CHRO

February 1, 2005

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you again. I am particularly appreciative that this meeting encompasses the State Department’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Office of International Religious Freedom, and Burma Desk.

It is unfortunate that there is no improvement in terms of human rights situation in Burma and among the Chin people since we last met in October 2004. This time, I would like to focus my briefing on religious persecution systematically carried out by the ruling military junta State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) against Chin Christians.

In December of 2004, Burma hosted a World Buddhists Summit amidst questions about its worthiness to organize such international meeting given the regime’s abysmal record of treating religious minorities and absolute disregard for fundamental human rights. Around the same time that this meeting took place in Rangoon, Burmese troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) desecrated a Christian cross in Matupi of southern Chinland.

On January 3, 2005 a giant Christian cross on top of Mount Boi near Matupi town of Chin State was destroyed by Burmese troops on direct order of Colonel San Aung, one of the highest ranking military commanders in the region. The 50-foot tall concrete cross was erected by local Christians at the cost of three and a half million Kyats. After destroying the cross, troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) hoisted a Burmese flag as a sign of victory against Christianity in Chin State where more than 90 percent of the populations are Christians. There are reports the regime is making plans to construct a Buddhist pagoda on the site.

This latest destruction is part of a larger and systematic effort by the military regime to persecute Chin Christians in order to expand the influence of Buddhism in Chinland. Burma’s ruling military regime is systematically persecuting Chin Christians in order to replace Christianity with Buddhism among the Chin. In fact, The Burmese military regime is using religious persecution as a tool of ethnocide against Chin Christians.

Since the first Chin conversion to Christianity in the early 1900s following the arrival of American Baptist missionaries, Christianity has been deeply entrenched in Chin society and has become part of the Chin cultural identity.

Starting from the early 1990s, the regime had destroyed several Churches and had removed crosses placed on top of mountains near at least five Townships in Chin State. In many cases, crosses had been replaced with Buddhist pagodas and Christians had been forced to contribute labour and money for the constructions. The regime is also prohibiting the construction of new churches and has ordered to stop several churches under construction in towns and villages in Chin State.

Burmese troops stationed in Chin State have often deliberately disrupted worship services and physically assaulted pastors and church leaders. In some instances, pastors, evangelists and missionaries have been abducted, tortured and even killed by the Burmese soldiers. The regime has also tried to prevent the growth of Christianity by arbitrarily imposing discriminatory and restrictive rules on the activities of Christians.  

There is also clear evidence that the regime is actively supporting coerced conversions of Chin Christians. The regime enticed Children from poor families in rural areas with the opportunity of free secular education in cities, and parents often entrusted their children in the care of the state. However, the children are sent to monasteries in Rangoon to become novice Buddhist monks against their will and without the knowledge of their parents. In February of 2003, five children, between the age of 8 and 17, managed to ran away from the monasteries in Rangoon to reunite with their parents. They said they had been forced to become novice Buddhist monks and to follow the teachings of Buddha.

Responding to international criticism, the State Peace and Development Council often, and correctly, refers to the fact that ‘Buddhism is a peaceful religion in that force-promoting it is against the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism itself.’ We have no illusion that that is true, as evidenced by the fact that there is a high degree of respect and harmony between Buddhist and Christian communities in Burma. It should be emphasized, however, that it is the regime, and not Buddhism, that is abusing religious freedom of Chin Christians in the name of ‘unifying’ the country.

The rise in incidents of religious persecution and other forms of human rights abuses suffered by Chin Christians is directly linked to the increased militarization of Chin State. Prior to 1988, only one army battalion was stationed in Chin State. However, at least 12 additional infantry battalions are now operating in the area. Due to the growing human rights abuse in Chin State, tens of thousands of Chin families have been forced to flee to India, Bangladesh and elsewhere in the region.

Approximately 50,000 Chin refugees, of men, women and children have sought refuge in India. Of these, only about one percent has legal recognition by the UNHCR and a great majority of them are at risk of deportation by the authorities under which they live. Thousands more are scattered throughout neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand while a great number of them are internally displaced. Their humanitarian need is of great urgency.

We feel that it is important for the United States government and the world community to remain aware of this and adopt stronger measures against the Burmese military junta.
Thank you.
Salai Bawi Lian Mang
Director
Chin Human Rights Organization
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www.chro.org

Update on Ethnic Nationalities Issues in Burma

By Salai Bawi Lian Mang

Chin Human Rights Organization

At

Canadian NGO Consultation Meeting on Burma

Canadian Council for International Cooperation

1 Nicholas Street, Ottawa

Friday 14 January 2005

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about the ethnic nationalities, an issue of great importance in the politics of Burma today. When we talk about non-Burman ethnic nationalities issue in Burma, some people have the wrong impression that it is a minority issue representing only a very small percentage of the country’s population.

It is estimated that there are about 50 million people in Burma. Of this, about 40% of the populations are non-Burman ethnic nationalities who inhabit more than 55% of the land area in the country. The issue of non-Burman ethnic people, by any standards, is not a minority problem.

In fact, ethnic nationalities issue in Burma is not a minority issue, nor just one of the many problems facing the country. The issue of ethnic nationalities in Burma is an issue of serious concern that needs to be paid serious attention to.

Instead of going into details, I will try to limit myself to a brief update on the situation since I realize that most of you have been closely involved with Burma issues and have a deep sense of understanding and knowledge about the country’s situation.

After the power reshuffle within the SPDC in October 2004, the overall human rights and political situation in the country is heading from bad to worst. Even though thousands of prisoners have been released by the SPDC in recent months, many more political prisoners remain behind bar, and the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi has been extended for at least another year.

There was evidence of mounting tensions between one of the ceasefire groups, United Was State Army (UWSA) and the Burmese army Artillery Battalion No. 348, Infantry Battalion 312 in Maingmaw areas since November 2004.

In Shwe-go area of Kachin state, the Burmese army had seized the former Kachin Independence Army (KIA) base, and as a result, mounting tension between the KIO and the SPDC was reported. The KIO is one of the main ethnic armed groups that have reached a ceasefire agreement with the SPDC more than a decade a go.

It is reported that the SPDC is preparing for major offensive against Shan State Army (Southern) by deploying a large number of troops in southern Shan state.

In Karenni state, the Karenni ceasefire groups and the SPDC attacked Karenni National Progressive Party camp on January 10, 2005 and the battle is still going on.

In Karen state, during the Karen National Union 13th congress in December, the SPDC troops terrorized and burned 10 Karen villages that resulted in the displacement of at least 1000 Karen villagers.

As the New Year begins, Karen National Liberation Army 201 Battalion headquarter is under attack by the SPDC troops and the battle is still going on.

The SPDC has reneged on the verbal ceasefire agreement between itself and the KNU in 2004. Furthermore, the efforts made by religious leaders to reach ceasefire agreement between the KNPP and SPDC have been rendered meaningless because the SPDC has deliberately attacked the base of KNPP.

In Chin State, the SPDC has just destroyed the only remaining cross planted by Chin Christian in Matupi town of southern Chin State on January 3, 2005 on the eve of Burma’s independence day. About 90% of Chins are Christian and religious persecution is major concern in Chin state.

On the other hand the SPDC announced that the “National Convention,” which was suspended indefinitely in 2004 is going to be reconvened on February 17, 2004.

When the convention was called in May 2004, 1088 representatives, most of whom are handpicked by the junta, attended the convention. During the Convention only ethnic armed groups were able to seriously discuss political matters and ethnic national affairs. The convention was suspended when the 13 “ceasefire” ethnic armed groups submitted a proposal on federal system, greater autonomy and control over natural resources by member state in the country.

It is likely that the ethnic armed groups who have reached ceasefire agreement with the SPDC will attend the National Convention in February with the same proposal they have brought in the previous Convention. If the SPDC continues to refuse the proposal made by the ceasefire groups, it is possible that they will walk away from the Convention.

The recent movement of the SPDC in the ethnic areas clearly shows that they are in favor of confrontation when dealing with the ethnic issues. Today, the ethnic nationalities in Burma are fighting for their very survival as a people. The problems of ethnic nationalities could only be remedied through fundamental change in the political system, a change that would allow them equitable representation in the decision-making process of the country.

Thank you.

Salai Bawi Lian Mang

Chin Human Rights Organization

PERSECUTION OF CHIN CHRISTIANS IN BURMA
A SPEECH DELIVERED
BY
SALAI BAWI LIAN MANG
OF
CHIN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
AT
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PERSECUTED CHURCHES
COLUMBIA, APRIL 15-16, 2005

Introduction:

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude and heartfelt thanks to the conference organizers for inviting me to this important gathering of good Christians here in the city of Columbia. I am particularly appreciative that I have the opportunity to speak about persecuted Chin Christians from Burma, who can not speak for themselves,  who have been suffering so long under the most brutal and ruthless military regime in the world.

I  have come to this conference with the aim of bringing light to the decades-long systematic denial and violation of religious rights of Chin Christians who inhabit Burma’s western territory of Chin State or Chinland by the country’s ruling military junta known as the State Peace and Development Council.

My name is Salai Bawi Lian Mang, from Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO). I am an ethnic Chin from Burma.

The Chin people are one of the major ethnic groups in Burma. A South-East Asian Nation with the population of 54 million, Burma is composed with 8 major ethnic groups; Arakan, Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan, and Burmese are majority with about 60% of the country population.

I will briefly talk about overall human rights situation in Burma and then my presentation will focus on persecution of Chin Christians by the ruling Burmese military regime.

At present, Burma is ruled by military junta called State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Since the Burmese military took state power by killing thousands of innocent people in 1988, gross violations of human rights is committed by the military regime including political suppression, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, disappearances, extra-judicial killings, oppression of ethnic and religious minorities, and use of forced labor.

There are more than one thousand political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Noble Peace Price winner.

Burma is the second largest opium producing country in the world and the ruling military regime is directly links with the drug trade as political crisis, civil war and abuse of power is related with notorious drug trade.

In addition to drugs, the spread of HIV/AIDS is of great concern that can affect regional stability in the near future.  Burma after India and Thailand has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in Asia. HIV/AIDS epidemic is mainly caused by drug addiction and lack of knowledge and prevention program in the country.

There is a report made by Shan Women Action Networks that the Burmese military regime is using rape as weapon of wars against ethnic Shan. The report details 173 incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence, involving 625 girls and women, committed by Burmese soldiers in Shan State, between 1996 and 2001.

The military regime in Burma has violated the right to education by closing universities and colleges in the country for about 9 years within the past 16 years because the military regime views students as a threat to their dictatorial rule as students are the only vocal group that have been standing fearlessly against the military regime.

The use of forced labor is so widespread that the International Labor Organization (ILO) has expelled Burma from the ILO for the regime’s widespread use of forced labor.

Since 1991, the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have for 14 consecutive years adopted consensus resolutions condemning the Burmese military junta’s systematic violations of human rights.

In 2003, President Bush enacted Burma Freedom and Democracy Act in response to the continued and systematic violations of human rights by the Burmese military junta.

Starting from 1999 the US Department of State, Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor annual report on international religious freedom report has branded Burma as country of particular concern for its widespread practice of religious persecution against minority religion such as Christians. In Burma more than 80% are Buddhist and Christians made only 4% in the country while in Chin state, Christians made about 90% of the population and religious persecution is a major concern in Chin state and among Chin Christians.

The military junta which made its way to power through a bloody coup in 1988 has ruled the country at gunpoint. Preoccupied by the idea of “national unity or unifying the country,” Burma’s military regime has embarked on a policy of creating a single national identity based on the policy of “Amyo, Batha, Thatana” or One race, One Language, One Religion” in other words “to be a Burman is to be a Buddhist” through assimilating all identifiable ethnic minority groups into the mainstream Burman society, a dominant ethnic group with which the regime identifies itself.

Introduction to the Chin People

Chin indigenous people inhabited the land bordering with India from the west, Bangladesh from the South-West, Arakan from the South and Burma from the east. It is estimated that the Chin, in a general sense including outside and inside of Chinland, number as many as two million, with the largest and noticeable number concentrated in the Chin State. The Chins were living as independent nation till the British invaded their land in the late 19th century and annexed all their territory into British Empire in the early 20th century.

After the second World Wars, as Burma’s independence movement grew, the Chin decided to participate with Burmese and other ethnic groups in a constitutional process towards the development of a federal union. Thus, the Chins are co-founder of today Union of Burma by participating in a multi-ethnic conference concluded on February 12, 1947, which led to the creation of an independent federal Union of Burma on January 4, 1948. However, a military coup led by General Ne Win in 1962 effectively ended the Chin’s special political status within the Union of Burma as one of its primary constituent member. Today Chin people in Burma are not represented in any form of political decision-making in the national, state or local administration.

Christianity and Chin People:
In 1899, American Baptist Missionary Rev. Arthur Carson and his wife from American Baptist Mission come to Chinland, present Chin state in Burma, and founded mission station at Haka present capital town of Chin state. Following the arrival of American missionaries, the two Chin couples converted to Christianity in 1904. Over the century almost the whole population in Chin state converted to Christianity and it is estimated that about 90 percent of Chins in Chin state are Christians at present.
In 1953 Baptist Chins organized themselves as Zomi (Chin) Baptist Convention. The majority of Chin Christians are Baptist and there are around 1,000 local small churches in all over Chin state and several associations.

Today, the impact of Christianity was not only confined within the spiritual and cultural contexts of the Chin people, it manifested itself as a uniting force for different Chin communities. With their conversion to Christianity, the Chins embraced one another as members of a community of faith in Christ.  At the same time, there developed a new self-consciousness and political awareness of Chin cultural homogeneity, thus providing a new framework for Chin nationalism.

Since the first Chin conversion to Christianity in the early 1900s following the arrival of American missionaries, Christianity has been deeply entrenched in Chin society and has become part of the Chin cultural identity. Burma’s ruling military regime is systematically persecuting Chin Christians in order to replace Christianity with Buddhism and assimilated them into mainstream Burman culture. Evidence demonstrates that the military regime is using religious persecution as a tool of ethnocide against Chin Christians.

Persecution of Chin Christian:

As Chin State has the largest concentration of Christians in the whole of Burma in terms percentage, it was not only a large number of Burmese soldiers that was brought into by the Burmese regime, in the name of “Hill Regions Buddhist Mission”, the junta brought in an army of Buddhist monks who were then dispatched to various towns and villages across Chin State. Protected by the soldiers, these Buddhist monks have considerable powers over the Chin population. In many cases, local people have pointed out that the monks are military intelligence operatives who are more powerful than local army commanders. The Chin Human Rights Organization reported about the monks stationed around Matupi Township as follow:

The monks who live at Zakam, Rezua, Leisen, Vangvai and Tinsi villages rule the communities. Anyone who doesn’t abide by the monks orders is reported to the SLORC/SPDC army and he/she is punished by the army. The monks give judgment on all cases. For those who become Buddhist, they are free from any persecution such as forced labour, portering, extortion of money, etc. Whenever and wherever a monk visits, he is accompanied by the army and they arrange a porter to carry the monk’s particulars. The villagers were forced to build a Buddhist monastery and temple. But they refused, insisting “we are Christians”. Even though the army threatened action against them, they didn’t build it yet. Now the monks and army are holding a meeting to discuss this. Nobody knows what will happen.

A 40-year-old Chin Christian from Matupi Township recounted how he was converted to Buddhism, recruited and trained to be part of a campaign against Christians;

“I was invited to attend social welfare training by the [SLORC (now SPDC)] authority from Matupi on 27/2/95. When I arrived at the place, the authority told us that it is to attend Buddhist hill tract missionary training run by a Buddhist monk named U Razinn at Mindat. As we are Christian, we said we didn’t want to go. But the monk persuaded us saying, ‘it is no problem if you are Christian, it is just religious training’. So 5 other persons and I took part in the 10 day training. In the training, we were taught the 17 facts of how to attack and disfigure Christians.”

The 17 points to attack Christians by the regime is as follows:

1.  To attack Christian families and the progress of Christians.
2.  To criticize against the sermons which are broadcast from Manila, Philippines.
3.  To criticize God as narrow-minded and egotistical who himself claimed that “There is no god except eternal God”.
4. To criticize Christian ways of life as corrupted and inappropriate culture in Burma.
5. To criticize the preaching of Christians wherever it has penetrated.
6. To criticize Christianity by means of pointing out its delicacy and weakness.
7. To stop the spread of the Christian movement in rural areas.
8. To criticize by means of pointing out “there is no salvation without purchased by the blood of Christ”.
9.  To counterattack by means of pointing out Christianity’s weakness and overcome this with Buddhism.
10. To counter the Bible after thorough study.
11. To criticize that “God loves only Israel but not all the races”.
12.  To point out ambiguity between the two testaments.
13. To criticize on the point that Christianity is partisan religion.
14.  To criticize Christianity’s concept of the Creator and compare it with the scientific concept.
15. To study and access the amount given in offerings.
16.  To criticize the Holy Bible after thorough study.
17.  To attack Christians by means of both non-violence and violence.

Targeting Clergy:

Christian pastors and ministers secure high reverence and respect among the Chin people. They are highly respected as intermediaries between God and the congregations. Even outside of the Church, they play significant leadership role on occasions such as death, birth or marriage in the community. Also, because there are no Chin people represented in the local or state administration under the Burmese military regime, even in a secular setting, they receive high degrees of respect as leaders of the community. Today, their dignitary position has attracted the attention and jealousy of the ruling military regime, making them the first targets in the regime’s campaign against Christianity and Chin people.

During the past decade, according to Chin Human Rights Organization reports, the Burmese military regime, detained at length, killed or physically abused many Chin Christians.

The following incidents is one grave example how they treated pastors;

In August 1993, the Burmese troop arrested and they (the Burmese Army) interrogated Pastor Zang Kho Let. When the Pastor’s answers did not pleased the interrogators, the army personnel beat him with rifle butts or sticks that eventually broke almost all of his bones after two days of interrogation. They cut open his mouth to the neck and told him “We cut open your mouth so that you will no longer preach”. In the two days that they tortured him, Pastor Zang Kho Let never admitted to using the church fund to help the resistance movement or that he was involved in helping the armed resistance. The soldiers, Non Commissioner Officer NCO’s, and officers tortured the pastor with the intent to kill but he was still alive after two days of their inhuman brutality. When the torturers reported to their Commanding officer, Colonel Thura Sein Win, on the condition of the pastor, the colonel ordered them to tighten a plastic bag over his head. (Thura is an award given for bravery, like the torture of the preacher.)

After Pastor Zang Kho Let died, they dragged his lifeless body out of the school building and shot him. With a bullet wound in his body, the Burmese army unit claimed that they shot the pastor because he was trying to escape. The soldiers brought the dead body of Pastor Zang Kho Let back in the school building and placed together with the leaders of the village community, who were arrested to witness the gruesome state of the body. They were told to feel the bones, which were all broken. They were told, “If you do not tell us the truth and if you do not admit that you helped the rebel, you will face the same fate.”

The headman of the village, Zang Kho Ngam, farmers Ngam Khai, and Thawng Kho Lun admitted to helping the resistance movement in order to escape torture and death. Nonetheless, they were tortured. It took seven days for the three of them to die; they died a slow death. The soldiers cut and burned their skin. They poured salt directly into their open sores. The soldiers zealously repeated the torture that they had just meted out to Pastor Zang Kho Let. When the two farmers died, the soldiers again dragged the bodies outside of the school building and shot. The Burmese Army buried the headman Zang Kho Ngam alive.

Prohibition of Construction of Churchs and Desecration of Crosses:

Several Chin Christian churches and infrastructure under construction in the 1990s were forced to stop by the military authority. Those who persisted in constructing their church building had been threatened or punished by the army. CHRO reports that; when the Burmese army ordered to stop construction of Salvation Army Church in Khampat, the pastor of the church ignored the order by resuming construction of the church. He was humiliated and badly beaten up by the army that he was hospitalized for several days.

The military regime reportedly ordered to stop construction of the following churches and Christian infrastructure; Chin Christian centenary building in Hakha – the capital of Chin State; United Pentecostal Church in Hakha; Zomi Theological dining hall in Falam; Church of Jesus Christ in Falam; hostels (both men and women) for Chin Christian College in Haka, Baptist Church in Farhual, Salvation Army church in Khampat, and the Assembly of God’s Church in Kalaymyo, Evangelical Baptist Church in Myoma Quarter, Faith Bible Theological Seminary in Lawibual Quarter, Sakollam Baptist Church, and Lawibual Baptist Church, Lai Baptist Church in Rangoon were prohibited by the authority.

Evidence shows that the Burmese military regime has actively targeted Christian symbols in its campaign of Burmanization and ethnocide against various ethnic groups in the country.  Christian crosses erected on the tops of hills throughout Chin State have been destroyed. Many of them replaced with Buddhist pagodas and statue of Buddhist monks. Since the early 1980s, Chin communities in various villages and towns have erected wooden crosses on mounts and hill tops beside their villages and towns to symbolize their faith in Christianity, and to remind themselves of the fact that Christianity has played an important role in shaping their modern society and culture. In some cases, however, the erection of these crosses were in response to what the Chin regarded was the State-sponsored importation of Buddhism into Chin State with the construction of pagodas and temples in certain urban centers which began in the 1970s.

Destruction of crosses started around the early 1990s with the rapid increase in army battalions established across Chin State. Since then, almost every cross in all the nine townships in Chin State had been destroyed by the regime. Destruction of crosses is usually ordered by the township authorities or by army battalion commanders. After an order is issued, the church or community responsible for erecting the cross is given a timeframe during which they must dismantle the cross. Failure to do so within the given period often means that the cross is destroyed by the authorities and that Church leaders are arrested for defiance of orders.

As recently as January 3, 2005 a giant Christian cross on top of Mount Boi near Matupi town of Chin State was destroyed by Burmese troops on direct order of Colonel San Aung, one of the highest ranking military commanders in the region. The 50-foot tall concrete cross was erected by local Christians at the cost three and a half million Kyats. After destroying the cross, troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) hoisted a Burmese flag as a sign of victory against Christianity in Chin State where more than 90 percent of the populations are Christians. There are reports the regime is making plans to construct a Buddhist pagoda on the site.

Since Chin Christians from inside Burma can not do anything in response to this barbaric act, exiled Chin Christians in Malaysia, India, Canada and the US has responded with protest in front of the Burmese embassies.

I would like to share you what was happening in my home town of Thantlang.

The year 1999 marked one hundredth year of the arrival of Christian gospel among the Chins. The centennial celebration was originally planned for March 15 in Haka, the Capital of Chin state where the first Ameriacan missionaries established their first mission center in 1899. Before the official celebration in Haka, advance celebrations were held locally in various townships under the leadership of local churches. In Thantlang town, the celebration was organized jointly by all denominations in the town from January 1-3 1999.

On January 5, when the celebration was over, the organizers erected a Centenneial Memorial Cross on a hilltop on Vuichip ridge, located west of the town. Though primarily in remembrance of the early American missionaries, selection of the location for the cross had other significance. In addition to its good view from town, the spot has spiritual and religious dimension to it. Before the advent of Christianity, Thantlang residents had traditionally believed that Vuichip ridge was the dwelling place of evil spirits and there had been legends surrounding the spirits roaming the ridge. The erection of the cross on that particular location was to signify that evil spirits have been defeated by the crucifixion Jesus Christ on the cross.

The cross was decorated with looking glasses so that it would be more recognizable when it glows with the reflection from the sun.

On the very night of the cross was erected, the township peace and development council ordered the destruction of the cross, compelling the very people who had erected the cross to destroy it. When the people refused, a section of local police were sent to destroy the cross. Six Christian pastors responsible for organizing the Centennial Celebration and the erection of the Memorial cross were arrested and interrogated by the authority.

