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20 March 2012

Burma Army Soldiers Disrupt Christian Conference;
Threaten MP at Gunpoint in Burma’s Chin State

[Chiang Mai, Thailand]  Burma Army soldiers disrupted a Christian conference and threatened an MP at gunpoint in western Burma’s Chin State, the Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.

The incident took place on 10 March during a gathering of more than 1,000 delegates from 80 local branches of the Mara (Chin) Evangelical Church at Sabawngte village in a remote area of Matupi township, southern Chin State, close to Burma’s border with India.  Organizers of the event had obtained prior permission for the event from the Matupi Township General Administrative Office, in accordance with tight controls in place in Chin State over Christian gatherings.

Eyewitnesses reported to CHRO that several Burma Army soldiers including Captain Aung Zaw Hteik and Captain Myo Min Hteik from Matupi-based Light Infantry Battalion 140, who are stationed at an army camp in the village, disrupted the gathering and rebuked the village headman for not reporting the event to the army camp.

Pu Van Cin, a Member of Parliament from the Ethnic National Development Party elected to the Chin State parliament in Burma’s November 2010 elections, saw the soldiers confronting the village headman.  He tried to intervene and introduced himself as an MP to the officers. According to witnesses, Captain Aung Zaw Hteik was in uniform but Captain Myo Min Hteik, who is in charge of Sabawngte army camp, was only wearing civilian clothes.  Captain Myo Min Hteik pointed a gun at Pu Van Cin’s stomach and said, “I don’t give a [expletive] about you being a Member of Parliament. We are not under the control of the Chin State authorities.  We take orders from the North Western Regional Command.”  

The soldiers continued to disrupt the conference for the rest of the day by patrolling in the village.  At night-time, they stepped up their intimidation. Captain Myo Min Hteik, this time in full military uniform and carrying his gun, entered the makeshift church as the worship service was about to begin.  10 other soldiers stood guard around the church.  The soldiers spent the night in the village and returned to their camp the next day.  The conference then continued without further disruption.

CHRO’s Program Director Salai Za Uk Ling said, “It is very difficult for Chin Christians to hold large gatherings without harassment and disruption. As far as we know, no legal or disciplinary action has been taken against these soldiers from LIB140.  They violated the right to freedom of religious assembly and threatened a Chin MP in front of dozens of witnesses, and clearly believe they are above the law.  This incident highlights the problem of impunity in Burma, especially for members of the armed forces.”

The ethnic Chin from Burma are estimated to be 90 percent Christian. Religious freedom violations – often cross-cutting with other human rights abuses, including the torture and ill-treatment of Chin Christians at the hands of Burma Army soldiers – have been well-documented by CHRO and other human rights groups. The 2011 report Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State by US-based Physicians for Human Rights found that 14 percent of households surveyed had experienced group persecution on the basis of their ethnicity (Chin) and/or religion (Christian).  The US State Department has designated Burma a country of particular concern since 1999 for its poor record on religious freedom.

Although armed resistance group the Chin National Front signed a preliminary ceasefire agreement with the Chin State government in January this year, Chin State remains heavily militarized, with 54 Burma Army camps stationed in all nine main township areas of the state.


For media interviews, please contact:

Salai Za Uk Ling, CHRO Program Director (English and Burmese): +66 89 218 0793
Rachel Fleming, CHRO Advocacy Director (English) +66 86 211 0732

Notes to editors:

1.    The conference took place from 8-13 March 2012 in Sabawngte village, Matupi township, southern Chin State.
2.    The Ethnic National Development Party has one MP, Pu Van Cin, elected from the Mara area of Matupi township (Matupi-2 constituency) to the Chin State parliament in the November 2010 elections.

3.    The definition of ‘group persecution’ used by Physicians for Human Rights in their 2011 report is drawn from article 7.2(g) of the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: “ ‘Persecution’ means the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity”.

