, Development & Democratization Program and Indigenous Peoples Development Program.
The Division has two program units headed by each program director: Livelihood, Food Security and Emergency Response Unit and Health, Education & Community Liaison Unit.
Livelihood, Food Security and Emergency Response Unit is responsible for mobilizing the delivery of emergency humanitarian aid, managing livelihood and food security initiatives for conflict-affected communities. The Head of Unit works in close coordination and complementary with the Health, Education & Community Liaison Unit
Health, Education & Community Liaison Unit is responsible for mobilizing the delivery of health and education support programs for conflict-affected communities. The Unit also has the primary role of liaising and communicating/interacting with community structures, local administrative bodies and committees.
THEMATIC PROGRAMS (PRE-COUP)
CHRO’s activities are centered on four principal program areas. Each of our programs is headed by a Program Director, who manages and oversees projects and activities under that particular program. The four programs are as follows;
- Human Rights Documentation Program
- Human Rights Education and Freedom of Religion or Belief Program
- Indigenous Peoples Development Program
- Peace, Development and Democratization Program
HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTATION PROGRAM
Human rights documentation is at the heart of CHRO’s work since our very inception in 1995. Documenting human rights situation in Burma, especially under the previous military junta, entails great risks for personnel working in the frontline to collect information on the ground. Under the extremely hostile environment, CHRO field personnel clandestinely monitor and document human rights situation in western Burma. Information and data collected from the ground are then verified, collated, published and disseminated to the outside world to inform the international community about the situation facing the Chin people. CHRO documentations serve as the primary source of information about the situation of Chin people for the international community, as well as, provided the principal basis for our advocacy efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights in Burma for the past 25 years.
HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION AND FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF PROGRAM
CHRO’s approach to human rights education is two-folds: teaching of formal human rights education at learning institutions on the one hand and grassroots human rights awareness programs through short-term training, on another. In partnership with the Chin Christian University (CCU), the privately-run higher learning institution based in Hakha, CHRO has been running a human rights course as part of the official curricula for the last four academic year. Under a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CCU, undergraduate students from different academic fields are taught a human rights course, which includes topics ranging from basic human rights, freedom of religion or belief, business and human rights to international human rights standards and mechanisms, as well as human rights advocacy and their practical application in local and international contexts using specific case studies and examples. CHRO is working to expand the teaching program to other educational institutions in Chin State.
On the other hand, CHRO provides short term tailored human rights training for various groups and communities in villages and rural areas affected by decades of human rights abuses. The rationale being that when people are equipped with the awareness and knowledge of their rights, the are more likely to be able to effectively defend their own rights.
One of the primary human rights issues facing the Chin people for generations have been violations of the right to freedom of religion amounting to persecution under the military regime. Over 90 percent of the Chin people are Christians and have faced discrimination on the basis of their religious identity in a country that is predominantly Buddhist. Today, under a new semi-democratic civilian government, the Chin people still face discriminatory policies and institutional practices that prevent them from enjoying religious freedom. The majority of Christians in Chin State and Chin people living in Rakhine State, Magwe and Sagaing Regions face severe restrictions on constructing or renovating places of religious worship, legal ownership of religious land and properties and proselytizing of Christianity.