In response on January 6, the whole town stage a silent protest by closing down their businesses and refusing to go to work, and by observing 24 hour fast and prayer vigil in their local churches and homes. Fearing the news of protest might spread to other towns; the authorities shutdown telephone connection of the town and arrested 20 more Church leaders. Nevertheless, on January 9, Churches in the Chin state capital, Haka joined the protest, prompting Chairman of the Chin State Peace and Development Council to go to Thantlang to end the strike by threatening and intimidating them.

Restriction on Freedom of Assembly and Worship:

Like all other freedoms, freedom of assembly is subject to severe restriction in Burma. This restriction does not exempt freedom of assembly in religious contexts.

All gatherings and conferences, including celebrations of religious festivals, require prior authorization by the military regime. However, it is usually extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain such authorization for occasions with potentially large turnout. Citing the risk of security associated with such events, the regime arbitrarily limits the number of people who can attend an event. Moreover, organizations must apply directly to the Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs in Rangoon for permission, a process which involves a long waiting period. This time-consuming bureaucratic procedure creates uncertainties, and it often results in the event having to be cancelled or postponed. People suspect such kind of procedure is deliberately used to prevent Christians from conducting their religious affairs.

In rural areas, local army commanders often issue direct orders forbidding worship services, as well as Christmas and New Year celebrations. The following is transcript of radio broadcast by the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma on December 23, 2002.

“The SPDC frontline troops summoned people from Haka and Thangtlang Townships in Chin State and told them they were not allowed to hold any Christmas ceremonies and prayer meetings. They went from village to village and told them if they wanted to hold any ceremony they were to hold it in a simple and discrete manner at their homes. Although the chairmen of the village Peace and Development Councils and pastors argued that Christmas is a very auspicious feast for Christians and requested them to allow Christmas celebrations, the column commander of the SPDC forces refused. He also said that if the chairmen and pastors deliberately held any such Christmas feast in defiance of the order, the village chairmen and pastors would all be arrested and recruited as porters. They also threatened to dislocate people.”  

Censorship on Christian Literature and Publication:

Since the military government came to power in 1962, the Christians in Burma, especially non-Burman nationalities have mostly been unable to print the Holy Bible in their own language inside Burma. Chin Christians, for instance, printed the Bile in the Chin language in India, and smuggled it into Burma in the 1970s and 1980s. Even the Holy Bible in Burmese, which was translated by Rev. Judson in the 1820s, never received permission to be reprinted from the Censor Board of the Burmese government, or at least the Old Testament never did. Only the New Testament, together with Psalms and Proverbs, once received permission to be printed during the entire period of the Burmese military regime, that is, from 1962 to present.

The CHRO received a report in the year 2000 that, in the month of June 2000, the SPDC officials in Tamu ordered 16,000 copies of the Bible to be burned in Tamu, Sagaing Division that borders India. These Bibles, which were seized in 1999 by the Burmese Army, are in Chin, Karen and other ethnic languages.

Discrimination Based on Ethnicity and Religion:

Under successive Burmese governments, people of non-Burman ethnic and non-Buddhist background find themselves discriminated against their Burman Buddhist counterparts in education, employment and various levels of civil service. Even those in the army and police serving successive governments were systematically denied promotions in rank on the sole basis of their ethnicity and religion.
Since the 1980s, the new Burmese citizenship law required that every citizen of Union of Burma register for a national identity card on which all particulars including the bearer’s ethnic and religious backgrounds should be provided. Although the initial intention was to exclude “foreigners” such as Indian and Chinese immigrants from citizenship, the introduction of the identity card has had a far-reaching impact on ethnic and religious minority groups. Because the card is essential for travel, employment, health care and higher education, people of non-Burman and non-Buddhist background could be easily denied for employment as well as promotion in civil service on the basis of the particulars provided on the national identity card. In many instances, for Christians and other religious minorities, promotion in civil service is conditioned by their conversion into Buddhism. Many Christian civil servants with outstanding service records have been blatantly denied promotion while their Buddhist peers with less qualification and less seniority quickly rose to high ranking positions. Even a few exceptional non-Buddhist individuals securing high ranking positions were sacked or forced to retire from their positions.
Biak To, a Chin Christian who had served in the Burmese army from 1973 to 1990 as a Captain and later became a Lieutenant Colonel in the police explains how he was sacked for no apparent reasons in 2000:
“At the time of my dismissal, I was the only person holding a B.A degree among officers of my rank in the entire nine Police Regiments in Burma. In fact, I should have been the first one to be considered for promotions. Obviously, the authorities did not want to see a Chin Christian holding high position that they made a pre-emptive move to dismiss me without any apparent charges.”

Major Thawng Za Lian, who has an excellent record in his military service in the Burmese army until leaving the service in 1997, recounts his experience during his career as an officer with a background of minority religious and ethnic identity in Burma that;

“In the army, A, B and C are categories designated for those who can not be promoted in rank. A stands for AIDS symptom, B stands for Hepatitis B and C stands for Christians. Under these categories, those who are carrying AIDS disease are discharged from the military and those who have Hepatitis B are transferred to civil service. And all those belonging to category C (Christians) are not given promotion.”

Major Lian eventually left the army when he was asked to abandon his Christian faith and converted to Buddhism by his superior in order to be promoted.

Selective Forced Labor:

Although most Chin families have been equally affected by the army’s use of forced labor, in many cases, forced labor is specifically directed against Christians in order to coerce them into converting to Buddhism. There are ample evidences that the Burmese military regime is using forced labor as part of its Burmanization program. The apparent theory is that by converting Chin Christians to Buddhism, an important Chin identity will be stripped away, thereby eventually assimilating them into Burman identity. Forced labor has also been used to discourage people from going to church by compelling them to work on Sundays and other Christian religious holidays.

State Sponsored  Expansion Of Buddhism In Chin State:

Since 1990 the military government authorities and security forces have promoted Buddhism over Christianity among the Chin. Until 1990 the Chin generally practiced either Christianity or traditional indigenous religions. The Chins were the only major ethnic minority in the country that did not largely support any significant armed organization in active rebellion against the Government or in an armed cease-fire with the Government. Since 1990 government authorities and security forces, with assistance from monks of the Hill Regions Buddhist Missions, coercively have sought to induce Chins to convert to Theravada Buddhism and to prevent Christian Chins from proselytizing Chins who practice traditional indigenous religions. This campaign, reportedly accompanied by other efforts to “Burmanize” the Chin, has involved a large increase in military units stationed in Chin State and other predominately Chin areas, state-sponsored immigration of Buddhist Burman monks from other regions, and construction of Buddhist monasteries and shrines in Chin communities with few or no Buddhists, often by means of forced “donations” of money or labor.

Along with other methods  to Burmanize the Chin, the Burmese military government has vonverted many Chin Christian families through coercion. The government rewards people who convert to Buddhism by exempting them from forced labor, fiving them ration and monthly allowance. The government also entice Chin Christian children by offering them government scholarship as part of the border area development program. Parents often entrust their children and enrolled them in the program. However, chindlren are later found to be in Buddhist monasteries with their head shaven to become vonice Buddhist monks.

A People and Culture at Stake:

The SPDC’s campaign of ethnocide against Chin people has had serious effect on the lives of the people of Chin State. The physiological dimension is rather profound. Many Chin Christians are convinced that their religious faith is making them targets for abuse, and conversion to Buddhism not only provides them a sense of security but also eases their economic hardships. Yet, there are also people who think that persecution because of their faiths makes their spiritual commitments even stronger.

However, it is already apparent that the ethnocide campaign is taking a toll on the Chin society. Families are increasingly separated and more people are feeling the Chinland to seek safety elsewhere. About 60,000 Chin refugees have fled to India about 12 thousands more are now taking refuge in Malaysia since the 1990s when the military junta began sending thousands of troops to Chinland. Thousands of Chin families have made their way to Rangoon and elsewhere to escape conditions at home, becoming internally displaced persons or IDPs. However, life is no better for those fleeing the country or those trying to find security elsewhere inside Burma. Most of the refugees living in India and Malaysia are not recognized as refugees by the host governments and are considered ‘illegal immigrants.’

There is increasing concern among Chin Christians about the uncertainties of the future. While the regime’s campaign of ethnocide is starting to take a toll on the Chin society, it seems likely that more Chin people will flee their homeland to escape human rights abuses there, increasing a threat of their religion and culture being eroded at an even fast rate. As one Chin pastor puts it “Chinland has become uninhabitable”.

In 1899, American missionary come to Chinland. They brought the gospel and Christianity to the Chin people. As we, the Chins had our own cultural heritage and religion, our fore-fathers did not accept Christianity easily when the American Baptist missionary come to our land. Only after 5 years of the arrival of the American missionaries that the first two Chin couples converted to Christianity in 1904. And following over a century, about 90% of Chins in Chin state have converted to Christianity and Christianity become part of Chin identity and culture. The Chins are now persecuted for their belief in Christianity and democracy by the most brutal and ruthless military junta in the world at present.

As a Chin Christian and human rights activists, I would like to request your prayer, supports and solidarity for my people Chin Christians in Burma.

Thank you.
Salai Bawi Lian Mang
April 16, 2005

[Salai Bawi Lian Mang is co-founder of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO). He is editor of Rhododendron News, a bi-monthly human rights news publish by CHRO and co-author of “Religious Persecution: A Campaign of Ethnocide Against Chin Christians in Burma”. He has participated in the UN Human Rights Commission, lobbied the UN General Assembly at the third committee, contributed about “The Chin Indigenous People” at Indigenous Year Book 1999 published by IWGIA, Copenhagen. He studied Political Science at Carleton University. He was an International Visiting Scholar at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley in the year 2003-2004.Salai Bawi Lian Mang can be reached at [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 510 981 1417 www.chro.org ]

THE 6TH HONG KONG CHRISTIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CONFERENCE
NOVEMBER 5-6,  2005
HONG KONG
Persecution Of Chin Christians In Burma
Presentation
By
Salai Bawi Lian Mang
Of
Chin Human Rights Organization

Introduction:

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude and heartfelt thanks to the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (Hong Kong) for inviting me to the conference.

I am particularly appreciative that I have the opportunity to speak about persecuted Chin Christians from Burma,  who have been suffering so long under the most brutal and ruthless military regime in the world.

The Chin people are one of the major ethnic groups in Burma. A South-East Asian Nation with the population of 54 million, Burma is composed with 8 major ethnic groups; Arakan, Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan, and Burmese are majority with about 60% of the country population.

I would like to briefly talk about overall human rights situation in Burma first, and then my presentation will focus on persecution of Chin Christians by the ruling Burmese military regime.

At present, Burma is ruled by military junta called State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Since the Burmese military took state power by killing thousands of innocent people in 1988, gross violations of human rights is committed by the military regime including political suppression, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, disappearances, extra-judicial killings, oppression of ethnic and religious minorities, and use of forced labor.

There are more than one thousand political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Noble Peace Price winner.

Burma is the second largest opium producing country in the world and the ruling military regime is directly links with the drug trade as political crisis, civil war and abuse of power is related with notorious drug trade.

In addition to drugs, the spread of HIV/AIDS is of great concern that is threatening regional stability.  Burma after India and Thailand has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in Asia.

There is a report made by Shan Women Action Networks that the Burmese military regime is using rape as weapon of wars against ethnic Shan. The report details incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence, involving 625 girls and women, committed by Burmese soldiers in Shan State, between 1996 and 2001.

The military regime in Burma has violated the right to education by closing universities and colleges in the country for about 9 years within the past 16 years because the military regime views students as a threat to their dictatorial rule as students are the only vocal group that have been standing fearlessly against the military regime.

The use of forced labor is so widespread that the International Labor Organization (ILO) has strongly condemned Burma from the ILO for the regime’s widespread use of forced labor.

Since 1991, the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have for 14 consecutive years adopted consensus resolutions condemning the Burmese military junta’s systematic violations of human rights.

In 2003, President Bush enacted Burma Freedom and Democracy Act in response to the continued and systematic violations of human rights by the Burmese military junta.

Starting from 1999 the US Department of State, Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor annual report on international religious freedom report has branded Burma as country of particular concern for its widespread practice of religious persecution against minority religion such as Christians. In Burma more than 80% are Buddhist and Christians made only 4% in the country while in Chin state, Christians made about 90% of the population and religious persecution is a major concern in Chin state and among Chin Christians.

When I and my colleagues founded Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) ten years ago, our intention was to document all incidents of human rights abuses against Chin people without focusing on a single issue. However, as time went on, it was quickly obvious that the issue of religious persecution was a matter of great concern to us. Not surprisingly, at least one piece of information in the reports that we gathered for our bimonthly newsletter, Rhododendron News, has had to do religious persecution against Chin Christians.

Preoccupied by the idea of “national unity or unifying the country,” Burma’s military regime has embarked on a policy of creating a single national identity based on the policy of “Amyo, Batha, Thatana” or One race, One Language, One Religion” in other words “to be a Burman is to be a Buddhist” through assimilating all identifiable ethnic minority groups into the mainstream Burman society, a dominant ethnic group with which the regime identifies itself.

My presentation will be based on CHRO publication “RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION: A Campaign of Ethnocide Against Chin Christians in Burma”. This is not my opinion, nor my emotional feelings. This is facts about how the Burmese military regime is systematically persecuting Chin Christians.

In order to support my presentation with greater efficiency, I am going to use power point presentation with pictures as well as facts and figures.

Introduction to the Chin People:

Chin indigenous people inhabited the land bordering with India-Bangladesh and Burma. Overall population of the Chin people is estimate as two million, with the largest and noticeable number concentrated in the Chin State.

The Chins were living as independent nation till the British invaded their land in the late 19th century and annexed all their territory into British Empire in the early 20th century.

After the second World Wars, as Burma’s independence movement grew, the Chin decided to participate with Burmese and other ethnic groups in a constitutional process towards the development of a federal union. Thus, the Chins are co-founder of today Union of Burma by participating in a multi-ethnic conference concluded on February 12, 1947, which led to the creation of an independent federal Union of Burma on January 4, 1948. However, a military coup led by General Ne Win in 1962 effectively ended the Chin’s special political status within the Union of Burma as one of its primary constituent member. Today Chin people in Burma are not represented in any form of political decision-making in the national, state or local administration.

Christianity and Chin People:

In 1899, American Baptist Missionary come to Chin state in Burma, and founded mission station at Haka present capital town of Chin state.

Following the arrival of American missionaries, the two Chin couples converted to Christianity in 1904. Over the century almost the whole population in Chin state converted to Christianity and it is estimated that about 90 percent of Chins in Chin state are Christians at present.
The majority of Chin Christians are Baptist and there are around 1,000 local small churches in all over Chin state and several associations.

Today, the impact of Christianity was not only confined within the spiritual and cultural contexts of the Chin people, it manifested itself as a uniting force for different Chin communities.

Christianity has been deeply entrenched in Chin society and has become part of the Chin cultural identity.

Burma’s ruling military regime is systematically persecuting Chin Christians in order to replace Christianity with Buddhism and assimilated them into mainstream Burman culture. Evidence demonstrates that the military regime is using religious persecution as a tool of ethnocide against Chin Christians.

Persecution of Chin Christian:

As Chin State has the largest concentration of Christians in the whole of Burma in terms percentage, it was not only a large number of Burmese soldiers that was brought into by the Burmese regime, in the name of “Hill Regions Buddhist Mission”, the junta brought in an army of Buddhist monks who were then dispatched to various towns and villages across Chin State. Protected by the soldiers, these Buddhist monks have considerable powers over the Chin population. Christian villagers have been forced to listen the Buddhist monk sermons against their will, they are also routinely ask to contribute money and labor for construction of Buddhist monasteries and pagodas.

A 40-year-old Chin Christian from Matupi Township recounted how he was converted to Buddhism, recruited and trained to be part of a campaign against Christians;

“I was invited to attend social welfare training by the [SLORC (now SPDC)] authority from Matupi on 27/2/95. When I arrived at the place, the authority told us that it is to attend Buddhist hill tract missionary training run by a Buddhist monk named U Razinn at Mindat. As we are Christian, we said we didn’t want to go. But the monk persuaded us saying, ‘it is no problem if you are Christian, it is just religious training’. So 5 other persons and I took part in the 10 day training. In the training, we were taught the 17 facts of how to attack and disfigure Christians.”

The 17 points to attack Christians by the regime is as follows:

1.  To attack Christian families and the progress of Christians.
2.  To criticize against the sermons which are broadcast from Manila, Philippines.
3.  To criticize God as narrow-minded and egotistical who himself claimed that “There is no god except eternal God”.
4. To criticize Christian ways of life as corrupted and inappropriate culture in Burma.
5. To criticize the preaching of Christians wherever it has penetrated.
6. To criticize Christianity by means of pointing out its delicacy and weakness.
7. To stop the spread of the Christian movement in rural areas.
8. To criticize by means of pointing out “there is no salvation without purchased by the blood of Christ”.
9.  To counterattack by means of pointing out Christianity’s weakness and overcome this with Buddhism.
10. To counter the Bible after thorough study.
11. To criticize that “God loves only Israel but not all the races”.
12.  To point out ambiguity between the two testaments.
13. To criticize on the point that Christianity is partisan religion.
14.  To criticize Christianity’s concept of the Creator and compare it with the scientific concept.
15. To study and access the amount given in offerings.
16.  To criticize the Holy Bible after thorough study.
17.  To attack Christians by means of both non-violence and violence.

Prohibition of Construction of Churches and Desecration of Crosses:

Several Chin Christian churches and infrastructure under construction in the 1990s were forced to stop by the military authority. Those who persisted in constructing their church building had been threatened or punished by the army.

The military regime reportedly ordered to stop construction of the following churches and Christian infrastructure; Chin Christian centenary building in Hakha – the capital of Chin State; United Pentecostal Church in Hakha; Zomi Theological dining hall in Falam; Church of Jesus Christ in Falam; hostels (both men and women) for Chin Christian College in Haka, Baptist Church in Farhual, Salvation Army church in Khampat, and the Assembly of God’s Church in Kalaymyo, Evangelical Baptist Church in Myoma Quarter, Faith Bible Theological Seminary in Lawibual Quarter, Sakollam Baptist Church, and Lawibual Baptist Church, Lai Baptist Church in Rangoon were prohibited by the authority.

Evidence shows that the Burmese military regime has actively targeted Christian symbols in its campaign of Burmanization and ethnocide against various ethnic groups in the country.  Christian crosses erected on the tops of hills throughout Chin State have been destroyed. Many of them replaced with Buddhist pagodas and statue of Buddhist monks.

Destruction of crosses started around the early 1990s with the rapid increase in army battalions established across Chin State. Since then, almost every cross in all the nine townships in Chin State had been destroyed by the regime.

The last destruction of cross occur in January this year. On January 3, 2005 a giant Christian cross on top of Mount Boi near Matupi town of Chin State was destroyed by Burmese troops on direct order of Colonel San Aung, one of the highest ranking military commanders in the region. The 50-foot tall concrete cross was erected by local Christians at the cost three and a half million Kyats. After destroying the cross, troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) hoisted a Burmese flag as a sign of victory against Christianity in Chin State where more than 90 percent of the populations are Christians. There are reports the regime is making plans to construct a Buddhist pagoda on the site.

I would like to share you what was happening in my home town of Thantlang.

The year 1999 marked one hundredth year of the arrival of Christian gospel among the Chins. The centennial celebration was originally planned for March 15 in Haka, the Capital of Chin state where the first Ameriacan missionaries established their first mission center in 1899. Before the official celebration in Haka, advance celebrations were held locally in various townships under the leadership of local churches. In Thantlang town, the celebration was organized jointly by all denominations in the town from January 1-3 1999.

On January 5, when the celebration was over, the organizers erected a Centenneial Memorial Cross on a hilltop on Vuichip ridge, located west of the town. Though primarily in remembrance of the early American missionaries, selection of the location for the cross had other significance. In addition to its good view from town, the spot has spiritual and religious dimension to it. Before the advent of Christianity, Thantlang residents had traditionally believed that Vuichip ridge was the dwelling place of evil spirits and there had been legends surrounding the spirits roaming the ridge. The erection of the cross on that particular location was to signify that evil spirits have been defeated by the crucifixion Jesus Christ on the cross.

The cross was decorated with looking glasses so that it would be more recognizable when it glows with the reflection from the sun.

On the very night of the cross was erected, the township peace and development council ordered the destruction of the cross, compelling the very people who had erected the cross to destroy it. When the people refused, a section of local police were sent to destroy the cross. Six Christian pastors responsible for organizing the Centennial Celebration and the erection of the Memorial cross were arrested and interrogated by the authority.

In response on January 6, the whole town stage a silent protest by closing down their businesses and refusing to go to work, and by observing 24 hour fast and prayer vigil in their local churches and homes. Fearing the news of protest might spread to other towns; the authorities shutdown telephone connection of the town and arrested 20 more Church leaders. Nevertheless, on January 9, Churches in the Chin state capital, Haka joined the protest, prompting Chairman of the Chin State Peace and Development Council to go to Thantlang to end the strike by threatening and intimidating them.

Censorship on Christian Literature and Publication:

Since the military government came to power in 1962, the Christians in Burma, especially non-Burman nationalities have mostly been unable to print the Holy Bible in their own language inside Burma. Chin Christians, for instance, printed the Bile in the Chin language in other country, and smuggled it into Burma in the 1970s and 1980s.

Even the Holy Bible in Burmese, which was translated by Rev. Judson in the 1820s, never received permission to be reprinted from the Censor Board of the Burmese government. Only the New Testament, together with Psalms and Proverbs, once received permission to be printed during the entire period of the Burmese military regime, that is, from 1962 to present.

The CHRO received a report in the year 2000 that, in the month of June 2000, the SPDC officials in Tamu ordered 16,000 copies of the Bible to be burned in Tamu, Sagaing Division that borders India. These Bibles, which were seized in 1999 by the Burmese Army, are in Chin, Karen and other ethnic languages.

Targeting Clergy:

Christian pastors and ministers secure high reverence and respect among the Chin people. They are highly respected as intermediaries between God and the congregations. Even outside of the Church, they play significant leadership role on occasions such as death, birth or marriage in the community. Also, because there are no Chin people represented in the local or state administration under the Burmese military regime, even in a secular setting, they receive high degrees of respect as leaders of the community. Today, their dignitary position has attracted the attention and jealousy of the ruling military regime, making them the first targets in the regime’s campaign against Christianity and Chin people.

During the past decade, according to Chin Human Rights Organization reports, the Burmese military regime, detained at length, killed or physically abused many Chin Christians.

The following incidents is one grave example how they treated pastors;

In August 1993, the Burmese troop arrested and they (the Burmese Army) interrogated Pastor Zang Kho Let. When the Pastor’s answers did not pleased the interrogators, the army personnel beat him with rifle butts or sticks that eventually broke almost all of his bones after two days of interrogation. They cut open his mouth to the neck and told him “We cut open your mouth so that you will no longer preach”. In the two days that they tortured him, Pastor Zang Kho Let never admitted to using the church fund to help the resistance movement or that he was involved in helping the armed resistance. The soldiers, Non Commissioner Officer NCO’s, and officers tortured the pastor with the intent to kill but he was still alive after two days of their inhuman brutality. When the torturers reported to their Commanding officer, Colonel Thura Sein Win, on the condition of the pastor, the colonel ordered them to tighten a plastic bag over his head. (Thura is an award given for bravery, like the torture of the preacher.)

After Pastor Zang Kho Let died, they dragged his lifeless body out of the school building and shot him. With a bullet wound in his body, the Burmese army unit claimed that they shot the pastor because he was trying to escape. The soldiers brought the dead body of Pastor Zang Kho Let back in the school building and placed together with the leaders of the village community, who were arrested to witness the gruesome state of the body. They were told to feel the bones, which were all broken. They were told, “If you do not tell us the truth and if you do not admit that you helped the rebel, you will face the same fate.”

The headman of the village, Zang Kho Ngam, farmers Ngam Khai, and Thawng Kho Lun admitted to helping the resistance movement in order to escape torture and death. Nonetheless, they were tortured. It took seven days for the three of them to die; they died a slow death. The soldiers cut and burned their skin. They poured salt directly into their open sores. The soldiers zealously repeated the torture that they had just meted out to Pastor Zang Kho Let. When the two farmers died, the soldiers again dragged the bodies outside of the school building and shot. The Burmese Army buried the headman Zang Kho Ngam alive.

Restriction on Freedom of Assembly and Worship:

Like all other freedoms, freedom of assembly is subject to severe restriction in Burma. This restriction does not exempt freedom of assembly in religious contexts.

All gatherings and conferences, including celebrations of religious festivals, require prior authorization by the military regime.

However, it is usually extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain such authorization for occasions with potentially large turnout.

In rural areas, local army commanders often issue direct orders forbidding worship services, as well as Christmas and New Year celebrations. The following is transcript of radio broadcast by the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma on December 23, 2002.

Discrimination Based on Ethnicity and Religion:

Under successive Burmese governments, people of non-Burman ethnic and non-Buddhist background find themselves discriminated against their Burman Buddhist counterparts in education, employment and various levels of civil service.

Even those in the army and police serving successive governments were systematically denied promotions in rank on the sole basis of their ethnicity and religion.
Since the 1980s, the new Burmese citizenship law required that every citizen of Union of Burma register for a national identity card on which all particulars including the bearer’s ethnic and religious backgrounds should be provided.

Two middle rank army officer who deserted due to discrimination inform CHRO that;

“In the army, A, B and C are categories designated for those who can not be promoted in rank. A stands for AIDS symptom, B stands for Hepatitis B and C stands for Christians. Under these categories, those who are carrying AIDS disease are discharged from the military and those who have Hepatitis B are transferred to civil service. And all those belonging to category C (Christians) are not given promotion.”

Selective Forced Labor:

Although most Chin families have been equally affected by the army’s use of forced labor, in many cases, forced labor is specifically directed against Christians in order to coerce them into converting to Buddhism. There are ample evidences that the Burmese military regime is using forced labor as part of its Burmanization program. The apparent theory is that by converting Chin Christians to Buddhism, an important Chin identity will be stripped away, thereby eventually assimilating them into Burman identity. Forced labor has also been used to discourage people from going to church by compelling them to work on Sundays and other Christian religious holidays.

State Sponsors  Expansion Of Buddhism In Chin State:

Since 1990 the military government authorities and security forces have promoted Buddhism over Christianity among the Chin. Until 1990 the Chin generally practiced either Christianity or traditional indigenous religions.

Since 1990 government authorities and security forces, with assistance from monks of the Hill Regions Buddhist Missions, coercively have sought to induce Chins to convert to Theravada Buddhism and to prevent Christian Chins from proselytizing Chins who practice traditional indigenous religions.

This campaign, reportedly accompanied by other efforts to “Burmanize” the Chin, has involved a large increase in military units stationed in Chin State and other predominately Chin areas, state-sponsored immigration of Buddhist Burman monks from other regions, and construction of Buddhist monasteries and shrines in Chin communities with few or no Buddhists, often by means of forced “donations” of money or labor.

One example is this;
In 2004 December Burma host World Buddhist Summit, and right after the summit, the highest Burmese military authority in Chin state ordered to destroyed the largest remaining Christian cross in Chin state to destroy.

A People and Culture at Stake:

The SPDC’s campaign of ethnocide against Chin people has had serious effect on the lives of the people of Chin State. The physiological dimension is rather profound.

Families are increasingly separated and more people are feeling the Chinland to seek safety elsewhere due to rampant human rights violations including religious persecution. About 60,000 Chin refugees have fled to India about 12 thousands more are now taking refuge in Malaysia since the 1990s. Thousands of Chin families have made their way to Rangoon and elsewhere to escape conditions at home, becoming internally displaced persons or IDPs.

However, life is no better for those fleeing the country or those trying to find security elsewhere inside Burma. Most of the refugees living in India and Malaysia are not recognized as refugees by the host governments and are considered ‘illegal immigrants.’

There is increasing concern among Chin Christians about the uncertainties of the future.
The Chin Christians have helplessly watched the cross planted destroyed one by one and replace with Buddhist pagodas or the statue of Buddhist monks. They have helplessly watched, their church destroyed, their pastors humiliated, arrest, torture and some even killed. Their sisters rape, their mothers enslave and their fathers tortured and killed.  The force of evil is so strong and the only thing these persecuted Chin Christians can do is praying in silence.

My fellow Christians, and those who love justice and peace;
We need your prayer, supports and solidarity to alleviate the suffering of these innocent people- Chin Christians. We need your supports and solidarity to restore, justice, human rights and long term peace!

Thank you very much.

Salai Bawi Lian Mang

Chin Human Rights Organization
November 5-6, 2005
Hong Kong

Human Rights Situation in Chinland
Presentation
By
Salai Bawi Lian Mang
Of
Chin Human Rights Organization
At
Joint Venue Hosted
By
Lawyers Group of Amnesty International (Hong Kong)
&
CSW (Hong Kong)

November 7, 2005-Hong Kong

I would like to say thank you to the CWS (Hong Kong) and the Lawyer Group of Amnesty International (Hong Kong) for creating this venue, exclusively for the situation of human rights in Chinland (Chin state and western Burma). I am honored to speak about human rights situation in Chinland to a group of intellectuals, lawyers, the AI (Hong Kong) and CSW (Hong Kong) who have committed in promotion of human rights around the world.

Thanks to Ms. Olivas Gallo for your nice introduction. My name is Salai Bawi Lian Mang from Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO). The CHRO is an independent non-governmental human rights organization. We aim to protect and promote human rights among the Chin people, and to contribute to the movement for the restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma. Founded in 1995, CHRO has worked to document the human rights situations of the Chin people in Burma’s western region.

Even though the political and human rights situation in Burma has gained international attention in recent years, the situation of the Chin people remained largely unknown by international community.

I am regrets to say that human rights conditions among Burma’s ethnic people, including the Chin people continue to remain a matter of grave concern. In fact, human rights conditions of the Chin people have become worse and the number of displaced persons and refugees has increased in recent years. Under the reign of the State Peace and Development Council, the Chin people have continued to experience untold miseries and hardships as a result of the systematic abuse of their fundamental human rights.

There is a direct link between the growing abuse against the Chin people and the increase in militarization of the Chin areas. In the last fifteen years since the regime took over power, the number of army battalions stationed in Chin State has increased up to 10 times. This increase has been accompanied by the rapid acceleration in the level of human rights abuses across Chin State. The kind of human rights violations suffered by the Chins today are the same as those that have been extensively reported among ethnic Karen, Shan, and Karenni on the eastern border. These violations manifest in the forms of arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labor, torture, rape and extrajudicial executions. Moreover, the overwhelming percentage of Christians among the Chin people has also brought abuses in the form of religious persecution. Today, religious persecution is a matter of primary concern among the Chin people.

Since 1999, the US State Department has singled out Burma as a country that systematically violates religious freedom. The annual reports have cited a significant amount of cases of religious persecution involving the Chin people.

Religious Persecution:

Religious persecution poses a matter of grave concern among the Chin people. Chin Human Rights Organization, since 1995, has documented a range of human rights abuses by the military regime against the Chin people, including violations of religious freedom.
In December of 2004, Burma hosted a World Buddhists Summit amidst questions about its worthiness to organize such international meeting given the regime’s abysmal record of treating religious minorities and absolute disregard for fundamental human rights. Around the same time that this meeting took place in Rangoon, Burmese troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) desecrated a Christian cross in Matupi of southern Chinland.

On January 3, 2005 a giant Christian cross on top of Mount Boi near Matupi town of Chin State was destroyed by Burmese troops on direct order of Colonel San Aung, one of the highest ranking military commanders in the region. The 50-foot tall concrete cross was erected by local Christians at the cost three and a half million Kyats. After destroying the cross, troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) hoisted a Burmese flag as a sign of victory against Christianity in Chin State where more than 90 percent of the populations are Christians. There are reports the regime is making plans to construct a Buddhist pagoda on the site.

Christian religion has deep root in the Chin society. Since the first Chin conversion in the early 20th century following the arrival of American Baptist missionaries to the Chin Hills, Christianity gradually became accepted by a large majority of the Chin populations, who had practiced traditional animism for centuries. After a century since then, Christianity now is second culture for many Chin people.

Chin people today claim that more than 90 percent of Chins are Christians. Because of the overwhelming importance of Christianity among the Chins, the junta, which strongly identifies itself with Buddhism and has been preoccupied with building national unity has been trying to promote Buddhism over Christianity in Chin State with the belief that once the Chins are converted to Buddhism they can be easily subjugated.

For this reason, the regime has resorted to persecuting the Chins, a drastic action that involves arbitrarily removing Christian crosses erected by churches on hilltops throughout Chin State and openly directing and supporting coerced conversions of Christians into Buddhism.

Through the Hill Buddhist Mission, a program directly sponsored by the military regime, Buddhist monks have migrated to the Chin State. In every town and major villages in Chin State, the regime has established a Buddhist pagoda and station monks who are closely working with local army battalions. Buddhist pagodas are often built in places where Christian monuments such as crosses have formerly stood, and Christians have been either forced to donate money or forced to build the pagodas.

The regime is putting close scrutiny on preachers and evangelists, and in many instances has made effort to censor the contents of sermons delivered by Christian pastors and ministers. Citing the risk of security, authorities have either not permitted or arbitrarily set the number of people who could attend religious festivals and conferences. Moreover, the regime has still not permitted the printing and publication of Bibles, forcing Chin Christians to quietly bringing Bibles from abroad. In several instances, army authorities have confiscated Chin-language Bibles imported from India, and burnt or destroyed them.

Construction of new church buildings is prohibited and Christians must obtain prior authorization for even renovation of church buildings. These are all in stark contrast to the freedoms enjoyed by monks and Buddhists whose activities are openly supported, and encouraged by authorities. Several reports documented by CHRO show that army patrols have deliberately used Church compounds for shelter and camps, and have purposefully disturbed Church services by entering into churches during Sunday worship services.

The regime has also targeted Christian leaders by falsely implicating and accusing them of supporting anti-government groups, and has jailed and tortured many pastors. In remote villages and other rural areas in Chin State, army units on patrols have frequently mistreated, assaulted and tortured Christian pastors.

Coerced conversions of Christian families and children have also been reported in several parts of Chin State. Those who convert to Buddhism were exempted from forced labor and given special privileges. Local authorities have frequently recruited Christian children under the pretext of giving them formal education in cities. The last incidents happening in last year, five Christian children, between the ages of 7 and 18 years old from Matupi township of Chin State, who had been placed in monasteries in Rangoon, escaped confinement in Buddhist temples where they have been forced to follow Buddhist teachings.

Restriction on the use and teaching of Chin language:

Under the military regime, the teaching of Chin language in school is prohibited. In elementary schools, the permitted level of teaching Chin language is grade 2. Publications of textbooks in Chin are not provided for by the government and Christian churches are forced to bear the burden of supplying these texts. Chin school teachers of all levels of high school in Chin State are instructed to use Burmese as a medium of communication with their students. This measure has greatly diminished the level of understanding by the students in school and has served to downgrade student performance. Since the mid 1990s, the new curriculum is dominated by perspectives of Burmese or Burman culture and history, and students have complained about the lack of substance that reflects ethnic Chin perspectives in the subject. This has also been seen as an open attempt to assimilate the Chin youth into mainstream Burman culture.

Because of the limited number of government schools available for the Chin populations in Chin State, communities in rural villages have set up private schools to allow the children access to primary education. Unsupported by the government, villages have to seek their own means of running the school by contributing money and resources for the schools. However, since 1998, the regime has banned many self-supported private schools, depriving many children in rural communities of primary education. It should be noted that because these private schools are not under direct control of the government, they were able to offer alternative learning in Chin language. Restriction on the learning of Chin language has already taken its toll on the Chin youth. A high percentage of Chin teenagers are not able to read and write in their own language. This has been exacerbated by the fact that many Chin children look down on their own language and had instead chosen to use Burmese.

Forced Labor:
Burma has claimed that it has outlawed the practice of forced labor in 2001. However, independent investigations into this claim have found the pervasiveness and the continued use of forced labor in the Chin State. Local army battalions have routinely exacted forced labor from villagers and rural communities in building roads, army camps, development infrastructures and agricultural projects. In major townships of Chin state such as Hakha, Falam, Matupi and Thantlang, civilians are being routinely forced to work at government tea plantation farms. I am not going in detail about the forced labor situation, instead, I will refer you to the report we made a few months ago.
The report titled “THE FORCED LABOR PANDEMIC IN CHINLAND”

Political Suppression:

The Chin people are not represented in the central, state and local administration under the military regime. After the regime nullified the results of the 1990 elections, all Chin political parties were declared illegal. These political parties include the Chin National League for Democracy (CNLD), the Mara Peoples Party (MPP) and Zomi National Congress (ZNC) Party. Subsequent crackdowns on political dissidents have forced 3 of the 13 Chin Members of Parliament to flee the country while 2 others were arrested and imprisoned for several years. Since early 1990s, the entire Chin populations have forced to live under virtual curfew. Dozens of civilians accused of supporting, Chin National Front, underground movement were arrested, tortured and imprisoned under the Unlawful Association Act. Civilians charged under this act are routinely tortured in interrogating chambers. According to a former a woman prisoner, she was humiliated, tortured and deprived of food and sleep for one week before she was arbitrarily sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Refugees:

I would like to highlight the particularly grave situations of Chin refugees. In the year since the military regime took over power in 1988, about 60,000 Chin refugees have fled to India, Bangladesh and Malaysia. At least 50,000 Chin refugees have lived in Mizoram State of northeast India. Neither the Government of India nor the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized them as refugees. As a result Chin refugees have frequently been forced back to Burma.

The need for protection and humanitarian assistance of Chin refugees in Malaysia is no less important. Over the past few years, more than 12,000 Chin refugees have also sought sanctuary in Malaysia. Like the Chin refugees in India, they are identified as ‘illegal’ and risk frequent arrest and deportation by Malaysian authorities. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized only a very small fraction of Chin refugees.

Conclusion:

The problems faced by Burma’s ethnic groups, including the Chin people are the direct consequence of military rule and its campaign of State organized terrorism directed primarily against the ethnic people who constitute more than 40% of the country’s population. Today, the Chin people and all the ethnic people are fighting for our very survival as a people. Our cultural, ethnic and religious identities are being rapidly eroded, and our very survival as a people is being threatened by the policies of ethnic cleansing relentlessly conducted by the military regime.

Due to militarization and rampant human rights violations committed by the Burmese military regime, the Chin people have suffer untold misery in their daily lives and the Burmese military regime has created the situation that is impossible for the Chin people to survive in their own land.

The sufferings of the ethnic nationalities could only be remedied through fundamental change in the political system, a change that would allow the ethnic people equitable representation in the decision-making process of the country. Time is passing and innocent lives are being lost. The international community needs to take effective and urgent actions on Burma before the problems develop into an irreversible stage.

I hope I have presented a brief overall human rights situation in Chinland, and I think it will be good to open the panel for discussion and questions and answers. I will be happy to answer any question you may have.

Thank You.
Salai Bawi Lian Mang
Chin Human Rights Organization
Hong Kong, November 7, 2005

tn_London
Presentation by Salai Za Uk Ling (CHRO)
at the Launching of Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Report
“Carrying the Cross: Burma’s military regime’s restriction, discrimination and persecution of Christians in Burma”
Wilson Room , UK Parliament Westminster , London
January 23, 2007

Distinguished Members of Parliament, friends and ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening!

I am here before you today as a Chin national and as a member of an organization that has been monitoring human rights situations in Chin State for the last twelve years to beseech your support and solidarity, and to draw your attention to the plight of our people. Chin Human Rights Organization is a non-profit and non-governmental organization committed to protecting and promoting the rights of Chin people and to restoring democracy and respect for human rights in Burma .tn_London

Before I go onto talking about the status of religious freedom in Chin State , I would first like to commend Ben Rogers and the Christian Solidarity Worldwide for the very excellent report and for having been good friends of the persecuted Christians in Burma . You truly are the voice for the voiceless – the most forgotten people in Burma .

Many of you, I gather, have been familiar with the situations in Burma and the atrocities and the various forms of human rights violations in that country. We often heard or read in the news about atrocities in Burma ‘s eastern frontiers such as Karen, Karenni and Shan States and the imprisonment of the country’s democratic icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Aside from the Annual International Religious Freedom Report by the United States government and the 2004 CHRO report, there has been virtually no international publicity or highlights of the violations, discriminations and persecutions suffered by Burma’s religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims at the hands of one of the most paranoid and brutal regimes.

Chin State is perhaps the one area in Burma in which the junta’s policy of persecution against Christian is expressed in the most obvious and violent ways. Over the past decade, the regime has destroyed several churches and deliberately removed crosses placed on hilltops, disrupted worship services, and physically assaulted and tortured pastors and Church leaders. The regime also imposed strict discriminatory and restrictive rules on the activities of Christian churches, while it openly promotes Buddhism through various means.

As the CSW report attests, the persecution of Christians in Burma is systematic, as can be seen in Chin, Kachin, Karen and Karenni States where there’s a significant Christian population. And this represents part of a larger policy of the regime to create a uniform national identity in which Burmese is the only language and Buddhism the only accepted religion. This is the mentality of the regime and its approach to making Burma “a modern and developed nation”. No one should need more convincing of the fact that Burma ‘s military junta is intent on destroying the culture, religion and ethnic identities of non-Burman ethnic groups. And there should be no doubt that Burma ‘s military regime is guilty of religious persecution against Christians and cultural genocide against the various ethnic groups in the country.

Responding to international criticisms, the State Peace and Development Council often refers to the fact that “Buddhism, being a peaceful religion, is against force-promoting its faith.” There is no illusion about this statement being true. It is NOT the Buddhist faith or the larger Buddhist community in Burma , but the military regime that manipulates religion as a tool to achieve political ends at the expense of other religions.

Friends, imagine living under a government that burns down your church, desecrate your religious symbols, humiliate your pastors and punishes you for no other reason than because you have a different faith and distinct identity. These are all ongoing as we speak. Just the other day, I spoke to a prominent pastor in Chin State who told me that in one village populated by Chin Christians, a Buddhist monk backed by the military burned down a local church and ordered Christians out of the village.

We need strong international condemnation of the regime, to tell the Generals in Naypyidaw their actions are unacceptable. Burma must be persuaded to accede to all relevant international human rights treaties including the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Convention on the Elimination of all kinds of Racial Discrimination. More importantly, we ask the British government to call for the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom to investigate persecution of Christians in Burma .

Canada Should Work More Aggressively to Affect Positive Change in Burma
Brief Submitted to Foreign Affairs Canada
by
Chin Human Rights Organization
at the
18th Annual Foreign Affairs Canada-NGO Human Rights Consultations

February 7-8, 2006
Venue: Palais des Congres
200 Promenade du Portage, Hull, Gatineau

Chin Human Rights Organization is a non-profit, non-governmental organization working to protect and promote the rights of Chin people and to promote democracy in Burma. CHRO monitors, documents and reports on human rights situations in Chin State and western parts of Burma.

Chin Human Rights Organization is grateful to the Canadian government for its continued supports for the promotion of human rights and democratic governance in Burma. Canada’s co-sponsorship of several UN General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights’ resolutions on Burma helps keep deplorable situations in Burma under international scrutiny and attention. At its last meeting in April of 2005, the Commission on Human Rights renewed condemnation of Burma’s human rights practices and reiterated calls for an immediate end to atrocities and systematic abuse of human rights in that country. The Burma Motion adopted last year by the 38th Parliament was a significant gesture of renewed commitment to supporting human rights and democracy in Burma by the Canadian people. The Government of Canada now has a unique opportunity to act aggressively on this motion.

Despite growing international condemnation and pressures, Burma’s military junta continues its stranglehold on political opponents and has, in recent months, intensified repression and atrocities in areas inhabited by ethnic nationalities. The resumption last year of the National Convention without the participation of pro-democracy forces and ethnic representatives was a symbolic gesture on the part of the State Peace and Development Council that it will not allow genuine and participatory democracy to take hold in Burma. In the context of growing consolidation of power at the top of the SPDC leadership and increasing level of repression and human rights abuses, Chin Human Rights Organization is concerned that without sustained and effective international efforts human rights conditions will continue to further deteriorate. Canada is uniquely placed to lead aggressive international effort to affect positive change in Burma.

Human Rights Conditions in Burma: A Focus on Chin State and Western Burma

As an organization that has been documenting human rights situation in Burma’s western region for the last ten years, Chin Human Rights Organization continues to be concerned about the trend in steady deterioration of human rights situations over the last several years. Human rights violations and abuses of civilians associated with militarization have significantly increased during the last several months. There are also heightened concerns about growing abuse of religious freedom by the State and government agents against non-Buddhist religious groups, particularly Christian and Muslim communities.

Forced Labor on the Increase

The expansion of troop deployment in Chin State and immediate areas is a major factor for increased use of forced labor in the region. Despite promises made to the international community to fully cooperate with the ILO in the eradication of forced labor practices, Burma’s military regime still uses forced labor on a massive scale. Since the beginning of 2005, more than fifty instances of forced labor have been documented by Chin Human Rights Organization in Chin State alone, many of them involving hundreds of civilians at a time. Many of the forced labor conscription incidents are directly related to military purposes, but the use of massive civilian populations for developmental purposes is also a very common practice. The following report is a typical example of the use of forced labor by the Burmese army in Chin State:

Major Tin Moe, patrol column commander from Burma Army Infantry Battalion 304 (under Chin State’s Tactical Command No. 2 based in Matupi) temporarily stationed at Dar Ling village of southern Chin State’s Matupi Township requisitioned compulsory labor to build a new military post at Dar Ling village. More than one thousands civilians from 20 villages in the area have been working at the site since the first week of July, 2005.

Starting form 11 to16 July 2005, U Tin Maung and 50 of his villagers were forced to dig a 150-feet long drainage measuring 3 feet in width and 4 feet in depth.

Another 50 civilians and members of the Village PDC from Khuapi village were forced to supply 4,000 round bamboos. Each stick of the 4000 bamboos has to be 10 feet in length. The work to collect the bamboos lasted from 9 to 16 July, 2005.

From 16 to 21 July 2005, for a total of 5 days, 50 civilians and members of the Village PDC from Hlung Mang village (Matupi Township) were forced to dig trenches and bunkers for the army camp.

Civilians from Fartlang village (Thantlang Township) were compelled to supply 50 sticks of wood measuring 10 feet in length. Civilians from other villages engaged in other works such as fencing and building barracks, digging trenches and bunkers, and collecting woods and bamboos.

The work occurs on a daily basis and all workers are required to supply themselves with food and tools for the job. The work starts at 5:00 am in the morning and lasts until 6:30 in the evening. Workers are given breakfast break at 11:00 am and dinner at 7:00 p.m. The work was projected for completion in the month of July and workers are not exempt from working on Sundays, said U Ni Hmung, Chairman of the Village PDC from Khuapi village, Thantlang Township.

“The expansion of military establishment in our areas only brought hardship to the local people who rely on farming for our survival. Now that the new army camp is only 5 miles away from our village, it is predictable the kinds of hardship we will have to keep up with,” complained the village head of Hlung Mang village.

“The patrol column commander has already ordered us to raise chickens, pigs and other livestock. He might even call us for another round of forced labor. He said that we cannot ignore his order because it is our civic duty to comply with army orders. Many people from our village are already fed up with the perpetual forced labor and are contemplating to escape to Mizoram across the border,” he added.

Another instance of forced labor involved children as young as those in primary schools conscripted to porter army supplies during the same period.

On 15 July 2005, commander of Lailenpi army camp Sergeant Tin Soe from Burma Army Infantry Battalion 305 based in Matupi, southern Chin State, forced underage primary school children to carry army rations and supplies.

The ration loads carried by the ten boys included 10 tins of rice, 10 bottles of cooking oil, 10 viss (15 kgs) of fish paste and 5 Viss of dried chili. They traveled a 12-mile distance before being substituted by the 5 villagers.

Even girl children are not exempt from being forced to carry supplies for army patrol units as the following report indicates:

5 girls under the age of 15 were among 18 civilian porters forced to carry army supplies in Matupi Township, a local villager told Chin Human Rights Organization. On 2 August, 2005, Sergeant Thein Win, commander of Sabawngte army outpost from Matupi-based Light Infantry Battalion (304) ordered 18 Sabawngte villagers including 5 teenaged girls to transport army goods.

“Each person, including the girls, was given about 15 Viss to carry. The load was already heavy enough even for men so eveybody had to take a little extra off of the girls. There was no way the girls could’ve travelled 12 miles with such heavy loads on their backs,” explained one of the adult porters.

Abuse of Religious Freedom

The State Peace and Development Council continues to subject non-Buddhist religious communities to discriminatory treatment and persecution. The United States Department of State, since 1999 has singled out Burma as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ severely violating religious freedom of its citizens. In Chin State, where the inhabitants are overwhelmingly Christians, restrictive and discriminatory measures are still actively in place for Christian churches. The SPDC has still not lifted conditions placed on Christian communities to freely construct or renovate church buildings and religious sites. Christian crosses erected beside major towns in Chin State have been removed one after another by order of high ranking military and administrative officials. As recently as in January of 2005, one of the last remaining crosses planted by local churches near Matupi town of southern Chin State was removed by direct order of Colonel San Aung, the second highest ranking military official in Chin State, prompting an international protest by Chin communities worldwide and condemnation by international religious organizations and rights groups.

Torture, Arbitrary Arrests and Extrajudicial Executions

The State Peace and Development Council routinely arbitrarily arrests, tortures and even executes civilians suspected of involvement with, or being sympathetic to, ethnic opposition groups, in violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to which Burma is a party. In December of 2005, Colonel San Aung, military commander of Chin State’s southern region, and Vice Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council for Chin State, reportedly issued a direct order instructing troops under his command to ‘eliminate’ any civilians with suspected ties to Chin rebels. On 15 December, 2005, a 17 year-old local boy was summarily executed by Burmese troops from Light Infantry Battalion (140). Information received by Chin Human Rights Organization on February 1, 2006 describes the incident as follows;

A boy, identified as Maung Yan Naing Soe, was picked up at his native village of Hringthang and brought to Rezua Town by government troops by order of Lt. Colonel Ye Myint during the first week of December 2005. The Burmese troop also took along the boy’s stepfather.

On 15 December, the two civilians were taken to a secluded hill, located just one mile outside of Rezua. Upon arrival, the stepfather was made to dig the ground with a hoe. Seeing his stepfather tired and exhausted from digging, the boy volunteered to take over. The troops commanded the stepfather to walk home. Moments later, the stepfather heard two rounds of gunfire.

A childhood friend of the murdered boy who wished not to be identified by name explained. “Although I did not witness the execution with my own eyes, I am certain they murdered my friend. I’ve tried to gather as much information as I could on this incident. The stepfather’s account and words from the Battalion corroborated the fact that he was actually executed in cold blood.” He said villagers of the boy’s native place have already performed rites and built a grave for the boy in his village.

On 14 November 2005, a Chin villager accused of supporting rebels was severely tortured by Burmese soldiers under the command of Lt. Thant Zin Oo from Light Infantry Battalion (268).

A local villager (identity withheld), reporting the incident to Chin Human Rights Organization, identified the tortured victim as Ngun Hu, a 32 year-old civilian from Zephai (B) village. He was accused of delivering a letter for Chin National Army. “The cruelty inflicted on him was so severe he might not become a normal person again, that is if he ever recovers at all,” explained the unnamed villager. “All his front teeth were knocked down and the extreme swelling in his face makes him unable to even open his eyes,” he said of the victim’s condition.

The victim was reportedly carried to a local clinic by his relatives. But Lt. Thant Zin Oo threatened to send him to jail in Thanglang instead. Only impassioned plea by his relatives deterred the Lieutenant from imprisoning his victim. “He would probably be dead had he been sent to jail in that condition,” the village said. Each household from the victim’s native village donated Kyats 100 for his medical treatment.

Pu Hmet Lian, telephone operator from Salen village in Thantlang Township was beaten to death by the Burmese army on 18, March 2005.

Captain Aung Naing Oo and his troop from Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion (266) came to Salaen village on the night of March 18 to look for the village Administration Officer Tin Uk. At around midnight, the Burmese Captain and his troops summoned village council members and the headman of the village, along with the village telephone operator Hmet Lian. They were accused of failing to report the activities of the Chin National Front members and supporting the rebels.

Captain Aung Naing Oo and his troops kicked, punched, and smashed the face of Hmet Lian with their riffle butts. Hmet Lian was killed on the spot.  The other four village council members and the headman were also badly beaten and torture by the Burmese troops. The four village council members and the village headman are now in critical condition. According to CHRO source, the village headman is vomiting bloods and he may not survive.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Canada is uniquely placed to lead aggressive international efforts to address growing problems of human rights and democracy in Burma. The recent move of Burmese government’s headquarters from Rangoon to Pyinmana, and the reorganization and strengthening of military power base demonstrates a willingness on the part of the State Peace and Development Council to consolidate its dictatorial power at all costs, further pushing away any hopes for genuine democratic reforms in Burma. The SPDC unilateral and unceremonious postponement of high level ASEAN Envoy seeking to assist in Burma’s peaceful transition to democracy points to the fact that the SPDC is uninterested in any kind of substantive political dialogue, even with its traditional soft-spoken ASEAN allies, that will pave a way for national reconciliation and democratic transition. Given such conditions, it is increasingly painfully clear that current international measures in place against Burma are not adequate and effective enough to encourage positive change in that country. Efforts to promote human rights and democracy in Burma need to be multi-dimensional—one that embodies effective economic measures with sustained multilateral diplomatic pressure exerted on the regime.

The passage of Burma Motion on May 18, 2005 by the Parliament provided a legal basis for the Government of Canada to aggressively act on Burma. The United States Congress has already imposed comprehensive economic sanctions on Burma in order to encourage speedy transition to democracy. A broader and more effective economic pressure from the international community is needed to produce any significant result in Burma. To this end, Canada should implement fully recommendations made by the previous Parliament in the Burma Motion. More specifically, as recommended in the Burma Motion, the Government of Canada should review the effectiveness of the Export and Import Act to ensure that Burma’s military regime does not profit from lenient measures and legal loopholes. Efforts need to be focused on the economic and financial resources of the military junta, which enable and sustain repressive machinery to operate in Burma.

Canada should also use its influence to persuade current members of the United Nations Security Council, especially those undecided non-permanent members to support a Security Council resolution on Burma.

Human Rights Situation in Chinland
By
Chin Human Rights Organization
Submitted to
Professor Paulo Sergeo Pinheiro
UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar

Introduction:
The Chin Human Rights Organization is an independent non-governmental human rights organization. It aim is to protect and promote human rights among the Chin people, and to contribute to the movement for the restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma. Founded in 1995, CHRO has worked to document the human rights situations of the Chin people in Burma’s western region.

It is regret to say that human rights conditions among Burma’s ethnic people, including the Chin people continue to remain a matter of grave concern. Recent the SPDC sentence the two leaders of non-Burman ethnic nationalities Mr. Hkun Htoon Oo, United Nationalities League for Democracy for 92 year and other Shan leaders to 75 years are the evidence of the junta’s lawless practice of power abused.

In fact, human rights conditions of the Chin people have become worse and the number of displaced persons and refugees has increased in recent years. Under the reign of the State Peace and Development Council, the Chin people have continued to experience untold miseries and hardships as a result of the systematic abuse of their fundamental human rights.

There is a direct link between the growing abuse against the Chin people and the increase in militarization of the Chin areas. In the last fifteen years since the regime took over power, the number of army battalions stationed in Chin State has increased up to 10 times. This increase has been accompanied by the rapid acceleration in the level of human rights abuses across Chin State. The kind of human rights violations suffered by the Chins today are the same as those that have been extensively reported among ethnic Karen, Shan, and Karenni on the eastern border. These violations manifest in the forms of arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labor, torture, rape and extrajudicial executions. Moreover, the overwhelming percentage of Christians among the Chin people has also brought abuses in the form of religious persecution. Today, religious persecution is a matter of primary concern among the Chin people.

Since 1999, the US State Department has singled out Burma as a country that systematically violates religious freedom. The annual reports have cited a significant amount of cases of religious persecution involving the Chin people.

Religious Persecution
Religious persecution poses a matter of grave concern among the Chin people. Chin Human Rights Organization, since 1995, has documented a range of human rights abuses by the military regime against the Chin people, including violations of religious freedom.

In December of 2004, Burma hosted a World Buddhists Summit amidst questions about its worthiness to organize such international meeting given the regime’s abysmal record of treating religious minorities and absolute disregard for fundamental human rights. Around the same time that this meeting took place in Rangoon, Burmese troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) desecrated a Christian cross in Matupi of southern Chinland.

On January 3, 2005 a giant Christian cross on top of Mount Boi near Matupi town of Chin State was destroyed by Burmese troops on direct order of Colonel San Aung, one of the highest ranking military commanders in the region. The 50-foot tall concrete cross was erected by local Christians at the cost three and a half million Kyats. After destroying the cross, troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) hoisted a Burmese flag as a sign of victory against Christianity in Chin State where more than 90 percent of the populations are Christians. There are reports the regime is making plans to construct a Buddhist pagoda on the site.

Christian religion has deep root in the Chin society. Since the first Chin conversion in the late 1900 following the arrival of American Baptist missionaries to the Chin Hills, Christianity gradually became accepted by a large majority of the Chin populations, who had practiced traditional animism for centuries. After a century since then, Christianity now is second culture for many Chin people.
Chin people today claim that more than 90 percent of Chins are Christians. Because of the overwhelming importance of Christianity among the Chins, the junta, which strongly identifies itself with Buddhism and has been preoccupied with building national unity has been trying to promote Buddhism over Christianity in Chin State with the belief that once the Chins are converted to Buddhism they can be easily subjugated.

For this reason, the regime has resorted to persecuting the Chins, a drastic action that involves arbitrarily removing Christian crosses erected by churches on hilltops throughout Chin State and openly directing and supporting coerced conversions of Christians into Buddhism.

Through the Hill Buddhist Mission, a program directly sponsored by the military regime, Buddhist monks have migrated to the Chin State. In every town and major villages in Chin State, the regime has established a Buddhist pagoda and station monks who are closely working with local army battalions. Buddhist pagodas are often built in places where Christian monuments such as crosses have formerly stood, and Christians have been either forced to donate money or forced to build the pagodas.

The regime is putting close scrutiny on preachers and evangelists, and in many instances has made effort to censor the contents of sermons delivered by Christian pastors and ministers. Citing the risk of security, authorities have either not permitted or arbitrarily set the number of people who could attend religious festivals and conferences. Moreover, the regime has still not permitted the printing and publication of Bibles, forcing Chin Christians to quietly bringing Bibles from abroad. In several instances, army authorities have confiscated Chin-language Bibles imported from India, and burnt or destroyed them.

Construction of new church buildings is prohibited and Christians must obtain prior authorization for even renovation of church buildings. These are all in stark contrast to the freedoms enjoyed by monks and Buddhists whose activities are openly supported, and encouraged by authorities. Several reports documented by CHRO show that army patrols have deliberately used Church compounds for shelter and camps, and have purposefully disturbed Church services by entering into churches during Sunday worship services.

The regime has also targeted Christian leaders by falsely implicating and accusing them of supporting anti-government groups, and has jailed and tortured many pastors. Pastor Grace, a woman Baptist minister was accused of providing accommodation to Chin rebels and sentenced to 2 years in prison with hard labor in 2001.[6] In remote villages and other rural areas in Chin State, army units on patrols have frequently mistreated, assaulted and tortured Christian pastors.

Coerced conversions of Christian families and children have also been reported in several parts of Chin State. Those who convert to Buddhism were exempted from forced labor and given special privileges. Local authorities have frequently recruited Christian children under the pretext of giving them formal education in cities. As recently as early this year, five Christian children, between the ages of 7 and 18 years old from Matupi township of Chin State, who had been placed in monasteries in Rangoon, escaped confinement in Buddhist temples where they have been forced to follow Buddhist teachings.

Restriction on the use and teaching of Chin language

Under the military regime, the teaching of Chin language in school is prohibited. In elementary schools, the permitted level of teaching Chin language is grade 2. Publications of textbooks in Chin are not provided for by the government and Christian churches are forced to bear the burden of supplying these texts. Chin school teachers of all levels of high school in Chin State are instructed to use Burmese as a medium of communication with their students. This measure has greatly diminished the level of understanding by the students in school and has served to downgrade student performance. Since the mid 1990s, the new curriculum is dominated by perspectives of Burmese or Burman culture and history, and students have complained about the lack of substance that reflects ethnic Chin perspectives in the subject. This has also been seen as an open attempt to assimilate the Chin youth into mainstream Burman culture.

Because of the limited number of government schools available for the Chin populations in Chin State, communities in rural villages have set up private schools to allow the children access to primary education. Unsupported by the government, villages have to seek their own means of running the school by contributing money and resources for the schools. However, since 1998, the regime has banned these self-supported private schools, depriving many children in rural communities of primary education. It should be noted that because these private schools are not under direct control of the government, they were able to offer alternative learning in Chin language. Restriction on the learning of Chin language has already taken its toll on the Chin youth. A high percentage of Chin teenagers are not able to read and write in their own language. This has been exacerbated by the fact that many Chin children look down on their own language and had instead chosen to use Burmese.

Forced Labor
Burma has claimed that it has outlawed the practice of forced labor in 2001. However, independent investigations into this claim have found the pervasiveness and the continued use of forced labor in the Chin State. Local army battalions have routinely exacted forced labor from villagers and rural communities in building roads, army camps, development infrastructures and agricultural projects. In major townships of Chin state such as Hakha, Falam, Matupi and Thantlang, civilians are being routinely forced to work at government tea plantation farms. The report titled “THE FORCED LABOR PANDEMIC IN CHINLAND” is attached for your information.

Political Suppression
The Chin people are not represented in the central, state and local administration under the military regime. After the regime nullified the results of the 1990 elections, all Chin political parties were declared illegal. These political parties include the Chin National League for Democracy (CNLD), the Mara Peoples Party (MPP) and Zomi National Congress (ZNC) Party. Subsequent crackdowns on political dissidents have forced 3 of the 13 Chin Members of Parliament to flee the country while 2 others were arrested and imprisoned for several years. Since early 1990s, the entire Chin populations have forced to live under virtual curfew. Dozens of civilians accused of supporting, Chin National Front, underground movement were arrested, tortured and imprisoned under the Unlawful Association Act. Civilians charged under this act are routinely tortured in interrogating chambers. According to a former a woman prisoner, she was humiliated, tortured and deprived of food and sleep for one week before she was arbitrarily sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Refugees
In the year since the military regime took over power in 1988, about 60,000 Chin refugees have fled to India, Bangladesh and Malaysia. At least 50,000 Chin refugees have lived in Mizoram State of northeast India. Neither the Government of India nor the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized them as refugees. As a result Chin refugees have frequently been forced back to Burma. Since July 19, 2003 a campaign by local Indian youth groups, with the cooperation of Indian authorities have resulted in the forcible evictions and the return of thousands of Chin refugees to Burma.

The need for protection and humanitarian assistance of Chin refugees in Malaysia is no less important. Over the past few years, more than 12,000 Chin refugees have also sought sanctuary in Malaysia. Like the Chin refugees in India, they are identified as ‘illegals’ and risk frequent arrest and deportation by Malaysian authorities. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recognized only a very small fraction of Chin refugees.

Conclusion
The problems faced by Burma’s ethnic groups, including the Chin people are the direct consequence of military rule and its campaign of State organized terrorism directed primarily against the ethnic people who constitute more than 40% of the country’s population. Today, the Chin people and all the ethnic people are fighting for our very survival as a people. Our cultural, ethnic and religious identities are being rapidly eroded, and our very survival as a people is being threatened by the policies of ethnic cleansing relentlessly conducted by the military regime.

The sufferings of the ethnic nationalities could only be remedied through fundamental change in the political system, a change that would allow the ethnic people equitable representation in the decision-making process of the country. Time is passing and innocent lives are being lost. The international community needs to take effective and urgent actions on Burma before the problems develop into an irreversible stage.

Thank You.
Chin Human Rights Organization

November 17, 2005

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Public Hearing
After the Saffron Revolution, Repression, and the U.S. Policy Option for Burma”

Statement By Salai Bawi Lian Mang of Chin Human Rights Organization

Washington DC-December 3, 2007

Thank you. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman and the honorable commission.

A few months ago, the world witnessed how the Burmese military regime, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) ruthlessly persecuted Buddhist monks in the street of Rangoon. The whole world was shocked.

In fact, the SPDC have been systematically persecuting religious minority groups such as Chin Christians for decades. I am honored to be invited to this important hearing to tell how the military junta in Burma has systematically persecuted Chin Christians who inhabit Burma’s western territory of Chin State or Chinland.

My name is Salai Bawi Lian from Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO). I am an ethnic Chin from Burma.

When I and my colleagues founded Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), our intention was to document all incidents of human rights abuses against Chin people without focusing on a single issue. However, as time went on, it was quickly obvious that the issue of religious persecution was a matter of great concern to us. At least one piece of information in the reports that we gathered for our bimonthly newsletter, Rhododendron News, has had to do religious persecution against Chin Christians. The CHRO eventually published a book “Religious Persecution: A Campaign of Ethnocide Against Chin Christian in Burma” in 2005 that can be downloaded from CHRO website at www.chro.org

When I look back the record of CHRO documentation for the past 12 years, its begin with the news about 5 Chin Christian children lured and forced to become young Buddhist monks and nuns in 1995 and the last information report we received as recently as last month November 2007 that Chin Christian students in one particular town of Chin state are regularly forced to observe Buddhist merit making in the middle of the week that the entire school have to be closed on official school day. Then the entire school has to make up their missing day on Saturday.

The SPDC and successive Burmese military regime have been systematically persecuting Chin Christians for decades that the SPDC;

* Prohibit construction of Churches, Destroyed Crosses and Replaced With Pagodas or Statue of Buddhist Monk
* After 1990s the Chins never get permit to construct Churches
* Destroyed most Crossed planted in towns and replaced with Buddhist pagodas or Buddhist monk statue
* The order to destroy cross usually come from the highest military rank in the region
* The largest Cross remaining, 50 foot tall, in Chin State was destroyed in 2005 with direct order from the highest military commander in Chin State.

Censor Christian Literature and Publication

* Since 1962 the Chin Christians never get permission to print the Holy Bible in their own language in Burma
* In the year 2000 the CHRO received a report that 16,000 Bibles was confiscated by the SPDC in the India-Burma border town of Tamu.
* The Chins are prohibited to learn their own language in their own homeland.

Target Clergy

* Christian pastors and ministers are highly respected among the Chin people
* They are highly respected as intermediaries between God and the congregations.
* The dignitary position of pastors and ministers made jealousy of the military regime that they are the first targets in the regime’s campaign against Chin Christians
* Rev. Zaangkholet and three of the village elders were brutally killed. Rev. Luai Thang was humiliated and brutally killed. Several other pastors and minister have been humiliated and arrested.

Restrict on Freedom of Assembly and Worship

* All Christians gathering and conference including religious festival require prior authorization by the Military regime.
* The regime usually impose many restrictions.
* In some occasion the sermon had to be approved by the authority.

Discriminate Based on Ethnicity and Religion

* Christians with non-Burman ethnic background can not be promoted in high ranking government official.
* In the Army Chin Christian can not be promoted beyond Major rank unless they converted to Buddhism.
* There are 3 categories (A, B, and C) designated for those who can not be promoted in the rank. A stands for AIDS symptom, B stands for Hepatitis B and C stands for Christians.

Selective Forced Labor

* Forced labor is a widespread practice in Burma.
* However, forced labor is specifically directed against Chin Christians in order to coerce them into converting to Buddhism.
* Those who converts to Buddhism are exempted from forced labor while Christians are forced to work on Sundays.

State Sponsor Expansion of Buddhism

* Since early 1990s the Burmese military regime created Hill Region Buddhist Mission and send many Buddhist monks to Chin state.
* Chin Christians are forced to contribute labor, money for construction of Buddhist monasteries and Pagodas, and forced to listen the Buddhist monk sermons.
* Many Chin Christians children have been lured to provide education in a bigger town. However Children are later found to be in Buddhist monasteries with their head shaven to become novice Buddhist monks.

A People and Culture at Stake

* Due to militarization and human rights violations committed by the Burmese military regime against Chin Christians, many can not longer survive.
* There are 60 thousands Chin refugees living in India.
* There are between 25 thousands Chin refugees living in Malaysia
* The Chin people are facing untold poverty and humanitarian crisis

Recommendation

* Needed national reconciliation through dialogue
* Needed to implement Broad Based Constitutional Review Commission proposed by UN Special Envoy Mr. Ibrahim Gambari
* Needed to implement Broad Based Poverty Alleviation Commission

Thank you very much.

Salai Bawi Lian Mang
Director
Chin Human Rights Organization
www.chro.org

 

 

For immediate release:

Canadian Friends of Burma

 

100,000 People Facing Famine On Western Burma

 

Ottawa (July 21, 08) – Approximately 100,000 people in Chin State of Burma that borders with India are facing a serious food crisis due to the mass flowering of bamboo and the subsequent explosion of rat population that destroy basic crops and paddy fields in the area. Chin State covers 13,907 square kilometres and roughly one fifth of that area is covered with bamboo.

 

A advocacy team consists of leading Chin activists is now in Ottawa to draw attention from Canadian policy-makers, civil society organizations and public on the unusual natural phenomenon that occurs every 50 years in Chin State of Burma and the bordering Mizoram State in India. There is a traditional saying “When the bamboo flowers, famine, death and destruction will soon follow.” In 1959, bamboo flowering in Mizoram State led to one of the most powerful insurgencies against the Indian Union government that lasted two decades.

 

“The situation is at a critical point,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, the head of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), which is closely monitoring the situation. “The people of Chin State are on the brink of starvation.” he added.

 

Salai Victor Lian, a prominent Chin political figure working with Burma’s Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) pointed out, “The people in the western border of Burma had little assistance from international community while Eastern border of Burma have been enjoying International supports.” Before his arrival in Ottawa two weeks ago, he was in the United Kingdom, meeting with ministers and senior government officials.

 

Recently, Chin activists in India formed Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee and started to take necessary action to help the people in Chin State. Meanwhile, well known singers including Sung Tin Par from Burma and Mizoram State are performing a series of music concerts in three Southeast Asian countries – Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to raise funds for famine stricken people in Chin state.

 

The Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB), the national organization working for Burma, is also working with CHRO to highlight the situation in Canada. For more info, please contact Salai Victor Lian at 613-796-9514 or office of Canadian Friends of Burma at 613-237-8056

To find out more information on the crisis, please see http://www.chinrelief.org/

 

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles