VOL.III No.IV NOVEMBER-DECEMBER2000
– Junta Orders Burning Of 16,000 Bibles, Halts Church Construction
– A Reflection By An Eyewitness – Pu Do Thawng; Chin Political Prisoner
– List Of Civilians Charged With “Unlawful Association Acts”
– How The Burmese Soldiers Behave In The Village
– Chin And Other Burmese Asylum Seekers In Guam Face Crisis
LETTERS & PRESS RELEASE
– An Appeal To SPDC From Catholic Bishops & Council Of Churches In Burma
FACTS & ARGUMENTS
– Ethnic Political Crisis In The Union Of Burma
Junta Orders Burning Of 16,000 Bibles, Halts Church Construction
In 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 last year by the Burmese Army, are in Chin, Karen and other ethnic languages. Leaders of the Council of Churches in Tamu area are approaching the Burmese military regime not to burn the Bibles. An appeal was also made in early July of this year by the Myanmar Baptist Convention, the organization that represents all Baptist Churches in Burma, to the top SPDC officials in Rangoon. As of today, they received no reply from the Army.
Early 1999, the Burmese Army also seized 30,000 copies of Bible written in Chinese language and which had been kept in the military store rooms in Kaley Wa, Sagaing Division. Every church member was afraid to claim these Bibles. In May and June, 2000, the Military Intelligence of the Burmese Army ordered all church building construction in Tiddim area of Chin State to stop. The buildings included the Evangelical Baptist Church in Myoma Quarter, Faith Bible Theological Seminary in Lawibual Quarter, Sakollam Baptist Church, and Lawibual Baptist Church. During first week of July 2000, worship services at the Lai Baptist Church at No. 41 U Aung Min Street, Ward 2, Mayangone, Bayint Naung Post Office, Yangoon, Myanmar, was prohibited by the authority. Most of the Chin people in the Rangoon area attend worship services here.
At present, the congregation is worshipping at Myanmar Institute of Theology at Seminar Hill, Insein near Rangoon. The church has been closed since June 2000 in spite of church leaders requests for reopening.
A REFLECTION BY AN EYEWITNESS
(Religious Persecution In Chin State)
At mid night on 16. May 1994 the Township Law and Order Restoration Council (TLORC) of Tonzang (Chin State), with the co-operation of the Township Police Force burnt down a cross on top of the hill over looking the town, which was set up by the Catholic congregation there. TLORCs of every township in the Chin State had the order from the State authorities (SLORC) in Haka to dismantle all the crosses. At that time the Baptist Church and other Christian denominations had already dismantled their crosses (set up at the same location) on their own as they did not want to defy the order from the authorities.
This tradition of setting up crosses on top of the hills has been started around the 1970s throughout Chin State, when the Buddhists started to build pagodas on top of the hills with the encouragement by the military government. As the vast majority of the Chin people are Christians they do not want their landscape to be filled with pagodas. As such they started to set up crosses on hilltops around the country before the Burmese authorities could build pagodas. In fact, there have been Buddhist pagodas in almost every major town in Chin State since more than forty years ago [after Independence & the Chin joined the so-called Union of Burma] and this has been tolerated as there are some Burman Buddhists, who are government servants stationed in Chin State and a few Chin converts as well. In the case of the Catholic Church in Tonzang, the Catholics did not want to dismantle their cross as it had been set up with catholic rituals such as blessing and pouring of the holy water by the Priest. At first the TLORC in Tonzang was reluctant to pull down the Catholic’s cross by themselves even though they knew that the Catholics were not going to do it on their own.
The conflict between the Church and the local authorities started when the TLORC recruited a forced labour for the construction of a road for the hydroelectric power project near Tonzang. The town’s people were aware that the Chin State authorities had allotted some amount of budget for the construction of the said road. But the TLORC simply wanted the money for themselves to line their own pockets and thus forced the people to labour without any wage. Three town elders, who happened to be Catholics, wrote a complaint letter to the State authorities in Haka about the corruption and some TLORC officials were transferred as a result. The entire TLORC officials were so angry with this incident and as a result they now came to see the Catholics as dissenters. In retaliation the TLORC and the police force burnt dawn the cross as mentioned above. Furthermore the police arrested four Catholic elders for three days on the ground that they were responsible for defying the State authorities by refusing to dismantle the cross.
After three days they took them to the court and appeased them not to bring this case any further to the higher authorities and declared the case closed. Nevertheless, one of the elders was sent to Rangoon to complain about the incidents of pulling down crosses in Chin State. But the Deputy Minister Col. Aung Khin of the Interior and Religiuos Affairs Ministry did not take the complaint seriously and instead said that he would see when the case would be put up to him by the TLORC of Tonzang. (NOTE: An eyewitness who was in Tonzang during the incident compiles this report for CFIS. His name is withheld according to his wish).
PU DO THAWNG: CHIN POLITICAL PRISONER
Name:U Do Thawng, elected MP, NLD
Constituency: Kalemyo (1),
Born in: 1940
Place of Birth: Bo Kyone village, Falam Township, Chin State.
Parents: U Lian Hnuna (late) and Pi Thang Mani, 90.
Charged: 7-years under Article 5 (j) of the 1950 Emergency Provision Act.
Sequence of family arrests U Do Thawng is currently under detention in Mandalay Prison. He was arrested by Military Intelligence (MI) at midnight of May 21, 1996 while preparing to attend the sixth anniversary of National League for Democracy (NLD) to be held at Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence. He was detained for two weeks at No (17) MIS, Kalemyo and was tortured the whole night of May 27.
The MIs seized a number of books published inside and outside of Burma from his place. He was then sent to Mandalay Prison without informing his family members. The junta sentenced him 7-years imprisonment. The case number is- MYN/87. U Do Thawng’s eldest son Za Dawla was arrested in Homalin Township, upper Chindwin and was sentenced two years. Za Dawla, father of three children, was detained at Kalemyo Police station for one year without any trial before he was sent to Madalay prison. He was released in April 1998. Soon after the father was arrested, his two other sons, Dr Ro Ding (now NLD/LA) and Dr Lal Lawm Thanga (Democratic Voice of Burma, Oslo- Norway) fled to India to escape from the MIs. The junta, in the press conference held in September 1996, alleged them of collaborating with the exiled goverment, NCGUB and opposition groups to create social unrest in Burma. Party activities U Do Thawng was elected from Kalemyo Township constituency-1 in the 1990 general elections. He was then democratically elected, within the party, to represent Sagaing Division NLD to Burma junta’s National Convention that was started in 1993.
Because of his commitment to forward NLD’s stand for a political dialogue to the Convention, Burma junta expelled him from the list. As part of the party’s future plans, he met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in November 1995 and February 1996 along with other NLD MPs from Sagaing Division. His residence in Kalemyo became party office and meeting palce for Township NLD. However, following his arrest the party signboard and flags were pulled down and removed by the local authorities. Some 19 NLD members in the township were arrested and charged along with U Do Htaung under Article 5 (j) of the 1950 Emergency Provision Act. They all are still in Mandalay prison. It was learned that he has given his signature of mandate to the NLD’s further exclusive plans. Kalemyo Township, with a population of more than 400,000 is situated in the Kale valley and borders to Chin State. Eastern half of Kalemyo is dominated by Burmans and the west by Chins. Prison life His wife, Pi Lal Than Sungi, 60, is allowed to visit him twice a month for an hour in one visit. They are not allowed to speak in their own Chin language but are made to speak in Burmese in prison visit. They do not speak in Burmese at home. Only family members are allowed to visit him.
U Do Thawng was put into the dark cell for a week in November 1998 for refusing to sit in prison-position while the authority was passing by. After representatives of the International Committee for Red Cross, ICRC, were allowed to visit Burma prisons, the authority provides him enough rice and water to cook but he still has to be provided with curries from outside. Since they cannot afford transportation charges to Mandalay, family members of 19 NLD prisoners from Kalemyo contribute money and send one eligible person to visit and provide food to them. After a series of argument with the prison officials, he succeeded to celebrate Christmas in prison in 1999. He was once infected with tuberculosis and still has to get follow-up treatments. He is also suffering from ischaemic heart disease, which allowed him to retire after serving 25 years in the health department. Reasons of previous arrest U Do Thawng passed his 3-year Medic Training in Rangoon in 1962 with the highest mark in the country and was conferred Gold Medal. He was studying in Rangoon when dictatorship creator General Ne Win staged the 2nd military coup. From 1963-1971, he worked as Rural Health Assisstant in Thantlang, Matupi and Kanpalet Townships of Chin State. In 1971, he was arrested along with other prominent Chins by so called Burma’s Revolutionary Council led by General Ne Win. The arrest was due to the signed boycott letters stating that the newly drafted constitution in 1971 by the Council was too centralized and dictatorial. The Unitarian constitution was enacted in 1974 and hundreds were arrested again. In the critical moments in 1971, U Do Thawng addressed to the Kanpalet Township people’s gathering, saying “If you could move Mount Victoria of Chin State to Magwe Division, the Chins would join with the Burman unitary”.
U Do Thawng spent two years in Myingyan Prison from 1971 to 1973 for his involvement in the protest. After his release, he was banned from posting in Chin State and was forcibly transfered to the Sagaing Division. From 1973-1989 he worked as Health Assistant in Mawlike, Kale and Homalin Townships of Sagaing Division. According to the rule and regulation of Health Workers Department, Health Assistants should work at least three years in the same area. However, due to his criticism on the ruling one-party, Burma Socialist Programme Party, he was interuptedly transferred to different areas in his three year internship. He decided to retire from civil servant and joined NLD party in 1989. Family members: Lal Than Sungi, 60, spouse (1) Mr. Za Dawla, graduated in Maths, father of three children in Burma. (2) Dr. Ro Ding, son, Veterinary Surgeon (Exile in India) (3) Dr. Za Sing, son, General Physician in Burma. (4) Dr. Lal Lawm Thanga, son, Dental Surgeon (Exile in Norway) (5) Mrs. Khawtin Siami, graduated in Geography, mother of one in Burma (6) Ms. Lal Tan Puii, single in Burma.
LIST OF CIVILIANS CHARGED WITH “UNLAWFUL ASSOCIATION ACTS” IN 1999
(Note: The following list is from just one area in Chinland)
The following civilians, most of them are from Thantlang area, Chin State were accused of supporting Chin National Front. Thus, they were arrested, tortured and sentence to long term imprisonment by the Burmese Military Intelligence Service MIS in 1999. The Burmese military charged them with ” Unlawful Association Acts”. This law could be applied generously to put suspected people long term jail sentences with hard labour. Chin National Front is an armed resistance group fighting with the ruling Burmese military junta.
1. Mr. Thla Hup, 42 years old member of village Peace and Development Council in Bungkhua village was arrested on 06.01.1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo, Sagaing division.
2. Mr. Sui Cung , 16 years old high school student was arrested on 06.01.1999. He was sentence to 2 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo. Mr. Sui Cung was arrested on behalf of his father Pu Than Rawl, the village headman of Bungkhua village. Pu Than Rawl was accused of supporting CNF and arrested by the Burmese soldiers. He escaped from military detention in Lungler army camp and fled to India. Mr. Than Rawl is now under UNHCR protection in New Delhi.
3. Mr. Chum Ling, 48 years old village headman of Fungkah was arrested on 06.01.1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
4. Mr. Za Mang, 48 years old farmer from Fungkah village was arrested on 06.01.1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
5. Mr. Lal Ling, 24 years old farmer from Fungkah village was arrested on 06.011999. He is now serving 6 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
6. Mr. ZaHnin , 32 years old was arrested on 06.01.1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
7. Mr. Tial Awr 38 years old village headman of Tlangpi was arrested on 16 July 1999. He is now serving 12 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo. He was accused of being responsible for disappearance of a Burmese soldier near Tlangpi village while patroling.
8. Mr. Lian Hram, 36 years old member of village Peace and Development Council was arrested on 16 July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
9. Mr. Thawng Ceu, 34 years old from Tlangpi village was arrested on 16 July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
10. Mr. Duh Lian, 34 years old from Tlangpi village was arrested on 16 July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
11. Mr. Za Uk, 58 years old from Tlangpi village was arrested on 16 July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
12. Mr. Zion, 45 years old pastor was arrested in July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
13. Mr. Peng Thang, 18 years old high school student from Tlangpi village was arrested in July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail terms with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
14. Mr. Ngun Chawng, 28 years old farmer was arrested in July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kaleymyo.
15. Mr. Ral Lian Kap, 31 years old Local Peace and Development Council’s clerk was arrested in July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
16. Mr. Ngun Hu, 43 years old from Tlangpi village ws arrested in July 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term in Kalaymyo.
17. Pu Al Bik, 48 years old trader from Thantlang was arrested on 13. 11. 1998. He was first inhumanly tortured by Military Intelligence for two weeks without providing food. He is now serving 7 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
18. Mr. No Lal Ling, 53 years old chairman of Township Peace and Development Council was arrested in June 1999. He was severely tortured by MIS and now he is serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
19. Mr. Run Cung, 35 years old farmer from Thantlang was arrested in June 1999. He was severely tortured by MIS and now serving 2 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
20. Mr. Sang Khar, 36 years old was arrested in October 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kangaw.
21. Mr. Khing Muang, 32 years old was arrested in October 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term in Kangaw.
22. Mr. Van Hmung, 34 years old clerk of Township Peace and Development Council was arrested in July 1999. He is now serving 2 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
23. Mr. Ral Luai , 42 years old member of Township Peace and Development Council was arrested in July 1999. He is now serving 2 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
24. Mr. Ceu Hnin 35 years old from Thantlang town was arrested in July 1999. He was so severely tortured that all his front teeth were knocked out. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
25. Mr. Ni Ling, 32 years old from Thantlang town was arrested in July 1999. He was severely tortured by the MIS. He is now serving two and a half jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
26. Mr. Lal Thio, 36 years old from Thantlang town was arrested in July 1999. He is now serving 2 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
27. Mr. Bawi Uk, 32 years old from Thantlang town was arrested and severely tortured by MIS in July 1999. He is now serving 5 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
28. Mr. Za Lian, 36 years old from Haka town was arrested and severely tortured by MIS in July 1999. He is now serving 2 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
29. Mr.Chan Kung, 42 years old from Thantlang was arrested and severely tortured by MIS in October 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
30. Miss Dawt Thluai, 28 years old from Haka was arrested and severely tortured by MIS in October 1999. She is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
31. Mr. Zo Kim, 32 years old farmer from Sopum village, Thantlang township was arrested in October 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
32. Mr. Dawt Lian, 33 years old from Haka was arrested in October 1999. He is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
33. Miss Ni Cia, 29 years old teacher from Cawngthia village, Thantlang township was arrested and severely tortured by the MIS on 5.12.1998. She is now serving 3 years jail term with hard labour in Kalaymyo.
34. Mr. Sa Tin Ral, 68 years old village headman from Bapi village, Tonzang twonship was arrested in October 1999. He is now serving 2 years jail term in Kalaymyo.
HOW THE BURMESE SOLDIERS BEHAVE IN THE VILLAGE
The following information is provided by Mr. Van Khum, 40 years old farmer from Thinghual village, Thantlang township of Chin State. A strength of 15 soldiers led by Lieutenant Myo Swe of Company No.4 entered our village and stayed for 6 days. The commander asked me a pressure cooker as a gift. When I told him that we did not have one he was angry that he almost threw a cup at me. He angrily entered our bedroom and rummaged around saying that there must be some things CNF had asked me to keep. He asked two baskets of rice and 8 chickens promising to pay for those.
The whole villagers had to gather rice and chicken. But, Lieut. Myo Swe did not pay for those. The soldiers made the villagers, young and old, to fetch water and took bath. Lt. Myo Swe said that it was our village’s turn to construct army camp at Tui Bual village but as it was time for cultivation it would be a good idea to give him 10,000 Kyats instead of labour. We thus had to give him ten thousand kyats. LIB-274 of Mindat Battalion was stationed at Tui Bual village. In their 6-day stay the soldiers stole dried meat and eggs of our villagers and made the nearby villagers of Tikhuangtum and Tahtlang to provide them with one basket of rice and 4 chickens each. All of us suffer a lot because the soldiers came to our village twice a month and did the same thing to us. Besides, the villagers do not have time to work for cultivation as they have to keep watch the soldiers.
VILLAGERS EVICTED FOR A NEW TRADE ROUTE ON INDO-BURMA BORDER
Aizawl, December 7, 2000
Mizzima News Group
The authorities in Mizoram State evicted villagers staying on Indo-Burma border from their village for a new Indo-Burma border trade route. Some houses were bulldozed by the authorities as the owners refused to move to the government-allocated new site. Mizoram state government issued an order on October 20 for the villagers in and around Zokhutthar village in Indo-Burma border to move to a new location by the end of November. The government has planned to rehabilitate the villagers in the new location, called Phulmawi Village, which is about two furlong far from Zokhutthar.
However, most of the villagers refused to relocate themselves in the new village, alleging that the government is not providing necessary compensation and arrangement. Therefore, total 120 villagers of Zo Khuttha village recently filed a petition with the court and the Mizoram Bench of Guwahati High Court last week stayed the eviction of 104 Indian villagers for two weeks. Most of these villagers continue to stay in Zokhutthar as they wait for the government’s response. The rest who ware not able to prove their identity as Indian citizens are, however, not included in the High Court stay order. Moreover, the stay order does not include the villagers staying on “no man land” situated between the border pillars of two countries. The state authorities bulldozed two houses in the area last Friday. The Mizoram State government, through Border Road Organization (BRO), is planning to start the construction of some buildings related to border trade in Zokhutthar village. The new trade route, apart from current Tamu-Moreh border trade route, is to connect Rih in Chin State of Burma and Zokhutthar in Mizoram, crossing Tio stream. The government of India has offered to construct a bridge across Tio stream for facilitating the border trade between India and Burma.
Chin And Other Burmese Asylum Seekers In Guam Face Crisis (October 28, 2000)
I. Guam-Only Visa Waiver Program Burma is listed in the Guam-Only Visa Waiver program and therefore, citizens from Burma are allowed to enter Guam territory under tourist status for a 15-day period. As of October 9, 2000, there were 280 asylum seekers from Burma, mostly from Chin State in the northwestern part of Burma, which borders India and Bangladesh. According to information dated October 27, 2000 from Guam, there are currently 420 asylum seekers living in Guam. Upon arrival in Guam, asylum seekers may submit their applications to the U.S Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Asylum office in California. If they are granted asylum status by the INS, they are allowed to live in Guam or the mainland U.S.
II. Statistical Analysis of Asylum Seekers in Guam ? -53 asylum seekers being detained by the Department of Corrections (DOC) (Male-46; Female-7) -367 asylum seekers are not in the DOC (Male-293; Female-74) ? -189 people have submitted applications to INS. -37 people have conducted interviews with Asylum officers. -24 asylum seekers are currently employment in Guam Ethnic Groups: Chin, Kachin, Karen, and Burmese (Burmans).
III: Asylum Seekers in Two Statuses There are two groups of Asylum seekers in Guam. 1) DOC Currently, there are 53 asylum seekers held in the DOC. These people claimed asylum status at the Airport in Guam upon arrival from Burma. Sometimes, they have to work outside the DOC without pay in such jobs as cleaning or cutting wood. They are detained until they can appear before a judge for their case review. There is only one judge, who usually comes to Guam from Honolulu, Hawaii. Therefore, it takes time to process these cases. While residing in the DOC, the DOC receives, per detainee, a $100.00 a day from INS for a total of $5300.00 a day. Currently, there are only two asylum attorneys available to provide legal representation to those who are in the DOC. The fee for legal services, per person, is approximately $2500.00. Therefore, the asylum seekers find it difficult to pay for legal services. Since there are no pro-bono lawyers or “legal clinics” available in Guam, if an attorney is desired, one must be hired. 2) Asylum seekers not in DOC Asylum seekers who are not in the DOC often live together. Since most do not speak English, they need interpreters for their cases and for interviews. If asylum officers grant them asylum status, they will be able to live either in the U.S mainland or in Guam. Denial of their application initiates an appearance in court to plea their case. This is often difficult due to the financial considerations of hiring an attorney.
IV. Case Status Asylum cases in Guam are under the jurisdiction of the US INS California Service Center in Laguna Niguel, CA. Therefore, all asylum application forms must be sent to the California Service Center for processing at which time the asylum office in California sends asylum officers to Guam to process the cases. In early October 2000, two officers were sent to Guam where only 37 out of 189 pending applicants were interviewed. According to Asylum officials in California, asylum officers may not be able to make their next visit to Guam until early 2001. Therefore, all current asylum seekers will have to wait until then for their initial interview. Three cases that were submitted in August 1998 are still waiting processing.
V. Concerning Asylum Seekers from Chinland Asylum seekers from Chinland provide the following information. Forced Labor
1. Boeing 747 Airfield The Burmese Army has been planning to build an airfield at Surbungtlang, only 7 miles from Falam town Chin State, since 1992. This airfield was reportedly to be used for better communication between Chin State and other parts of Burma. However, reports claim that in reality, the Burmese Army planned this airfield to combat the activities of the Chin National Front. In this plan, forced labor of villagers from 87 villages in Falam town-ship worked this high mountain to create an airfield. Many asylum seekers from Falam town-ship participated in this airfield construction. Because of a lack of water for workers, the Army suspended construction in 1996 but may resume construction soon. 2. Kaley-Haka Motor Road In March and April of 1998, there was a national student’s festival held in Haka, the capital of Chin State. In preparation for the 1998 festival, motor roads between Kaley and Haka were prepared as many Burmese Army high-ranking officers planed to participate at the festival. It is approximately 120 miles between Kaley Myo and Haka. Villagers between these two towns were forced to work at least one week per family.
3. Tamu-Kaley-Kaleywa Motor Road Since the border trade agreement took place between India and Burma in 1994, the India government has been providing construction of a road from Tamu to Kaley Myo. The Burma town of Tamu borders Moreh town of Manipur State in India. Construction of the road now being complete, India has been working on Kaley Myo and Kaley Wa road. Asylum seekers from Kaley Myo area say India BRTF had been directly working for Burma. In July 2000, a Chin girl was killed secondary to Indian road construction. There was no action taken after reporting the case to higher authorities. About 70 Indian construction machines, driven by Indian people, have been working in Kaley Myo and Kaleywa. Civilian cars are also forced to provide assistance to Indian people.
4. Kaley- Kankaw Rail Road Project: During 1994-1996, villagers from Tongphila, Pinlong, Tahan and other villages along Kaleymyo and Kankaw village worked on construction of a railroad to connect the two towns. Villagers were forced to work from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, while staying in portable camps. About 10 people died from Malaria and lack of medical treatment. Labor Camps Chin people, used to work on motor roads and other construction projects, are held in labor camps by the Burmese Army. The following is a list of Labor Camps. (This is not an all-inclusive list, and it is difficult to know the exact number of prisoners in the camps.) Place of Labor Camp Number of Prisons/Laborers Zawng Kawng ( Kalay Falam Road ) 40 Var ( Kalay Falam Road ) 72 Tlang Zar ( Haka- Falam Road ) 100 Zo Khua ( Near Haka ) 55 Others Issues There are many others issues such as violation of religious freedom. For example, a Christian cross, erected at Lumbang Baptist Church in Lumbang village, was destroyed by the Burmese Army. Chin girls, targeted for marriage by members of the Burmese military, are used in combat against activities of the Chin National Front. Many fled because they supported the CNF. Forced porter work for the Burmese Army is another widespread abuses.
1) The U.S Immigration and Naturalization Service
(a.) Asylum cases in Guam need to be handled more expediently. Asylum seekers should be allowed to travel to the mainland US and change their venue of address. (In the case of those who have relatives or who could provide necessary assistance.)
( b.) Asylum seekers should not be detained in the Department of Corrections. Those who entered with proper documents, and are held in DOC, should be released. These asylum seekers do not fall under the Expedited Removal Categories.
2) The U.S Resettlement Agencies Baptist Churches and other religious organizations are currently providing food, clothes, etc. Resettlement agencies and other advocacy groups should provide assistance to them.
3) State Peace and Development Council The Burmese military regime known as the State Peace and Development Council must stop human rights abuses, which have forced refugees to flee to Guam. The SPDC must engage in a tripartite dialogue with the National League for Democracy and ethnic groups.
LETTERS & PRESS RELEASE
AN APPEAL TO THE STATE PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
From Myanmar Catholic Bishops And The Myanmar Council Of Churches September 24,1999 Yangon, Myanmar
May the Peace and Grace of Jesus Christ and God be with you!
A. The Myanmar Catholic Bishops Conference and the Myanmar Council of Churches were formed with the objectives of all Christians in Myanmar to work for Christ’s Mission.
B. The Myanmar Catholic Bishops Conference, an organization comprised of 13 Bishops, has been working hard leading 12 Catholic regions.
C. The Myanmar Council of Churches, a leading national Christian ministry, is comprised of 13 members of national Christian denominations that are affiliated with 9 other prominent Christian organizations such as the Young Women Christian and the Young Men Christian Association. The leaders, as well as the members of these organizations, under the above two major organizations are all citizens of Myanmar.
D. Although both of the two major organizations are cooperating with other organizations around the world, they are freely operating in their own cause.
E. The Myanmar Catholic Bishops Conference and the Myanmar Council of Churches are working for human developments for the benefit of the mission and the country. They establish hospitals, clinics, and schools that are basic necessities for a peaceful society; and selfless doctors and teachers are sacrificing in the good cause. Until today, they have established such things as a hospital for leprosy, school for the deaf, school for the blind, school for elderly care, school for orphans and are providing their best possible care for the abandoned and refugees.
F. They are also working with their best possible efforts for better environments, efficient transportation, welfare and developments of the lives of young people, women, and children.
H. To be able to undertake the above mentioned mission responsibilities, the Myanmar Catholic Bishops Conference has formed the “Peace and Justice Commission” and the Myanmar Council of Churches has formed the “Reconciliation and Peace Commission.” The basic Biblical principle of the Commission is as follows:
I. Being faithful believers of the peaceful God, who governs with everlasting love, we believe that as we are responsible to build and prosper the virtues that will end conflicts and promote justice and peace, which has always been desired by the people, we will carry out this task so long as we are alive. (Biblical References: Hosea 2:4; Matthew 5:9; Ephesians 2:14-16).
II. We would like to present the hardships and obstacles we have faced while undertaking these tasks in recent years to the national heads. Prohibition of Christian evangelical works in some states and townships, expulsion of mission workers, prohibition of worship services, arrests and persecutions, forced renunciation of Christian faith, and destroying of Christian crosses have been encountered. In some states, repairing of Christian buildings was not allowed. Permission for building was not allowed or permission was delayed. For Christians, crosses are very important because they are the symbols of sacrifice and service for human beings. Therefore, a place for worship and a place for erecting Christian crosses are of prime importance. In publication of Christian literature, some words and vocabularies were not allowed or were restricted by the censorship board. This restriction can consequently lessen the warm relationship among religious organizations.
Due to the above obstacles, Christians have no peace of mind. Therefore, with the aims of building a new developed and modern country by joining hands in unity with all ethnic nationalities and Burmese, we would like to request and present to the national leaders to solve the above mentioned obstacles. Also, in the future, we will present the needs and difficulties to you as necessary. The Myanmar Catholic Bishops Conference and the Myanmar Council of Churches would also like to state that on the basis of love and justice, we would always try to build a long lasting reconciliation and peace.
May the grace and peace of the ever-lasting God bestow upon our national leaders and our motherland! Amen!
FACTS & ARGUMENTS
ETHNIC POLITICAL CRISIS IN THE UNION OF BURMA
(The following paper is presented by Zo T. Hmung at a Seminar Organized by the Council for Southeast Asia Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA) October 25, 2000
Approximately, Burma has a population of 48 million people. Of those 48 million, 68% are Burman, and the rest, 32 %, belong to the ethnic groups such as Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, Shan, etc. This statistics are only the estimated statistics as there is no proper documented information available inside Burma. The ethnic people have their own religions, culture, and languages.
There are different religions such as Buddhism, Muslim, Christianity, and Hinduism. Burmans belong to the majority religion, Buddhism where most of ethnic Chins and Kachins are Christians. The ethnic political issue is important to Burma’s politics. Because in order to put an end to civil war, which has spanned over half a century in Burma, the ethnic political crisis must first be resolved in accordance with the full consent of the ethnic minority people. Therefore, Burma’s political history, especially how the minority and the majority groups came to live together under the Union government, needs to be addressed. The Formation of the Union Government: To be more precise, I will take an example from Chin history, as I am an ethnic Chin.
In 1886, the British annexed Burma and ruled together with India, from India, known as the British-Burma. At that time, Chin territory was an independent territory with its own political administration, culture, religion, and language, without any outside political interference. Ten years later, in 1896, the British occupied Chin territory and ruled together with Burma and India from India. Before the British’s occupation, Chinland had lived independently since time immemorial. In 1937, for administrative convenience, the British divided her administration into two parts known as British-Burma and British-India. Chinland was ruled from British-Burma. On December 20, 1946, Mr. Clement Richard Atlee, then Prime Minister of United Kingdom of Great Britain, proposed granting independence to Burma at the House of Commons.
As a result, Aung San, who led the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL), was invited to London to speak on ways to transfer to independence. Unfortunately, the Labor Party government in London had not invited any representatives from the ethnic groups, even though the ethnic people had voiced concern that Aung San could not represent their will concerning their future status with the British government. The British ignored the complaints of the ethnic groups and asked Aung San to gain consent of the Frontier Areas (Frontier areas means ethnic peoples). This unfortunate lack of representation became part of the impetus for the ethnic political crisis that is so evident today. If ethnic groups were given self-determination to choose their own destiny by the Labor Party government in London, today’s political histories would be very different from today’s ethnic political crisis in the Union of Burma.
The AFPFL had the right to represent the Burmans only, not the ethnic minority groups. AFPFL representative Aung San, for the interim government of Burma, and Clement Richard Atlee, for the British government, signed an agreement on January 27, 1947, for Burma to become an independent country within a year. The second step of political strategy for Aung San was to convince the ethnic groups to join the interim Burmese government during the transitional period, and to later form the Union government based on equal footing of all Union members. In order to convince the ethnic minority to join the interim government of Burma, the AFPFL’s campaign message was to gain independence from the British first, and then to form a Union government together. This campaign message of independence became powerful and convincing as the British had been ruling them for more than half a century. Everyone wanted to gain independence from the British colonial rule. Within a month of Aung San’s return from England to Burma, representatives of Burma led by Aung San, along with representatives of the Chin, Kachin and Shan, signed an agreement popularly known as the Panglong Agreement at the Panglong Conference in Shan State on February 12, 1947. February 12 became Union Day in the Union of Burma and is observed as an official holiday in Burma. This clearly indicates how these different groups came together to form the Union country.
The Preamble of the Panglong Agreement said: “The members of the Conference, believing that freedom will be more speedily achieved by the Shans, the Kachins, and the Chins by their immediate cooperation with the Interim Burmese government” (See the Panglong Agreement). The basic concept of each state administration in federal system of government was evident in the Panglong Agreement. Article 5 of the Agreement said, “full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas is accepted” (See Panglong Agreement). A common interest, aimed for mutual benefits, had gathered together the Burmans and the ethnic people to form a Union government. Based on the Panglong conference, the Right of Secession was enshrined in the 1947 Union Constitution, Chapter X. This Right of Secession meant if one of the Union government members did not find benefits, or if they lost benefits within the Union government, that member had the right to depart from the Union government. In my opinion, as the proposed Union belonged to different groups with different territories/countries, the name of the government should not be Burma. It should have a different name, one that could represent all Union members.
Therefore, the Union government, according to the Panglong Agreement, was of the Union government of the Panglong signatories, which was based on trust, faith, and mutual benefits. Kio Mang, a Chin representative from Haka town, Chin State, said he singed the Panglong Agreement because he trusted in Aung San. The spirit of the Union and a trust of each other mattered to the Union-founding members. A Lack of Federalism in the 1947 Union Constitution After the Panglong Agreement, the AFPFL election followed in April. In this very first election, there were 255 seats; 210 seats were for Burmans and only 45 seats went to ethnic groups. Like today’s National League for Democracy (NLD), the people mandated AFPFL, led by Aung San, as it was the party that took lead in the independence struggle for the Burmans. The above seats indicated that the Burmans could control the government and drive the Union government in their own way. Chances for the ethnic groups at the central government level were almost nil. However, it was the transitional period and the priority was about independence from British within a year. My assumption is that the ethnic groups did not focus on the importance of the election. In June 1947, Aung San led the drafting of the Union constitution for the future Union government, in accordance with the Panglong Agreement, to be a federal system of governance. Unfortunately, Aung San and his cabinets were assassinated on July 19, 1947, only one month after drafting had begun. U Nu headed the AFPFL continuance of the Union constitution drafting by appointing Tin Tut, Sir Ba U, E Maung, and Kyaw Myint. All were Burmans educated in the law school of Cambridge. U Chan Htoon was appointed as a constitutional adviser. No ethnic group participated in this constitutional drafting process. This process began the question of federalism in the Union of Burma. U Chan Htoon himself admitted that the Union Constitution did not represent the spirit of Union, which was federalism. He said: “Our constitution in theory federal, is in practice unitary”. (Tinker, Hugh; “The Union of Burma” :London, 1967, p. 30). On September 24, 1947, the Union Constitution was adopted, becoming effective on January 4, 1948, the date that Burma gained independence. The Union Constitution was not even federal in theory; it was both unitary in theory and practice.
In a unitary system of government, the government is centralized wherein the federal state’s powers are placed under the central government’s direct control. I would like to take an example from Chin Special Division to show the relationship between the federal state and the central union government. For Chin Special Division, the President of the Union government appointed a Minister for Chin Affairs from a member of the Union government, upon nomination by the Union Prime Minister. The Union Minister member designated as a Minister for Chin Affairs was the head of the government. The power of the Minister’s administration for Chin Affairs was subject to the approval by the Union government in all state affairs such as education, culture, etc. Therefore, the Minister was under the direct control of the central Union government. There is the Chin Affairs Council comprising of all members of Parliament elected by the Chin people. The Chin Affairs Council’s function was simply to aid and advise the Minister for Chin Affairs in matters such as recruitment, postings, and transferring civil services. Therefore, they too were under direct control of the central Union government. Moreover, there was no provision for passing bills or the right to legislation of the Chin Special Division in the 1947 Union Constitution. This is called a system of centralized government putting every powers in the center. As such, the Chin people and Chin territory were in the hands of the Burmese. (See: 1947 Union Constitution, Part V: Section: 196, 197, 198). Another example is of the Kachin State. Like Chin Special Division, the Kachin had a State Council and a State government. The Minister for Kachin Affairs was the head of the government. Members of the State Council had partial right to pass bills of the state. The problem was, the bills should be presented to the President for approval, and should be subject to the President’s signature, in order to come into existence. And the State can only recommend the passing of the law to the Union parliament. (see Part II- 166-170 of 1947 Union Constitution).
Therefore, both in Chin Special Division and Kachin State, all powers, both in State and central government, went to central government. In federal system of government, the State Council or the federal state should be given full authority to function independently, especially in the case of Burma as it consists of different groups. The federal state should have had the right to legislation, especially in school, police, press, and other individual state affairs. In addition, the constitution should provide for the right of passing bills. Neither the Union government nor the central authorities should control or impose her authorities to federal state council or the state government. Even in the local government, there should be self-government, as there are many different dialects and cultures. The federal government’s role should be in the matters of monetary issues, taxation, foreign affairs, communication, and federal armed forces. All these were absent in the Union Constitution of 1947. Therefore, the AFPFL, led by U Nu’s constitution of 1947, aimed to control all power in local, state, and central government. The Burman majority enjoyed all authority from top to bottom and bottom to top. In summary, the 1947 Union Constitution betrayed Aung San’s Union as well as the Panglong Agreement. This constitutional crisis led to ethnic groups meeting in Taungyi on February 25, 1961 and submitting a proposal of federalism to parliament. Unfortunately, General Ne Win took power from U Nu, the Prime Minister of the Union government, claiming non-integration of the country on March 2, 1962. The ethnic issues continued to worsen. General New Win’s Policy of Burmanization and Ethnic Cleansing Right after his military coup, General Ne Win began using a policy of Burmanization, also known as assimilation, that means making all ethnic groups into Burmans. He abolished the 1947 Constitution and ruled by guns. It was now forbidden to teach or learn ethnic languages in the universities and colleges. Burman cultural dress, such as Taihpung and Longkyi, became the official dress in offices and schools. In Chin State, there is not a single college or university. As result, many Chin people could not pursue higher education and became uneducated. Chins who attended the Mandalay University and Rangoon University were indoctrinated in Burman cultures. This is a calculated assimilation policy of Ne Win to assimilate all ethnic groups into Burmans. As a last resort, more ethnic minority groups took up arms against Ne Win’s dictatorial rule leaving families, relatives and friends behind in an attempt to regain their inherent rights and to safeguard their freedom. Ethnic civilians do not escape the Burmese Army’s eye either because the Burmese Army regards them as supporters of the ethnic armed forces. They are subject to torture, imprisonment, and arbitrary arrest along with forced relocation.
In order to escape the Burmese Army’s persecution, ethnic groups have fled to other countries for safe haven. The Revolutionary Council, from 1962 to 1974, and the Burma Socialist Program Party, the one party system, did not satisfy the majority of Burmans either. The Military regime not only failed the economic policy of the country, but also spent approximately 40% of the national income for the defense budget in order to strengthen the armed forces to fight against the ethnic armed forces. It had been used for ethnic cleansing activities. Selling her rich natural resources, such as hardwood to neighboring countries including Thailand could not solve the economic crisis. To bail out of the economic crisis, the only choice left was applying for the Least Developed Country status. In 1987, Burma became one of the ten poorest countries in the world. One of the main reasons for the 1988 uprising was freedom from the Burmese dictatorial rule, which included economic freedom, cultural freedom, educational freedom, etc. After the uprising, the regime doubled armed forces along with the doubling of opium production. Production of opium became one of the main sources of income for the Burmese Army. Most of opium production had been taken places in ethnic areas such as in the Wa area of Shan State. This has not only been a threat to Burmans and the ethnic groups, but also to the international community. The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 1999, released by the Department of State in March 2000, describes Burma as follows: “Burma has been, and continues to be, one of the world’s largest producers of illicit opium. Burmese opium production doubled in 1989”. (International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1999 released by the Department of State in March 2000, P. 5). The Burmese military regime regards the ethnic minority groups as the enemy. Two months ago, on August 7, 2000, the Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD) released a four points statement condemning the burning of Chin Christian’s churches, houses, school buildings and live stock. The fourth point of the statement said: “In Burma today, under the rule of the military dictators, if you are not a Burman Buddhist you are discriminated against. The military dictators regard you as an enemy.” (Central Executive Committee, National League for Democracy, Statement 124 (8/00), 7 August 2000, Rangoon). This statement truthfully highlights the crux of the political crisis in Burma. For non-Burman groups, and those who oppose the SPDC, life in Burma is full of fear.
Two weeks ago, I was in Guam interviewing an estimated 280 refugees from Burma, mostly from Chin State on human rights issues. One thing that strikes me most concerns Chin girls. I was told that the Burmese Army is targeting Chin girls for marriage. These girls, and their families, obtain more opportunity by marrying members of the Burmese Army, and in the same way Burmese soldiers who marry Chin girls are promoted in rank. Chin women who married Burmese soldiers later received military training at the Football ground in Haka. They are then used to combat the activities of the Chin National Front. These Chin girls are used for both purposes of assimilation and attacking the Chin people. A high school teacher at Haka town, Chin State told me another painful story. One day the Army Captain came to his high school classroom saying that he needed the most beautiful girl in the classroom. Shortly thereafter, a Chin girl was taken to his house where it was later discovered she had been raped. Her family said they were afraid to report the rape to higher authorities knowing there would be no action taken and the family would surely be accused of lying. These acts committed crimes against humanity. Chin State, my State, is a restricted area. Chin-Americans could not travel to Chin State to visit their relatives. Foreigners are also not allowed to visit Chin State. In Chin State, approximately 10% are Burman, they are the Burmese Army and their families. Not less than 90% of the population is Chin people. Ten percent of the population holds power over the will of 90% of the population. The U.N Human Rights Commission’s Rapporteur Rajsoomer Lallah’s report on Burma, released on October 16, 2000, said that the worst violence committed by the Burmese Army was against ethnic minorities.
This is about ethnic cleansing. According to the report of the U.S Committee for Refugees 2000 World Refugee Survey, at least 200,000 refugees from Burma live in Thailand, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, and other countries. Approximately, up to one million people are internally displaced. (US Committee for Refugees, World Refugee Survey, 2000 Page 133). These figures provide a clear picture.