VOL.I No. II AUGUST 1998
CHINS FACE THREAT OF LANDMINES
The Chin people have been facing life-threatening China-made landmines planted by the Burma Army LIB(36) and (379) since June 1997. The most affected region is in the border areas of Bangladesh-Burma, especially in the Paletwa township of southern Chinland and southern Indo-Burma border areas of the western Kaladan river. Many people as well as a lot of domestic animals such as cattle, buffaloes, goats, and mithuns have been killed by landmines. The Burmese soldiers kept the news secret and never informed the people of the areas concerned about it. For their survival, most of Chin people depends on slash and burn cultivation, and breeding livestock.
Today, the villagers are unable to cultivate their fields freely and openly for fear of landmines. The purpose of planting them in and around Chin villages is to wipe out the activities of the Chin National Army (CNA), which is an armed wing of Chin National Front (CNF) and to cut the support of the people. One of the CNF’s political aims and objectives is for the restoration of genuine democracy in the Union of Burma and self-determination of the Chin people.
The Chinland had an independent territory before the British annexation in 1895. The Union of Burma was co-founded by Burmans, Chins, Kachins, and Shanson the basis of equal footing. But the 1962 military coup forced them to take up arms against the military regime as a last resort. Infighting against the CNA, the Burmese soldiers have been facing difficulties as the CNA’s strategy is a guerilla warfare with the civilian support in the bordering areas. For this reason, the Burmese soldiers started planting landmines in Chinland.
In the persecuted areas mentioned above, there was no hospital, dispensary, or health care center. No physician or doctor. There is no place for medical treatment for villagers at all. Another type of the most severe punishment is forced RELOCATION of villages. They ordered many villages to live together at one designated place where the Burmese soldiers are being stationed. For instance, the Maretwa neighboring villages were forced to settle together at Maretwa. Villages such as Pungyingawa, Pakawa, Poktoewa, Satangwa, Muiletwa, Aungkhai, Phuiletwa and Samang along the Kaletchaung river were relocated during the early part of 1998. Because of landmines, many Chins take refuge in other neighboring countries like India and Bangladesh.
On April 16-18, 1998 U Ohn Kyaw visited Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government raised the question of landmines in the Bangladesh-Burma border areas to the Burmese military delegate at their meeting. No result to date.
FORCE LABOR AS PRISONERS OF WAR
This report is given to Chin Human Rights Organization by U Ta Lai, aged 40, Ngaleng village of Matupi township. He was personally involved at the scene. On 18 April of 1998, a corporal and a private from 274 Light Infantry post at Matupi town came to Phaneng and Ngaleng villages. They gathered 80 people from Phaneng village and 60 people from Ngaleng village and forced them to remove landslip between Haka and Matupi car road. They did not provide any food, medicine or equipment for it.
They took them to Lung Hlaw and Khua Ngang villages which are a day walk and ordered them to remove a landslip along the way until 10 p.m. without taking a break. They forced them to work for 4 days without giving a time for break and bath. Among the forced labours there were 10 old men, over 50 years of age, 4 children under 15 and 8 housewives. Taking an advantage of the soldiers’ order, aiming at their own benefits, U Khung Khen, an officer of Matupi township road construction department and Maung Bik, a technologist, distributed rice bags to Phaneng and Ngaleng villagers and ordered them to reconstruct the remaining road in landslip along Hakha and Matupi. They issued an order that if anyone fails to present, he would be given a severe punishment by higher authority and also said that no one could be exempted from portering.
The villagers who dared not oppose the order and work in road construction had no time to work for their own living. Hence, U Ta Lai and some of the villagers had left their lovely homes to work in Mizoram State of India. Now, they worry how they would solve their problems when they get home.
PUSHING INTO STARVATION
Since 1997 a company commander of No.539 Light Infantry based in Sinletwa has issued an order to send two persons from each village track of Pa Ra , Shia O and Ramritlang to Sinletwa army post. It takes a day to get there from these villages. When they got there they were forced to work cooking, carrying water, washing clothes, cutting firewood and constructing houses.
They were threatened to burn the village and impose a fine of Kyat 3,000 if they fail to send porters. Every month they had to provide 2-Viss(3.5Kg) of domestic fowl (alive) for the soldiers. The village had to arrange with any possible means because they were threatened to take an action against those who fail to do so. Besides, they were forced to set fire on their hill-side cultivation before the end of February. The army personnel repeatedly issued an order that whoever is against the order would be banned from doing cultivation for a year. The Chin people depend and make living on traditional shift cultivation.
In the process of shift cultivation there are moments of time to start working on clearing bushes, cutting trees, setting fire, transplanting, pulling weeds and harvesting. Setting fire of the cultivation field before proper time could affect the living of Chin people and would certainly lead to starvation.
TREATING AS ENEMY
In May of 1998 SPDC’s army had issued an order not to release domestic animals from their farms. As soon as they released order three times, giving reasons of security, the soldiers started army column from village to village in Hakha and Thantlang townships and killed domestic animals as they like without any payment for it. It is because the government could not provide meat ration for the army. In May of 1998 the army killed and ate 15-cows and 30-pigs both in Hakha and Thantlang townships.
SPDC’s soldiers in Chin State are treating their own citizens like enemy. Although the people dislike the army ,they have no alternative but to bear and follow. The people made complaints to higher officials, but the government would never take action against the military personnel.
OUR ARMY, OUR TORTURER
This is the story interviewed with Rokima, aged 18 a student from Cangtak village. On April 10, 1998 20 soldiers led by a captain (name unknown) of No.274 Light Infantry based in Matupi town came to Cangtak village.
As soon as they got to the village they called 4- members of the village SPDC and ordered them to arrange 20-porters immediately. The Village SPDC members could not, at once find the porters required as all the villagers had already gone to work in the field. So, the soldiers started beating the 4-members with bamboo stick. Using slains and stones, the soldiers killed domestic fowls and ate them as much as they wanted.
The soldiers asked Rosang who is disable if any Chin National Front member ever come into the village. Rosang could not answer their question as he is illiterate and could not speak Burmese. So the soldiers beat him with stick and stroke him very badly until some blood came out from his mouth. The soldiers began getting into house to house and arrested villagers to be as porters. They had to serve portering to Lungpan village which is 4-miles away from the village. Among 20 porters there were three old men, over 50 years of age and three girls, aged under 15. The SPDC’ soldiers often came to our village. Whenever they come to our village, they beat the villagers and killed domestic animals as they like. They never make any request for it. So the villagers hid in their fields because they did not dare to stay in their village. They used to come back to the village on Saturdays and Sundays for their basic needs.
Whenever the soldiers came to the village they had to close the school and hid in their planting fields. But now most of the villagers exiled to Mizoram State of India because they did not dare to live in their own village.
FORCE LABOR IN PALETWA TOWNSHIP
In March 1998 Burma army Battalion 539 and 34 from Shinletwa, Paletwa township , Chin State had issued an order for the following villages such as Para, Sia u, Heimapi, Heimate , Ramri, Sweletwa, Pathiantlang, Sinowa, Ra U, Kinwa, Tahewa, Yokwa, Htonwa, Gilawng, and Mau to contribute 1,000 to 2,000 bamboo poles by each household for the army.
Any village absent to contribute, will face a fine of K1,500 to K2,500. The nearest villages have to walk a day to get to the work site, the bank of the Kaladan river, where the bamboos are located. Some villages such as Ma U and Para have to walk 2 days to get to the work site. The army didn’t provide any necessary material to the villagers . They had to carry their own food , medicine and every other essential thing. In order to fulfil the requirement, a person from every household had to spend at least 4 days to cut the bamboo. The army personnel made bamboo raft with which the villagers had cut bamboos and sailed it down to Arakan State for sale.
There is no any other way for the military personnel to get outside income around Shinletwa region. That’s why the villagers were forced to cut bamboo trees for the army. They were compelled to do this thing at least twice a year. Besides, they were ordered to serve as porters for all year-round. Every village has to provide 4 viss of chicken and a basket of rice (about 20 kg) for a month. Para village has to clear up the rout to No. 18 Indo-Burma border rout to No 18 Indo Burma border pole for three times a year. They also have to clear up the hill top 7 miles north of the border pole. Whenever they had finished doing this, they have to report to the Shinletwa army camp which is 3 day-walk from the village. The villagers didn’t get paid for doing this. The villagers around that region are facing a big problem for their living because they don’t have time to work for themselves.
Therefore, most of them are fleeing to India as they can’t live peacefully in their own village. CHRO have the army original order letter
ARMY’S DISTORTION IN THANTLANG TOWNSHIP
A column of Burma army led by Major Aye Tun of Light Infantry Battalion (LIB 274) from Pakokku was patrolling around Ngaiphaipi, Ngaiphaite, Lailen, Khuapilu, Ngalang, and Lawngtlang villages of Thantlang township, Chin state to drag porters and collect ration in the month of April, 1998.
They collected 2 baskets of rice (1 basket = 20 kg) and 3 chicken from Ngaiphaite village, 2 baskets of rice and 2 chicken from Ngaiphaipi village, 4 chicken and 2 baskets of rice from Lailen village ,and 3 chicken and a basket of rice from Khuapilu village. The army asked 2 persons from each village and they were forced to be porters for army supplies along with the column. On April 3, 1998, they reached Ngalang village and collected 2 baskets of rice and 3 chicken.
They looted every thing they could get from the villagers such as bath soaps and eggs. They asked 30 porters for army supplies and they continued patrolling Lawngtlang village 8 miles away from Ngalang village. On their way to Lawngtlang village, they met Fanthen villagers who came to sell (11) pigs to the town. The army distorted a pig worth K10,000 free of charge. They also charged K5,000 for carrying 10 pigs to the town. In Zephai village, Major Aye Tun and his column collected 5 chicken, 2 baskets of rice and 2 bottles of cooking oil free of charge. They arrived at Tluangram village on 19 May 1998. As soon as they arrived, Major issued a curfew order. After that he called 9 villagers and divided them into 3 groups and sent them to the Bawinu river for fishing. A person from every group has to come to the village to present the army whatever fish they got. The villagers were not allowed to go out of their village. They were compelled to build 4 sentry boxes outside the village and they had to guard 24 hours a day. The Major threatened the villagers that if the rebels came into the village, he would kill all the guards. All the villagers were farmers and they were very busy planting paddy at the time. It is clear that the army did this kind of unfair thing to the villagers because of wanting the villagers to suffer in the coming harvest season.
The army always suspect villagers as rebel supporters and treat them like enemies.