About the Chin Human Rights Organization

The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) is a non-governmental, non-profit advocacy organization legally registered in Canada. It was formed in 1995 on the India-Burma border by a group of Chin activists committed to promoting democracy in Burma, and documenting previously unreported human rights abuses being perpetrated against the Chin people by the Burma Army and local authorities, instruments of the State. CHRO is the primary rights-based advocacy organization for the Chin.
About the Chin people of Burma

Around 500,000 ethnic Chin live in the northwestern area of Chin State in Burma.  The Chin are ethnically very diverse. The six main tribes of Aso, Cho (Sho), Khuami (M’ro), Laimi, Mizo (Lushai), and Zomi (Kuki) can be further broken up into at least 60 different sub-tribal categories, including the Mara. The Chin speak more than 20 mutually distinct languages. Despite such diversity, the Chin are unified through a common history, geographical homeland, traditional practices, ethnic identity and religion.

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7 September 2011

Burma’s Chief Minister of Chin State Orders Forced Labour

[Chiang Mai, Thailand] The Chief Minister of Burma’s Chin State has ordered forced labour in the capital Hakha, the Chin Human Rights Organization has  learned.

For the past month civil servants in Hakha have been forced to perform manual labour to clear various areas around the town, including the site of a Union Government guesthouse which is being rebuilt, and the roadside that leads up to the Burma Army base of Light Infantry Battalion 266 on top of Rungtlang or Mount Rung.

A civil servant, who cannot be named for security reasons, told CHRO that Chief Minister Hung Ngai has threatened the civil servants with a salary cut if they fail to perform the labour every Saturday morning. The civil servant added, “It rained very heavily the last two Saturdays, but we still had to do the work.  Some people even got sick as a result.”

In late July, Hung Ngai also ordered more than 100 ordinary residents living around the State Parliament building in Hakha to clear the compound of the Union Government guesthouse. The residents were threatened with a monetary fine of 3,000 kyats if they failed to show up for work.  A local man forced to participate told CHRO, “They called us for forced labor when we should be working for our own survival. I had to miss out on work for my livelihood that day because of the forced labour.”

CHRO has also documented incidents of portering in Falam and Thantlang townships in recent weeks.  On 8 August, three high school students were forced to carry very heavy loads for an army unit from Light Infantry Battalion 266 a distance of 18 miles, from Congthia village to Thantlang town.

These latest orders come after the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) official awareness-raising workshop in Hakha in May about the illegality of forced labour, attended by more than 160 people, including general administrative officials, judges, police, and Burma Army personnel.
CHRO’s Program Director Salai Za Uk Ling said, “All officials in Chin State have been made aware that forced labour is illegal, and that those who order it are liable to be punished under the law.  Chief Minister Hung Ngai should be setting a positive example to the officials under his command.  Instead, he seems to consider himself above the law and is confident that he can act with total impunity.”

Yesterday, the authorities in Burma announced the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, whose members are former diplomats, retired civil servants and professionals drawn from various fields including law. 

Salai Za Uk Ling continued, “This seems like the latest move by Thein Sein’s administration to convince the international community that it is making positive changes.  But we have yet to see any concrete improvements in the human rights situation on the ground in Chin State.  Are we really going to see the new human rights body investigate and hold powerful ministers like Hung Ngai to account?  We believe that a UN-mandated independent, impartial Commission of Inquiry into grave human rights violations in Burma is the only way to end the culture of impunity.”

For media interviews, please contact:

Salai Za Uk Ling, CHRO Program Director (Burmese and English): +66 89 218 0793
Rachel Fleming, CHRO Advocacy Director (English) +66 86 211 0732

Notes to editors:

1.    The photos show civil servants working to clear the site of the Union Government guesthouse in Hakha, which is being rebuilt.  The red building in the background is the Chin State parliament building, where Hung Ngai has his office. Please cite the Chin Human Rights Organization as the source.
2.    A January 2011 report by Physicians for Human Rights, Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State, found that almost 92% of people surveyed had been subjected to at least one incident of forced labour in the year before February/March 2010.  See


21 May 2011

[Chiang Mai, Thailand] The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) today welcomes the visit this week by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to Chin State to raise awareness about the issue of forced labor with the local authorities. In a State where more than 90 percent of the people have been subjected to forced labor by the authorities , the ILO’s visit was both timely and appropriate. CHRO considers this an important first step towards tackling the issue of forced labor in Chin State.

The ILO’s awareness-raising event took place in the capital Hakha on Wednesday, 18 May– the first of such event in northern Chin State – with more than 160 officials across the State participating. They included general administrative officials, judges, police and Burma Army personnel. CHRO is encouraged to learn that the authorities have agreed to distribute the ILO complaint mechanism booklets to the wider population.

In this context, the Burmese authorities have a unique opportunity to demonstrate their commitment by taking proactive and concrete actions to crackdown on the practice of forced labor. Actions should be taken to enforce existing domestic laws that criminalize the requisition of forced labor by both civilian authorities and the military, and by taking advantage of the ILO’s expertise and assistance in ending the practice of forced labor in the State.

“We hope that the ILO awareness program has positive impacts on the Chin people. On the one hand, the authorities, including the Burma Army have been clearly informed that it is both illegal to impose forced labor and to punish people for reporting forced labor incident. On the other hand, we hope that more Chin people feel empowered to exercise their right to make official complaint to the ILO against the imposition of forced labor by the authorities,” says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of CHRO.

In Chin State, the Burmese military is the primary institution responsible for the widespread and systematic use forced labor. The Burma Army still exacts forced labor to construct roads and military camps, and forcibly recruits civilian for porters and militia service, on a widespread basis and with complete impunity.

•    Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion No. 55 based in Sinletwa village of Paletwa Township, Chin State forced locals from a total of 13 villages to perform night sentry duty in each village from 18 February 2011.

•    On 25 March 2011, Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion No. 140 patrolling in Matupi Township of Chin State forcibly ordered 16 locals including a 16-year-old boy from Khuangan village to carry their military equipment.

•    Starting from the third week of March 2011, over 50 civilians from Thantlang and Hakha towns were forced to undertake militia training for over two weeks.




19 January 2011


[Geneva,  Switzerland]  The  Chin  Human  Rights  Organization  (CHRO)  today  welcomed  a  new  report published by Nobel Peace Prize winning organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), “Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State.”

Using innovative population-based methods to document human rights violations in all nine townships of Chin State, researchers found that almost 92 percent of households surveyed had experienced forced labour at least once in the year prior to interviews.   

Other key issues highlighted in the report include religious and ethnic persecution, rape, torture, arbitrary detention, disappearances, and recruitment of child soldiers by the military regime.  In addition, the report illustrates how pillaging, forced cultivation of inedible crops such as jatropha (physic nut), forced labour and portering for the Burma army all directly contribute to chronic food insecurity.

CHRO is in Geneva to call on the international community to ask tough questions of Burma’s ruling State Peace and Development Council on its human rights record during the first Universal Periodic Review of Burma under  the United Nations Human Rights Council.      

In  its  submission  to  the  review process,  the organization  reported  over  seventy  separate  incidents  of  forced  labour  over  the  four-year  review period, some involving orders to forty villages at a time.

“These new  findings  corroborate CHRO’s  own documentation  of human  rights violations  over  the past fifteen years in Chin State. They shed further light on the widespread and systematic nature of the abuses inflicted on the Chin people by the authorities in Burma, with complete impunity,” said Salai Ling, CHRO’s Program Director.  

CHRO reiterated its support for a UN Commission of Inquiry into grave human rights violations in Chin State and the rest of Burma.

“A  UN-led  impartial,  independent  and  thorough  investigation  into  these  crimes  is  essential  to  end  the culture  of  impunity  in  Burma.    It will  also  deter  further  human  rights  violations.    Ultimately,  such  an investigation  is  not  just  about  accountability,  it’s  about  improving  the  lives  of  people  across  Burma,”
continued Salai Ling.


To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles