Monday, 10 August 2015 10:10 Written by  Chinland Guardian
Published in Interviews

Food shortages feared in Tonzang Township: Interview with Mungte

10 August 2015: Tonzang is one of the nine townships in Chin State seriously affected by landslides and flash floods caused by recent heavy rains. However, the humanitarian situation in the State’s western part still remains under-reported because of limited communication facilities and road destruction.

Mungte, a Tonzang resident and leading community member who has been actively involved in helping the victims, talked with the Chinland Guardian about updates on the ground.

Chinland Guardian: We have not heard much about the situation in Tonzang township. Tell us more about it.
Mungte: Tonzang is affected by flash floods which swept away many bridges, including the major one over Manipur river. Therefore, Tonzang will be isolated until temporary bridges are constructed. The estimated time to restore transportation to Tonzang is one month. People started buying basic commodities soon after they had heard about the destruction of bridges. So, rice and fuel have been out of stock. Consequently, low income families are most affected as they cannot afford to purchase in large quantities.

The main water pipe to the town was also destroyed by landslides and rain water has become the primary water source.

Old Nakzang village was badly hit. It lost 24 out of 29 houses in the village to flash floods. All paddy fields were destroyed and covered by sand and rock. It will not be possible for the villagers to use their paddy fields again. The majority of the village, including children, has moved to Lungtak village for shelter and food. They will need to find another location to build a new village. About 120 people are in urgent need of drinking water, shelter and food. Local donors are reaching them but only when the stream can be traversed.

New Nakzang village lost five houses and paddy fields to flash floods. Children will not be able to go to school until a new bridge is constructed as the school is situated on the other side of Manipur river. They are also in urgent need of drinking water.

Khamzang village and Takzang village will have to be relocated because of the landslides. The villagers are currently staying at the nearby villages of Lungtak, Phaitu and Salzang for shelter and food.

Chinland Guardian: We are aware that it is not easy to get accurate data and information because of communication problems. But can you update us on the amount of damage and the number of people affected as far as you can?
Mungte: At least 100 households are affected and nearly 500 people are displaced in four villages. According to the Tonzang Township General Administration Department, flash floods affected 28 houses, 90 households and 594 people, and destroyed 20 bridges, 16 roads (accessible by car and bike) and 1,003.30 acres of paddy fields; and landslides damaged 62 houses.

Chinland Guardian: How are the victims taken care of? What about women and children? And do they receive any assistance?
Mungte: Affected people are generally given temporary shelter at school and church buildings. No other site arranged for rescue camps has been found.

Food items and drinking water have been supplied to affected villages by various local donors through individual contribution. However, the minimum requirements are not met.

Children are still going to schools in nearby villages where they are given shelter.

Chinland Guardian: Have you received any humanitarian assistance from the authorities or any organizations?
Mungte: Ar Yone Oo, a non-governmental social development organization, provided rice, oil and chickpeas for affected villages. It is so far the most active organization that has taken immediate action toward helping the victims.

Donated rice from Ar Yone Oo and religious organizations are distributed in town under the management of the General Administration Department.

People will run out of food and drinking water in a few days if the main roads and bridges are not reconstructed soon.

Chinland Guardian: So, people are running out of basic needs?
Mungte: Yes, rice cannot be purchased in town and it is heard that donors are trying to send rice bags to Tonzang. However, it still depends on the road situation – in order to get humanitarian aid to Tonzang.

Chinland Guardian: What are the urgent needs of the people?
Mungte: 1. Rice 2. Food items 3. Aqua tab, water purification substances and sanitation aids 4. Latrine 5. First Aid kits and essential medical supplies, and 6. Shelter support

Chinland Guardian: What would you suggest I do if I want to make donations or help victims in Tonzang?
Mungte: The first priority is food items, water and sanitation supports. You should contact local civil society organizations and Ar Yone Oo. The second is construction materials for affected villages.

For giving any help or support, please contact the following:

Sister Thawn Niang, Roman Catholic Church in Tonzang on 0947173021, 0973203137
Khup Bawi, Ar Yone Oo, on 0949581841
Tonzang Township General Administration Department on 0947172040
Chinland Guardian: Share with us the overall situation.
Mungte: Overall, we might say that Tonzang is less damaged than any other townships in Chin State. But communication and transportation are significantly more difficult. Limited communication channels have left the township mute until now. Cell phones used are MPT 450 MHz, through which there can be no internet access. There are no public internet shops. And as yet, there is no media run by local groups or associations.

Soon after the heavy monsoon rain, known as cyclone ‘Komen’, had hit Chin State, landslides and flash floods swept away major transportation routes including bridges, hence blocking the roads to Tonzang. There will be shortages of food and drinking water in a few days if there is no humanitarian aid or support from inside and outside Myanmar. We need you and Tonzang needs your support.

By ALEC SCOTT, FLORA BAWI MAWI & LIAN BAWI THANG| Tuesday, August 11, 2015 |

RANGOON — Remote Paletwa Township in southwestern Chin State has been one of the hardest hit and most underreported jurisdictions of Burma’s four states and divisions declared disaster zones on July 31, with supply shortages and mass displacement going largely unaddressed in the government’s response to the flooding crisis of recent weeks.

Since late July, the township’s main supply routes have been severed by extreme flooding along the Kaladan River, preventing most waterborne traffic between Kyauktaw in Arakan State and Paletwa town, the township’s main distribution center. The road at the town of Ann in eastern Arakan State, a major trade gateway between Sittwe, Kyauktaw and the rest of eastern Burma, has been blocked by landslides, further isolating Paletwa, which is heavily reliant on trade passing through Kyauktaw. The cumulative impact of these severed linkages has been to render Paletwa Township one of the most inaccessible areas affected by the flooding, which has killed at least 99 people nationwide since mid-July.

In Paletwa Township, the Khumi Media Group reported last week that a total of 880 households from 22 villages had been affected during the floods, including five schools and three bridges. According to the Paletwa Township Flood Victim Committee, information arriving from 15 more villages in the township as of Saturday had brought the number of households affected by the floods to 973—roughly 5,000 people—while two more schools, two religious buildings and two additional bridges are reported to have been damaged. These figures, accounting for just 37 out of 385 villages in the township, are likely to rise as more information from the hard-hit jurisdiction filters out.

In Paletwa town, a total of 247 households, comprising a quarter of all households, have been inundated by the Kaladan River’s swollen waters, which have reportedly reached several meters above normal levels, while landslides are reported to have damaged or destroyed 14 homes.

According to a Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) field worker based in Paletwa, although there has been no rain in the town since early last week, monsoon season storms farther north have meant floodwaters continue to rise in the township. The Kaladan River enters Chin State from the state of Mizoram in northeast India. Its watershed area has borne a heavy load from Cyclone Komen, which brought torrential rains to the region late last month, including major tributaries in Thantlang and Falam townships. Much of this water will flow through Paletwa as the deluge slowly drains into the Bay of Bengal.

Although Paletwa has been recognized as being among the worst hit townships in the country, neither the Burmese government nor international aid groups have prioritized the township in their disaster response. While destruction wrought by landslides in the Chin State capital Hakha has drawn much attention, responses to the situation Paletwa have been relatively muted. The scale of the damage and the struggles of many of Paletwa’s residents, totaling 97,593 people according to last year’s census, remain largely unknown and unseen.

The plight of 356 ethnic Khumi Chin villagers displaced by armed conflict in late March is also unknown. The villagers, half of whom are children, had sought temporary shelter in Laung Tin village after armed clashes between the government and Arakan Army troops forced them from their village at Pyin So.

Local Relief Effort

In response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis, three locally initiated committees have been established to raise awareness among aid organizations that may support the coordination of relief in Paletwa. However, as only a trickle of relief aid from INGOs and UN agencies has thus far reached Paletwa, the committees have themselves taken up the role of humanitarian relief workers.

“People in Paletwa Township need urgent humanitarian assistance. Therefore, the Chin State government should allow INGOs and UN agencies to freely operate humanitarian assistance in Paletwa Township without any negotiation needed with the government,” urged the chief communications officer from the Paletwa Township Flood Victim Committee, who asked that his name be withheld.

On Tuesday, he confirmed that 1,400 sacks of rice arrived in Kyauktaw the day prior, delivered by a coalition relief team from the UN World Food Program and local NGO Myanmar Enhancement to Empower Tribals (MEET). A portion of that aid reached Paletwa on Tuesday morning.

In Paletwa town, more than 1,000 residents are taking refuge at local schoolhouses, churches and monasteries. For the moment the displaced residents of Paletwa are surviving on daily donations from the local community. Residents displaced from communities outside of the town had not yet made it to the township’s capital as of Tuesday.

‘Business as Usual Will Not Do’

“How will the government respond?” asked Dr. Sui Khar, a joint secretary general of the ethnic armed group Chin National Font (CNF), during an emergency press conference held in Rangoon on Wednesday.

“Business as usual will not do,” he added, referring to successive Burmese governments’ neglect of western Chin State.

The message was clear: The government would be judged on the superficiality or substance of its response to the ongoing disaster.

On July 29, the General Administration Department in Paletwa town instituted a four-day ban on boat drivers and traders operating on the Kaladan River, citing safety concerns. Since the prohibition was lifted, larger trading vessels known as “line boats” and smaller motorized canoes have been able to access Kyauktaw, where prices for basic goods are reported to have markedly increased, with rice brokers trading one sack for 30,000 kyats (US$24) 35,000 kyats, while the cost of eggs has doubled.

Paletwa is the poorest township in Burma’s most impoverished state. Approximately 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas, with the vast majority relying on smallholder farms for their livelihoods. Villagers whose farmlands and riverside gardens have been inundated or washed away by the floodwaters now face both short- and long-term crises due to loss of valuable crops, degradation of farmland and the struggle to mobilize resources supporting a sustainable recovery.

Paletwa is also the most isolated township in the state—so isolated that until April this year, it was not connected by road to Chin State’s neighboring townships of Matupi and Kanpetlet, with all major traffic running through Arakan State. Thousands of people in Paletwa are believed to be running out of basic supplies such as food, clothing and potable water, and have either limited or no access to shelter and proper sanitation.

Lack of Transparency Amid Muddy Waters

On Saturday morning, the chief commander of the Western Regional Command, Hla Myint, and the Arakan State Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn arrived by helicopter in Paletwa town. During their 30-minute stay, they are each reported to have donated 7.5 million kyats (US$6,800) worth of food to the General Administration Department.

A CHRO field worker in Paletwa who requested anonymity alluded to the concerns felt in affected communities regarding a lack of government transparency. “The government hasn’t provided any information about what is happening. … We do not know how the government will handle those displaced households whose houses have been washed out with the Kaladan River.”

It is not only houses and crops that have been washed away: A resident in Paletwa interviewed by phone reported that at least two people are known to have drowned in separate incidents near the villages of Oah Ta Lin Wa and Nga Dat.

“Any information regarding what has happened and where, and what kind of arrangements for displaced peoples will be made, what kind of assistance will be provided and how . . . by the township administrative department is not heard. We only heard that they are collecting information,” explained a nun who wished to remain anonymous. “We are afraid to go out from Paletwa and it’s the same for people from other villages to come here because of the torrential Kaladan River.”

At the packed press conference in Rangoon last week, the CNF’s Sui Khar spoke to the heart of the issue: “If I was asked what the main challenge was for the peace process, I would say the lack of trust between the government and armed groups. Therefore, we can start building trust with the government through addressing the disaster together.”

The authors are members of the Rangoon-based Chin Human Rights Organization.

By SALAI THANT ZIN / THE IRRAWADDY| Thursday, August 27, 2015 |

RANGOON — The Chin State government has requested a grant of more than 20 billion kyats (US$15.5 million) from the Union government for rehabilitation projects in the flood-battered northwestern state.

The remote and mountainous region, home to about 478,000 people, suffered severe economic losses due to recent floods and landslides that destroyed some 2,000 of the state’s buildings and damaged many of its roads, further complicating recovery.

“We’ve submitted a proposal to the Union government for more than 20 billion kyats required for rehabilitation,” Chin State Forestry Minister Kyaw Nyein told The Irrawaddy. “We hope the government will grant it as the President [Thein Sein] has said that rehabilitation is imperative in these [severely damaged] places.”

Structures including houses, schools, religious buildings, bridges and government offices were affected by the extreme weather leading up to and throughout the landing of Cyclone Komen in Bangladesh on July 30.

The hardest hit areas were the state capital Hakha, Matupi, Mindat, Paletwa, Tedim and Tonzang, according to the state government. More than 950 buildings were destroyed in Paletwa alone, and more than 800 in Hakha.

The minister said the proposed funding would cover rebuilding of education and health facilities, departmental offices, transport routes and homes. The state has already prepared about 4,000 tons of wood for reconstruction projects, he added.

Transportation of relief materials has been difficult in the wake of the disaster, he said, as the states entire road network suffered serious damage. The state government has already carried out minor repairs on the Kale-Falam-Hakha highway, which links the state capital to central Burma, and the  Hakha-Thantlang road. Both are now open for small vehicles. The Hakha-Matupi and Hakha-Gangaw roads are still out of service, the minister said.

Due to the difficulty of reaching certain areas, the state government is now delivering food aid, makeshift tents and other relief items to Matupi via Mindat and to Paletwa by way of Kyauktaw in neighboring Arakan State.

Recovery efforts are currently focused on delivering food and other essential items, according to the minister, while rebuilding efforts are expected to begin in mid-October at the end of the monsoon season.

At present, the state has registered 375 collapsed or damaged houses in Hakha and another 318 found unfit for habitation. Those households, located in three wards deemed to be in danger of future catastrophe, are to be relocated to another part of the town, according to Hakha Township administrator Thein Zaw.

The relocation site, near the entrance to the capital, was originally slated for a police training academy, will be evaluated and built up for residential purposes as soon as possible, he said.

“It’s not that the entire town needs to be moved,” said Thein Zaw, referring to earlier rumors that the capital could be relocated to another township. “As the Hakha-Gangaw road is still out of commission it is difficult to bring in building materials. We’ll work to build those homes as soon as possible.”

More than 5,000 residents of the capital remain homeless and sheltering at Khaing Hall, No. 1 Basic Education High School, local churches and seven emergency camps throughout the town, locals said, where they are provided with food and tents by the state government.

A grassroots relief movement has also grown out of the ethnic Chin diaspora throughout the region. For in northern Thailand, a fundraiser will be held on Friday, Aug. 28 in Chiang Mai, with proceeds channeled directly to the Chin Committee on Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation.

Thursday, 27 August 2015 01:20 Written by  Thawng Zel Thang ([email protected])
Published in Chin News

24 August 2015 — Hakha residents of Khuahlun ward, completely destroyed by landslides, sighed with relief when President Thein Sein gave the green light to their request.
Van Thawng, State Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Breeding, said during a press conference yesterday that the request by the victims for a new location to resettle had been granted.

“Chief Minister Hung Ngai told the President about the issue when they met in Kalay, Sagaing Region. The President said that what the public had wanted had to be given,” said the Chin minister.

Earlier this month, the Chief Minister had refused their request, saying that the location chosen had been kept aside for construction of new police buildings.

Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, who is visiting Hakha, said: “This is a clear indication of the centralized governing system being practiced in the country. Like other ethnic nationalities, we would like to have a State government that practices a democratic and federal system.”

President Thein Sein cancelled his plan to visit devastated Hakha, the capital, owing to bad weather after having stayed in Kalay, Sagaing Region for over two days.

By FELIZ SOLOMON / THE IRRAWADDY| Thursday, August 27, 2015 |

RANGOON — For those of you in Chiang Mai, you’re well advised to spend your Friday night partying for a good cause at a fundraiser for flood relief efforts in Burma’s remote Chin State.

Featuring live music, theatrical performances, Burmese delicacies and loads of handmade goods for purchase, the event has no cover charge but organizers hope you’ll come prepared to chip in. All proceeds go directly to the Chin Committee on Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CCERR).

The party starts at 6pm on Friday at Sangdee Gallery, kicking off with Southeast Asia sound aficionado DJ Isherferbrains spinning soul, funk and Thai traditional Luk Thung music on 45rpm vinyl. Performances throughout the evening will include an acoustic set of traditional music from northern Burma’s Kachin State.

If you missed Erin Kamler’s musical “Land of Smiles” during its Chiang Mai debut in 2013, here’s your chance. On Friday, Kamler will perform several tracks from her acclaimed critique of anti-human trafficking efforts.

Raffle tickets will be on sale for, among other things, limited edition photographic prints by Brennan O’Connor, must-read books on Burma and unique handmade textiles donated by the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand. Additional items will also be available for purchase.

Event organizer Sam Cartmell promises “a fun night with delicious food and entertaining musical performances,” all for a great cause.

Chin State, in northwestern Burma, was among the hardest hit by flooding related to Cyclone Komen in late July and early August. Regarded as Burma’s poorest state, many of its nearly half a million people were affected, having lost homes, crops and what few roads connected them to trade.

The mountainous region has been particularly hard to access for relief workers; the threat of landslides remains even as ravaged roads and bridges are slowly being repaired by the state government. Lack of access has led to acute food shortages in some of the more remote areas.

Proceeds from Friday’s event will be channeled through the Chin Human Rights Organization directly to the CCERR, which provides immediate humanitarian relief such as food and shelter for thousands of people affected by the crisis.

The CCERR is also involved in a statewide planning effort for long-term reconstruction, and has helped to draft a new multi-level disaster response framework to avoid future dangers for marginalized, at-risk communities.

Sangdee Gallery and Café is located at 5 Sirimankhalajarn Soi 5, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Friday’s event will run from 6 to 10pm. For those who can’t make it but would like to donate directly, please visit

 Friday, 28 August 2015 01:08 Written by  Thawng Zel Thang ([email protected])

28 August 2015 — Landslides, believed to have been triggered by heavy rains starting yesterday, have destroyed houses and graves in Mizoram State, India.

Aizawl, the State’s capital, has been affected, with about 160 tombs in three different cemeteries destroyed, according to the Indian Express today.

It reported that houses had been damaged and that internal city roads had been blocked at several locations.

Lalchhuanawma, secretary of the Young Mizo Association in Seling, was quoted as saying that the Champhai road connecting between Seling and Tuirini had been swept away by landslides.

At least nine separate places had damage reported in the State.

Monday, 31 August 2015 23:58 Written by  Chinland Guardian
Published in Chin News

29 August 2015 — A village called Tuikhingzang, aka Hakhalay, in Tonzang Township, Chin State was struck by mudslides at about 3am in the morning yesterday.

Ngun Lal, a Chin resident in Kalay, Sagaing Region, who went to the scene at dawn, said: “The village has been completely under thick mud and it has got to be abandoned.”

Tuikhingzang, a hillside village bordering Kalay Township, Sagaing Region, is home to 352 people of 66 households.

He said that the mudslides had taken place gradually and that residents had managed to run away from the incident although it had been at night.

“The villagers said that the hill above their village had been affected by recent heavy rains causing landslides and soil erosion. Debris and mud which had been piling up on the hillside had started flowing toward the village, thus flooding the houses,” said Lal, chief editor of the Chin Times, a local newspaper in Kalay.

No one is reported dead and seriously injured.

Some of the victims are taking shelter at a temporary camp built near Thado village in Tonzang Township while others, mostly women and children, are staying at Khampat village and in Kalay with the help of Chin communities and churches.

Hung Ngai, chief minister of the Chin State government, had made a visit to the village, according to government sources.

September 1, 2015 Written by Khonumthung Published in Khonumthung

Dr Sasa, the founder of the Chin community based organisation the Health and Hope Society has, for the second time, donated 500 bags of rice, 500 Kgs of cooking oil, 500 Kgs of dal and 500 Kgs of salt to the flood affected people of southern Chin State.

Dr. SasaThe new donation, which was bought in Assam State in India will be shipped from there and distributed to flood-victims in southern Chin State in September.

Dr Sasa told Khonumthung News: “Now we are distributing Clean Delivery Kits for pregnant women among the flood-affected people in Chin state, we are trying to get these kits to local residents during September 2015”

Dr Sasa said that only $24 million USD has been donated to Burma flood victims from domestic and international sources. This will only support the 20 million flood affected people in Burma for two months. They actually need at least £200 million USD to support them for the next 10 months and $300 million USD to restore their family lives.

So, Dr Sasa will try to raise $300 million USD aid for the Burma flood victims by urgently sending aid agencies data detailing how many people have been affected by the floods and how they have been affected. He will ask for aid from: the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Wold health Organisation (WHO), The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nation’s agencies in the EU, UK, US, Canada, Japan and Australia.

Dr Sasa said: “Without solving this disaster the November elections will not be free and fair. It is very important that we now urgently gather data on the Myanmar flood-victims.”

Edited in English by Mark Inkey for BNI

By Ei Ei Toe Lwin and Ye Mon   |   Thursday, 03 September 2015

The upcoming election may be up to three months late in landslide-ravaged Chin State.

While the official nationwide poll is just 66 days away, the Union Election Commission said it is mulling a request to delay voting in Chin State due to lingering effects of the floods.

“We are thinking about postponing the election in Chin State, but not in all areas. If it is necessary, we think it would be postponed just where there are still difficulties in transportation and communication,” U Tin Aye, the UEC chair, said during a press conference in Yangon yesterday.

The Chin National Democratic Party requested the delay as the impoverished northern state is still struggling to recover from record-setting rains and at least 15,000 residents remain displaced.

“If the commission held the election in Chin State on the set date it would be like approving the 2008 constitution in the wake of Nargis,” said U Zo Zam, chair of the Chin National Democratic Party.

“[The Chin flood victims] have already got physical and mental problems. The government urgently needs to support their rehabilitation process, and, after normal conditions resume, then the election should be held,” he said.

U Gin Kan Lian, general secretary of the Zomi League for Democracy, agreed with the proposed delay.

“Roads and bridges were destroyed because of the flooding. It’s not easy for parties to campaign under these circumstances,” he said.

Infrastructure has take a severe blow in the hard-hit state, where receding floodwater was followed by landslides that may force the capital city to relocate. The Chin State government has requested K27 billion for the recovery efforts.

By MULTIMEDIA, SAI ZAW / THE IRRAWADDY| Saturday, September 5, 2015 |

Since June, many parts of Burma have been devastated by flooding that is said to be the worst to hit the country in decades. More than 100 people died due to the violent waters and ensuing landslides, while an estimated 1.6 million others were affected. Situated in the northwestern corner of Burma, Chin State has seen some of the worst damage wreaked by the flooding.

Extreme weather in Chin State has claimed five lives and affected more than 20,000 people as of late August. Debris from landslides has blocked many of the roads and destroyed crucial bridges, undermining necessary relief efforts.

Photographer Sai Zaw recently visited the state capital, Hakha, and surrounding villages, documenting the depth of the damage and the lives of locals struggling to restore normalcy.

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