IAccording to a CHRO September report, Christian communities in Chin State were still unable to own land registered for religious purposes; instead they used private or individual names to register the land and build houses of worship. A local official said high-ranking government officials in Chin State chose to conduct official visits on Sundays to disrupt church services.International Religious Freedom Report for 2019
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
The internationally accepted term “Indigenous Peoples” in Burma context pertains to ‘ethnic issues.’ Since the very beginning, CHRO has participated and engaged in the international processes relating to indigenous peoples at the United Nations in Geneva. From the time of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples under the Sub-Commission on Human Rights, CHRO has actively participated in the larger indigenous peoples movement and was a part of the deliberation process for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). As an active member of the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), CHRO now regularly participates at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. In 2016, CHRO started establishing a working relationship with the newly-formed Myanmar Ministry of Ethnic Affairs in conducting capacity-building for senior members of the Ministry and leaders of indigenous human rights groups from the different ethnic states in Myanmar. In 2017, CHRO co-organized with the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs the country’s first ever “Policy Dialogue on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Myanmar,” which was participated by a range of national and international stakeholders, including grassroots indigenous representatives and the UN Country Team. CHRO also helped the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs in drafting its by-laws by conducting two rounds of multi-stakeholders’ consultations, which was hailed as the first ever open multi-stakeholders’ consultation process in developing an administrative law in Myanmar. CHRO also works in close partnership with the Myanmar Indigenous Peoples’ Network, a 28-member coalition, which it co-founded in 2014 in order to collectively advance the rights of Myanmar’s ethnic peoples from across the country. As a leading organization on indigenous peoples’ rights in Myanmar, CHRO also works on Climate Change and environmental issues, as well as, land, natural resources and territorial issues as they relate to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
PEACE, DEVELOPMENT & DEMOCRATIZATION PROGRAM
Peace, development and democratization are all inter-related issues in Myanmar today. These issues are becoming even more relevant for the Chin people after the signing of the bilateral ceasefire between the Chin armed group Chin National Front (CNF) and the Myanmar government in 2012, which saw the beginning of a new environment of peace and relative calm after 24 years of armed conflicts in Chin State. Because of long-term neglect and discrimination by successive governments, Chin State has lagged far behind in all aspects of development, including basic infrastructures such as road and transportation systems, education and healthcare facilities, becoming the poorest of all regions of the country within a span of less than three decades. By 2014, 73 percent of the population lived under poverty line, which is three times higher than the national average, according to the United Nations. Systematic human rights abuses such as forced labor and violations of religious freedom against the largely Christian population has led to the exodus of over a fourth of the total population out of Chin State since 1988. But the new environment under a semi-civilian democratic government has also paved a way for new development and economic opportunities in the State. At the same time, new opportunities for foreign investments have created a situation in which new human rights concerns have emerged due to the lack of effective safeguards and issues of access to justice and remedial mechanisms and measures. A human rights approach is therefore needed to ensure that all developments and other measures designed to mitigate poverty in Chin State meet the minimum standards of fairness. Cross-cutting with these issues is the rights of indigenous peoples and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which is at the center of CHRO’s work around indigenous issues under the Indigenous Peoples Development Program.
Based in the state capital Hakha, and with the financial support of the multi-donor group Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT Fund) and in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), CHRO is currently working on a project to address labor and migration issues under the Peace, Development and Democratization Program, which is being implemented in all of the nine townships in Chin State.
CHRO is governed by the Board of the Directors whose primary functions are to provide guidance on the strategic and policy direction of the organization, provide oversight on finance and budget, and advise the Executive Body and Management on major program initiatives. The Board is headed by a chairperson who is elected from among the members on a rotating basis. The Board meets twice a year (One physical and one online). Current members of the Board are as follows;
- Amy Smith
- Benedict Rogers
- Victor Biak Lian
- Salai Bawi Lian Mang (Ex-Officio)
- Rachel Fleming (Chairperson)
- Salai Za Uk Ling (Board Secretary)
- Chris Lewa
The new Executive Body consists of the Executive Director, Deputy Executive Director, Operations Director & Finance Director.
The Management Team is made up of the four unit managers of each program division, Head of Finance and Head of Admin and Human Resources.
CHARTER OF THE ORGANIZATION
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Over the years, based on organizational experience and necessity from growth, CHRO has developed a set of policies and procedures regulating how we function and operate as an organization. The following policies and procedures, which are subject to periodic review and revisions/amendments, are currently practiced or are in various status of development. These documents are treated as confidential (for now) due to the current security situation and sensitive operating environment. However, interested third parties and/or potential partners can request the documents by contacting us at [email protected]
CHRO code of conduct
CHRO financial management policy
CHRO admin policy (being reviewed and updated)
CHRO procurement guideline (newly updated draft)
CHRO anti-corruption policy
CHRO gender policy
CHRO vehicle usage policy (draft)
CHRO staff’s handbook
CHRO office guide
CHRO partnership guideline
CHRO PSEA policy (draft)
CHRO guidelines on DNH, conflict sensitivity and gender inclusion (draft)
CHRO security and safety guidelines/SOPs (draft)
CHRO data protection and privacy guideline (being developed)
CHRO cash-based intervention guideline (draft)
CHRO conflict of interest policy (draft)
CHRO policy on personal conduct (draft)
CHRO child protection policy (draft)
(Paletwa – 30th Nov, 2019):
On 22nd November 2019, a local man from Do Chaung Wa, Paletwa Township died after stepping on a landmine while carrying an injured Burmese soldier. U Phillip (47) was in the jungle cutting bamboo for house repairs when he encountered the Tatmadaw soldiers. The battalion were struggling to carry an injured man in their group and asked U Phillip for help in doing so. According to a local man who spoke to CHRO, “U Phillip had spent three to four days in the jungle harvesting bamboo for use as building materials for his house. The Burmese soldiers were not in the vicinity initially but showed up to get reinforcement for some battles that took place elsewhere in the area. U Phillip was asked to help them fetch their injured comrade. Nothing happened on their way to get the soldier but the explosion took place on their way back,” explained the villager. U Phillip stepped on the landmine between the villages of Pauh Thu Wa and Pone Nyin Wa of Ungthi Wa Village Tract. One of his legs was severed in the explosion and he died on the way to get help. The victim lived with his two children in Du Chaung Wa Village, approximately 18 miles away from Miza Village. Similarly on 25th February 2019, U Aung Lan, a resident of Shin Ma Din Village, in the Kuchaung area of Paletwa Township died after stepping on a landmine while being forced to work as a guide for the Tatmadaw
(Paletwa 29th October, 2019)
Villagers from Paletwa Township have been restricted under a directive initiated by the Township Municipal Department which restricts the use of private boats to act as ferries for travelling along the Kaladan River. The prohibition Order number 28/2019 was issued on October 8th 2019 and prohibits the use of locally owned, small-engine boats to be used as a ferry:
“Within the municipal ferry licensed area, the private boat owners must not collect any fare from passengers, and no one shall hire the private owned boat with money without prior permission from Paletwa Township Municipal Department. Anyone who violates shall be punished when the investigations show such violation. The boat of violating party shall be confiscated,” said one source who spoke to CHRO.
The areas which are included in the order are Sin let Wa, Hta Rai and Taung Pio in Paletwa, along the Kaladan River. In the aftermath of the order publication, local people travelling with private boats which carry more than three people are risking a fine of 5000 MMK (Approx. 3 USD) per head. The Paletwa Township Municipal Department auction the ferry licenses from Paletwa to Tuang Pio, and from Taung Pio to Thru Ai which have reached as high as 370 lakhs (370 million) and 140 lakhs (14 million) for the two stretches of river. The ferry fares from Paletwa to Taung Pio and from Taung Pio to Hta Rai are 3000 MMK each.
A source who agreed to speak to CHRO stated that, “In Paletwa, we mostly use the water way for our transportation in Paletwa, we use a Honda-boat as a taxi is used in Yangon. We rely on it for emergency cases and family trip. We are troubled because the Municipal order prohibits to use a private boat to travel. People have losses especially in Miza and upper region because Thru Ai Licensed Boat Team has been collecting fines from those who travel with more than three people. Now the municipal prohibits private boat, and it is getting worse. What I want to say is that it is OK that the licensed boat can take ferry as much as they can, but there is no such order that people can only use a bus in Yangon.”
Ferries that have been caught transporting villagers along the river have had their National Registration Cards (NRC) confiscated and then had to redeem them in the Municipal office at a later date. It is alleged also that some of the private boat owners were physically beaten by the licensed boat owners. In one such case, it is reported that on the 26th October 2019, that a licensed boat owner, U Kyaw Moe physically attacked U Aung Than, a private owner who was found to be carrying eight people as he was checked at Hta Rai Ai check point. During the incident the NRC cards of all the boat passengers were also confiscated. One person interviewed by CHRO stated:
“The Hta Rai Ai Boat Line Team fines 5000.00 MMK per head to those who pass the check point carrying more than three persons. Some of their NRCs were confiscated. Then, they were again checked at the check point between Nuu Bu and Taung Pio saying that Hta Rai Ai Check Point Team asked us to do so”.
According to sources, the boats used by family members are also forced to pay and even the boats carrying patients going hospital have to pay, “They threaten them by saying ‘it is OK not to pay’, but afterwards they will make a call and you will not escape, they will know when you arrive at the Paletwa check point. So, do only the licensed boat line owners own the Kaladan River? And why don’t we own the river, can’t we use the river?”
On 24th November, 2019 six school teachers departed from Miza to Paletwa Town to attend a training with a boat owned by U Khin Soe, the headmaster of the Miza primary school. When they were stopped at the Hta
Rai Ai check point along the way and were asked to pay, they refused. Afterwards, U Khin Soe’s staff card was confiscated and to date, he has not recieved it back. One interlocuter explained his frustration at the order:
“For example, when about ten people want to travel to attend the religious festivals, it should not be prohibited to use private Honda boat. According to the order, the passengers should not exceed three on a single boat except in social events. Actually, some family exceeds five persons, so the situation is like family census is needed to show them as proof. For us, we must go with our own boat if my family want to travel, but my family member is made up of seven people. If we have our own boat, then why should we still borrow other’s boat? The situation is like this”.
Regarding the difficulties of private boat owners, he added, “There are many cases such as NRC confiscation and physical attack. So, these cases will no longer be accepted. I think there will be conflicts exploded regarding with these cases”.
(Paletwa – 9th Oct, 2019):
Five more persons, including a pregnant woman, are missing in Paletwa Township, a local villager told CHRO. On 5th October 2019, U Ku Hawi (23) and his wife Daw Than Dar Oo (25) from Thaya Kone Village disappeared from their farm, approximately 1 hours walk from their house. Daw Than Dar Oo had gone in search of U Ku Hawi after he had failed to come back from the farm, “The couple went missing when the wife was looking for her husband who failed to return home after going to his farm just over an hour walk from home to fetch some vegetables for a Sunday meal,” one villager said.
U Hawi Ku (23) and Daw Than Dar Oo (25) are expecting their first child with the expectant mother 6 months pregnant. Villagers from Thaya Kone conducted a search party on 17th October, two days later but found no trace of the missing people. Both the Tatmadaw and the AA are stationed in the vicinity of the village. The Burma Army Tactical Command outpost is located 4 miles from Thaya kone Village at Kha Maut Wa Village while the AA is stationed within a five mile vicinity. There is as of yet no word on which armed group has taken them.
Similarly, three villagers from Wun Chaung Wa, U Hla Khine (23), Maung Maung She (32) and Maung Pho She (40) disappeared on 14th of September 2019 on their return from San OO Village, Rakhine State where they bought commodities such as rice and cooking oils etc. They had left four days earlier on 10th Sept. The vicinity in which their disappearance took place is a hotbed of military activities by both the AA and Tatmadaw. Both armed groups have denied responsibility for their disappearance.
(Paletwa – 22nd July, 2019):
On 16th July, 2019 four people from Baung Wa Kyaw Village Paletwa Township, Chin State went missing as they made their way home from work. The victims were identified as Lin Naing (23), Kyaw Sein (31), Kyaw Kyaw Than (28) and Kyaw Lin (25) who all work as motorcycle carriers who transport quarry workers producing rocks for construction of the Lawng Kadu Bridge project.
Locals interviewed by CHRO believe them to be abducted by the Arakan Army (AA). One villager from Temawah stated to CHRO, “Only the AA troops are active in the area where they went missing. There is no movement of the Burmese military there.” When the four men did not arrive back, local community members rallied in order to search for the missing party. One local from Baung Wa Kyaw Village who spoke to CHRO described the events:
“After the victims failed to show up that evening the Namada Village Administrator and the Bawng Wa Village Tract Administrator and I went out in search of them. Midway between Namada and Bawng Wah Villages, we found a motorcycle lying in the ditch on the side of the road. We rushed to inspect the spot but there was no one there. It wasn’t an accident as we found no trace of a body or blood. As we proceeded further down the road in search of a second vehicle, we heard a group of people from a distance and we immediately turned back to the village out of fear. We have often seen armed AA soldiers roaming around that particular area before and we were quite sure it was the AA who took them away. The Burma army would notify the family if they arrested any villagers but this time the families have not been informed. This makes us believe that it was the AA who arrested them.“
The village administrators have reported the matter to the Tatmadaw. All the victims have families and are married with children. Similarly, a villager of Than Daung, Maung Pu Kui Myat (20) disappeared after being taken away by AA solders at Moe Yua Thit Village near Myauk Oo Town along with his boat at 2 pm on 9th August 2019 as he made his way back to the village:
“On the day he was taken away, the AA soldiers stopped 7 boats at Moe Yua Thit Village. Maung Pu Kui was arrested and taken away. He has totally disappeared since. He was carrying on his boat metal roof plates and cement worth over 500,000 Kyats. He and his boat and all the goods just disappeared to this day,” a villager of Ku Phe told CHRO.
In similar circumstances, U Kyaw Aye (58) went missing from the same village after being arrested by AA soldiers on 14th June 2019 as he returned from Myauk Oo along with his boat. Locals from the area informed CHRO that the AA has been looting goods from villagers who use the Lemro River to transport commodities such as rice, cooking oils, salt and fish paste etc. One interlocutor stated that the AA “also arrest and take away people traveling along the river and people in the area are really afraid.”
(Mindat – 27th Jan, 2019):
On 24th Jan, 2019 the Township Administration officer from Mindat General
Administrative Department, Southern Chin State, issued an order that permission needed to be applied for two weeks in advance in order to hold religious ceremonies and trainings, meetings, workshops by INGO/NGOs, reported by a local to the Chin Human Rights Organization.
He continued that in the order, it is stated that in the application for conducting the training, facts such as affirmation letter of applicants, short biography of trainers, summary of the subject, banner of the training, number of trainees, recommendation letter from ward/village tract administration officer and police station, and date and time of training have to be submitted two weeks in advance and conducting training will be only allowed when the application is approved.
In relation to the above matter, a staff member working at a civil society organization based in Mindat said, “In order to conduct training in a village just for two or three days, we will have to get recommendation from village administration officer and return to Mindat, and have to submit letter of request to government two weeks in advance. Therefore, it will cost about 1 lakh Motorbike fare for a round-trip journey from Mindat to a village. It also depends on the availability of villagers to attend training and so, we can’t set exact dates by ourselves”
As transportation is difficult and motorcycle fares are unaffordable, villagers complained that it would be impossible to go to the village administration officer for a recommendation letter. One villager told CHRO:
“There is no mobile communications network in the villages and so, we can’t communicate in advance and it is a huge difficulty to get recommendation from village administration officer. It is true that all events are held with prior permission in the urban areas but the obligation to ask for permission from Chin state government even for a short-term education program in remote area is unrealistic. We civil society organizations are not rich and therefore, we can’t spend too much money for transportation. It is like bullying us.”
In the above-mentioned order, it is also stated that the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture have instructed the fact that maintenance, repair, renovation and construction works of Buddhism, Islam, Christian and Hindu religious buildings in districts and townships of Chin state have to be done only after obtaining permission from Naypyitaw Council and relevant region/state government.