CHRO

Rhododendron News

 

Volume XI, No. I, January – February 2008

Chin Human Rights Organization

www.chro.org

 

Table of Contents:

 

Editorial:

 

Cross-Border Aid Needed to Address Humanitarian Crisis in Chinland

 

Human Rights Situations in Chinland:

 

Forced Labor for Bootlegging

Illegal Funds Collected from Chin Public

Unfair Tax and Restriction Imposed on Chin Farmers

Money Extorted to Finance Militia Training

Town Residents Forced to Buy and Plant Tea Seed

Corrupt Forestry Officer Imposed Excessive Fines on Villagers

Officials Auctioned Off Seized Goods for Personal Profit

Extortion Rampage

New Recruitment Drive Targets High School Students

Burmese police recruit under age youth in western Burma

 

Refugee Situation

 

45 Chin Perished at Sea

Rela Burns Down Chin Camps in Malaysia

Local Youth Assault Chin Asylum Seeker in New Delhi

 

News & Events

 

CHRO Begins Annual Advocacy Mission

Total Oil Urged to Pull Out of Burma

Chin Marks National Day with Protest

Burmese Regime Bans Chin Historical Day

Ethnic Alliance Warns Constitutional Boycott

 

Facts & Argument

 

Burma’s Referendum: Why Indonesia Matters

 

Back Cover Poem

Once Voice (Chin national Day)

 

Editorial

 

 

Cross-Border Aid Needed to Address Worsening Humanitarian Crisis in Chinland

 

 

Rising cost of living and arbitrary and repressive policies of the ruling military junta are driving Chin people into deeper and deeper humanitarian crisis, causing serious alarm of hunger and famine for communities across Burma’s western frontier.

 

Latest information from inside Chin State indicates that more and more communities are finding themselves adversely affected by rising cost of living, arbitrary and excessive tax, forced labor programs and other repressive policies of the State Peace and Development Council. In many parts of Chin State, hunger and famine are becoming a reality for the first time since the army takeover 19 years ago as previously self-sufficient communities are no longer able to make ends meet.

 

Ordinary Chin families such as farmers who account for the majority and make up the backbone of local economy are worst affected by the crisis due to various restrictions and bans, as well as excessive taxes imposed on them by military authorities. In parts of Falam township of northern Chin State farmers are completely banned from clearing new forests for the 2008 cultivation season while imposition of restrictive rules and arbitrary taxes are preventing other communities such as those in the southern township of Matupi from continuing to make their sole and traditional means of livelihood.

 

Additionally, many rural communities are bracing for, or are already dealing with, the rapid boom of crop-eating rodent population with the flowering of bamboos, which has historically driven local communities into disastrous famine every half a century or so.

 

Urban residents such as those living in major towns are facing similar economic crisis. Rising commodity prices and living costs, compounded by various forms of arbitrary and often excessive taxes are taking a toll on Chin families. Apart from excessively large sums exacted for property and municipal taxes, families are required to pay as much as 30, 000 Kyats per household per year in order to be exempt from government-sponsored forced labor programs such as portering and construction related to development and military purposes. This does not include other ‘donations’ that each family must pay on a regular basis such as for the cost of militia and vigilante training conducted by the army in towns and villages across the state. In total, each family ends up paying as much as 300,000 to 400, 000 Kyats to the military government.

 

Despite increasing evidence of humanitarian crises nationwide and the crippling economy, Burma’s military regime still refuses to acknowledge the extent of the country’s problems. The expulsion late last year of Charles Petrie, the head of the United Nations Office in Burma who had voiced concerns over the unfolding crises and the various restrictions on, and official interference with the activities of international humanitarian agencies working in the country, are cases in point.

 

Unfortunately for the Chins, their isolated region lies beyond the reach of very few international aid agencies that are currently allowed to work in Burma. Chin State is designated as a grey zone where insurgency is active, and thus remains restricted. With virtually no help flowing from international agencies from inside Burma, Chin people can expect little help from the outside world to help cope with what is a dire humanitarian situation.

 

Most obviously, recent announcements by the military junta to hold a constitutional referendum and new elections are not going to have any positive impacts on the humanitarian situations, nor are they likely to reverse the worsening trend of human miseries and rights abuses in Chin State.

 

In such a situation, it is urgent and imperative that the international community and aid organizations find an alternative way to deliver the much needed humanitarian help to the Chin people, including by cross-border aid delivery from neighboring India in order to avert what clearly will be a disastrous consequence.

 

Human Rights Situations in Chinland

 

 

Forced Labor for Bootlegging

18 January 2008

 

An army officer is running a bootlegging operation for personal profits by forcing Chin villagers to transport and sell liquors to India’s Mizoram State, a local villager told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

Light Infantry Battalion 304’s Major Thein Win Myint, camp commander at Sabawngte village has been making a personal fortune from his illegal business since the beginning of January 2008. The local source says that up to four and five villagers have routinely been forced to carry as many as 40 to 60 bottles of liquor from Rezua town to Sabawngte village where they were sold for three to four times the market price. Villagers are also made to transport a portion of the liquor to across the border into India’s Mizoram.

A bottle of liquor fetches as much as 200 in Indian currency in Mizoram where it is a dry state.

 

“It is very unfair that not only are we (the villlagers) forced in the bootlegging business without any pay, anyone selling liquors is arrested and fined by the army,” says the local source.

 

The bootlegging operation involving forced labor exacted from villagers has been ongoing in the area since the beginning of last year. Amy units stationed in the area such as LIB 274 based in Lailenpi camp has been making illegal profits from bootlegging since early 2007.

 

Illegal Funds Collected from Chin Public

 

19 January 2008

 

Residents of Haka, Chin State’s capital, are to ‘donate’ 500 Kyats per household to pay for the cost of training 42 ‘fire personnel,’ according to an order from Major General Hung Ngai, Chairman of Chin State Peace and Development Council.

 

Each of the six wards/localities of Haka is required to send in seven trainees along with the expenses needed for the training: about 2000 Kyats a day for each trainee.

 

Collection of the ‘donation’ started on 16 December 2007, and the training was conducted through the month of January 2008. “There are at least 5,000 households in Haka and it’s too obvious what the authorities are collecting is much more than the actual cost because everyone knows how much 500 Kyats per household translates to,” a local resident said, stressing that officials any excess money would most likely go to individual officials.

 

Fire fighters are routinely used by the military junta not only for their obvious purpose but more importantly as vigilante or local militia.

 

 

Unfair Tax and Restriction Imposed on Chin Farmers

 

8 February 2008

 

Military authorities have imposed unfair tax and unreasonable restriction on farmers in two townships putting further hardship on already poor communities whose sole survival depends on slash and burn cultivation, an unnamed local source told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

While slash and burn cultivation is entirely banned in most parts of Falam Township for the 2008 new cultivation season, farming communities in Matupi Township of southern Chin State are being levied 2000 Kyats per household along with 12 tins of paddy upon harvest.

 

The order which was issued by Colonel Zaw Myint Oo, Commander of Tactical II Command based in Matupi town, came into effect in November 2007.

 

Local authorities have already begun collecting money from the farmers as of 2007 year-end, prompting many farmers to second guess the worth of cultivating this season. However, more families are left with no choice but to pay the levy as they have no other alternative means of survival. Among these families are residents of Ngala, Lawngban, Khuabawi and Sanbawng localities in Matupi town.

 

Meanwhile in Falam Township, communities affected by the complete ban are taking desperate measures by reportedly selling off what little they have left such as chicken and pigs in order to come up with enough money to bribe local forestry officials in the hope of getting permission to cultivate this season.

 

In imposing the ban, military authorities have insisted that the slash and burn agricultural method is not sustainable practice without actually offering or supporting other ‘sustainable’ alternative programs for their survival.

 

Money Extorted to Finance Militia Training

 

18 February 2008

 

Burmese military authorities in Tamu Township of Sagain Division are arbitrarily collecting money from local residents in order to finance militia training slated for January 2008. According to a local resident, each household is to pay 500 Kyats for the purpose.

 

Village Peace and Development Council Chairman Ko Myo Chit has ordered each locality/ward to send in one able trainee to the training along with 500 Kyats per household in each the locality.

 

Although the funds have been collected, the militia training itself is yet to be conducted as of mid February, and local residents suspect that local officials have used the training as a pretext to collect money without authorization from higher authorities.

 

Town Residents Forced to Buy and Plant Tea Seed

 

19 February 2008

 

Residents of Thantlang town of northern Chin State are being threatened with confiscation of their private gardens unless they plant tea seed in their gardens, which they must buy from local officials. Following directives from higher authorities U Lai To, Village PDC Chairman issued the order to this effect.

 

Since the beginning of January 2008, Chairmen of each local PDC have instructed every household in their locality to buy one bag of tea seed for 4000 Kyats. The purchase is compulsory for all residents owning a garden in Thantlang town but only half them have made the purchase so far as of late February.

 

Tea seeds are shipped from out of State in Burma proper and local authorities are responsible for distribution in their respective areas. About four fifth of the 1500 households of Thantlang town own a garden and they are complaining about the unfair order.

 

Corrupt Forestry Officer Imposed Excessive Fines on Villagers

 

19 February 2008

 

New house owners were the latest target of a corrupt forestry officer who made illegal profits by extorting them money, a local villager reported to CHRO. Siang Ling, Thantlang Township Forestry Officer, imposed excessive fines on two villagers for ‘unauthorized’ use of timbers for construction of their houses. Za Zin of Tlangpi village was fined 30,000 Kyats while a villager from Van Zang was fined 100,000 Kyats for using timbers to build their houses.

 

In late January 2008, the forestry officer was traveling to Tlangpi and Tlanglo villages when he came across people sawing wood planks for building new houses in the village. The owners were immediately ordered to pay thousands of Kyats for unauthorized use of timbers.

 

As the officer traveled around the area, he collected 500 Kyats from each household in every village for their use of firewood and an additional 200 Kyats for cultivating in a shifting farmland.

 

 

Officials Auctioned Off Seized Goods for Personal Profit

 

13 December 2007

 

U Kyaw Maung, the head of Revenue Dept. for Teddim Township of northern Chin State, on November 22, put on an auction to sell goods his department had seized from cross-border traders. The goods included imported tobaccos Indian brand named 92 Zarda fetching up to 40 million Kyats, a local source told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

Three jeep loads of goods containing 120 packages of tobacco were seized from four cross-border traders by a joint force of Township Revenue Department, Military Intelligence and Burmese police. The vehicles carrying the goods were also seized and kept as public property for use by State authorities.

 

A package of Indian-made tobacco (Commonly used as an ingredient for chewing betel nuts) is priced at 300,000 Kyats on the market rate. The 120 packages were seized as ownerless and the traders who attempted to reclaim the goods were silenced with threats of arrest.

 

A trader said such seizures are specifically targeted at Chin traders and Burman tobacco importers have never had their goods seized by authorities.

 

 

Extortion Rampage

 

5 December 2007

 

Burmese army and police units on patrol along Teddim and Rih Sub-town routes of northern Chin State routinely extort money from traders passing through the route, according to CHRO source.

 

On November 22, 2007, a trader from Teddim town who was carrying plastic packages with 50 horses to Mizoram, India was arrested at Laitui village by Burmese police who asked him to pay 500 Kyat per horse. Going ahead on his journey eight miles away to Lentlang village, he was again asked to pay the same amount of money by a Burmese army unit from Light Infantry Battalion 269.

 

When he told the soldiers he had already paid up the money to policemen earlier in the journey, the army unit commander said “we are not concerned with the police, if you do not pay the money, both your property and you will be arrested and put in the jail”.

 

For fear of such threat, the trader gave the money he was being asked for. Traders risk being extorted, sometimes twice on a single trip, of at least 100, 000 to 200, 000 Kyats to the army and police every trip. In addition, they usually end up paying 50, 000 to 100, 000 Kyats on their return depending on their luck in meeting with Burmese soldiers.

 

 

New Recruitment Drive Targets High School Students

 

7 December 2007

 

Starting from October 2007, Colonel Zaw Myint Oo, head of Military Tactical Command II based in Matupi town, southern Chin State had restarted recruitment drive targeting high school students in the area. But the ‘recruitment’ is involuntary and some high school students were already conscripted into the army against their will, forcing many students to hide in their house instead of attending school, a local reported to CHRO.

 

The new recruitment program took effect in the first week of October 2007. Colonel Zaw Myint Oo’s order required that each ward/locality in Matupi town contribute five able people for military service.

 

Army battalions such as LIB 140 are already on the prowl for new recruits in Matupi and surrounding villages. At least three high school students were arrested in the first week of November.

 

The three were later released upon intervention by their teachers who pleaded with the army commander. The army commander agreed their release after making assurance that the whole incident will be kept a secret. The students were snatched by the soldiers on their way to visit their native village for a weekend to fetch ration supplies – a trip high school students hailing from outlying villages have to make on occasions.

 

The students however, had to spend overnight at the army camp before being released where they were repeatedly persuaded to join the army by promising them bright prospects if they agreed to join the army.

 

 

Burmese police recruit under age youth in western Burma

Khonumthung News

February 9, 2008 – In the midst of the world body the United Nations accusing the Burmese military rulers of using child soldiers, comes reports of several youths including minors from Chin state and Arakan state, western Burma being recruited in the police force, a retired police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Recently, police officers from Paletwa Township in Chin state and Kyautdaw Township in Arakan state instructed each constable to recruit local youths for police service. If the constable failed to do so, Kyat 4,000 would be cut from his monthly salary.

Afraid of losing their salary, the constables allegedly tricked and persuaded local youths to join the police. They were conned into believing that the salary would be good and their status would improve. Among the recruited youth, the majority are said to be minors.

“Most of the recruited youth are under 18. They could not continue their studies as they are from poor families,” a retired police officer said.

“Taking advantage of school dropouts the authorities frequently engage them as porters to carry army rations and ammunition while the constables persuade them that joining the police force will not only free them from being a porter but it will also be a guarantee for better life,” he added.

Moreover, some youths who were arrested under the emergency Act, (an Act the authorities in Burma frequently used to remain in power) and forced to join the police force.

“There are around 30 minors from my native town who have been forced to join the police force,” a local in Chin state said.

The police recruiting camps in Paletwa and Kyautdaw have sent the recruited youths to police training camps in lower Burma. – Khonumthung…

 

Refuge Situations

 

45 Chin Perished at Sea

 

By Victor Khambil

 

December 21, 2007-Kuala Lumpur: A small boat carrying 99 ethnic Chin from Myanmar accidentally sunk into the sea near Koktoung which located at the southernmost borderline of Thai and Myanmar on December 20, 2007 after colliding with a huge fishing boat at night. According to available information so far received, 45 Chin nationals comprising several children perished or still missing in the most ever devastating tragedy in the Chin history.

 

Most of the victims are Chin refugees heading toward Malaysia to join with their families in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia .

 

According to eyewitness, a boat carrying 99 refugees was hit by a huge fishing boat during the speed on the sea at night. Since the boat was not sunk suddenly into the sea after it was hit, 44 refugees on boat were able to climb over to the fishing boat which stopped near the sinking boat.

 

The worsening political situation in Myanmar is a factor which forced thousands of ethnic refugees out of Myanmar especially the Chin people who are struggling under the torturous rule of military regime in Myanmar . Most of the victims who perished in the tragedy are from Thantlang township of Chin State.

 

According to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), the Chins who are mostly Christians, in Buddhist dominated country, are persecuted due to their believe in democracy and Christianity and also for their ethnic background, by the Burmese military regime.

 

There are roughly about 20, 000 Chin refugees in Malaysia who are seeking asylum at United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) Liaison office in Kuala Lumpur.

 

As Malaysia is not a signatory of 1951 UN Refugee Convention, most refugees in Malaysia are facing almost daily arrests and detention as illegal immigrants. Up to this date there are still more than 700 Chin refugees and asylum seekers who are in immigration detention camps in Malaysia including children and women. Furthermore, many of the male refugees are not only detained but punished with two strokes of canings at their buttocks in prison plus their sentences as illegal immigrants which is the minimum of three months inside jails. After several weeks, most detainees were deported to Thai border where they were victimized again by drug addict human smugglers especially younger women.

 

According to Paul coordinator for Kuala Lumpur based Chin Refugee Committee in Malaysia , the factor behind the refugees who are fleeing to cross international border to escape from Myanmar is none other than the military regime who dare even shot dead several monks in September 2007.

 

(Victor Khambil, CHRO refugee issue coordinator, file the report from Kuala Lumpur )

 

 

Rela Burns Down Chin Camps in Malaysia

25 January 2008

 

Putra Jaya, Malaysia: At least 75 Chin refugees and asylum seekers are now homeless and distraught after government-authorized forces in Malaysia burned down their jungle shelters earlier this week in Putra Jaya. This is the latest of many well-documented acts of abuse committed by the authorities against the refugee community in Malaysia.

 

The raid began around 7 am on 20 January when more than 30 RELA members violently stormed the make-shift campsite and burned it to the ground. The material possessions of the camp residents- plastic sheeting for shelter, pots and pans for cooking, donated articles of clothing and food rations, and Christian Bibles- were reduced to ashes. For a community already living on the margins of survival, the consequences are devastating.

 

“Nothing is left for any of them. Nobody knows what they should do, where they should go for shelter, how they can overcome this…They are left with nothing,” reported one Chin leader who recently visited the residents and their burned out campsite.

 

For years, the Chins have taken shelter in the jungles surrounding Kuala Lumpur to escape the harassment and abuse by RELA security forces. Night-time neighborhood raids occur regularly in Kuala Lumpur’s urban areas. Although in hiding, the Chins living in the jungle are not immune to such abuses. Over the course of four years, the camp in Putra Jaya had been raided three times by RELA.

 

According to the camp leader, “None of the raids in the past compare to this. We are empty-handed now. We lost everything- no cooking pots, no food, no clothes, no hope.”

 

The raid was conducted by Malaysia’s controversial RELA or the People’s Volunteer Corps, an untrained, volunteer civilian unit with security enforcement powers. RELA has come under increasing criticism by members of the international community and human rights organizations for reckless conduct and abusive actions during raids. Despite such criticism, RELA is slated to take over all of Malaysia’s immigration facilities during this next year. The transition of authority has already started in some facilities, raising concerns among the refugee community who fear the takeover will lead to increased abuses with greater impunity.

 

BACKGROUND

 

Hundreds of thousands of Chins have been forced to leave their homes in Burma to escape severe ethnic and religious persecution committed by the military regime of Burma. They arrive in Malaysia in search of some sense of security. Currently, there are over 23,000 Chin asylum seekers and refugees living in Malaysia. Instead of finding safety, the Chin people are the constant target of harassment, arrest, detention, and deportation by the Malaysian authorities. In addition, they are unable to work, receive an education, access healthcare services, or find acceptable living accommodations. With the UNHCR registration process closed since July 2005, obtaining refugee status or any protective documents from the UNHCR is difficult. As a result, life for the Chins in Malaysia is full of abuses and uncertainties.

 

For more information on the Chin and their situation in Malaysia, please visit Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) on the web at www.chro.org or contact Amy Alexander at [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or +66.85.230.2609.

 

Local Youth Assault Chin Asylum Seeker in New DelhiKhonumthung News

February 11, 2008 – Local youth on February 9 at night attacked and injured an asylum seeker from Chin state, Burma in New Delhi, capital of India.

The incident occurred in Jeevan Park, Uttamnagar, west New Delhi.

A local youth called Ashu on Saturday at around 11 pm reportedly snatched Maung Kung (28), a Chin from Burma, from Pankha Road in Jeevan Park and forcibly took him to a dark corner.

After a few minutes another local youth was said to have joined Ashu and together they assaulted Maung Kung for almost an hour. They also demanded Rs. 10,000 from him.

“When I did not give them anything they took my temporary UN card and Rs. 860 from my pocket,” Maung Kung with his lower lip swollen said.

Fortunately, some Chin Refugee Committee and Chin community leaders rushed to the place where the incident took place and rescued Maung Kung after another Chin refugee who was passing by saw the incident and informed them.

The CRC and community leaders tried to stop the local youth who claimed that Maung Kung owed them money. Maung Kung denied ever having met them.

“How could I owe them money as I don’t even know who they are,” Maung Kung said.

CRC leaders lodged a complaint at the Uttam Nagar police station as the local youth kept on trying to attack Maung Kung.

The police arrived at the spot and took Maung Kung to a nearby hospital as his mouth and nose were bleeding.

The police arrested Ashu and his friend but later released them as they reportedly confessed to the police that they mistook Maung Kung for another person, according to CRC.

The police suggested that the victim register a case at the police station.

“The police told us that only after the case has been registered, can they book the accused,” Mr. Jeremiah, president of the CRC said.

The victim, Maung Kung, is still not clear under which section, he should register a complaint.

“It was a sort of attempt to murder him,” Mr. Jeremiah was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile a leader from the Chin community also accused Ashu and his friend of kidnapping him.

Maung Kung is from Hakha, the capital of Chin state in Burma. He fled to India in 2005.

He applied for refugee status to the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees office in New Delhi. His application has been pending with the UNHCR office. – Khonumthung.

 

News and Events

 

 

CHRO Begins Annual Advocacy Mission

Chinland Guardian

January 9, 2008

 

A delegation of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) is in Washington D.C this week for annual advocacy trip that usually starts at the beginning of the year.

 

Victor Biak Lian, CHRO’s member of board of directors and Ms. Amy Alexander the organization’ s regional advocacy officer has a series of meetings in the U.S Capitol meeting with National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S Department of State Bureau for Population, Migration and Refugee, and Bureau for International Religious Freedom, and the U.S Department of State Burma Desk.

 

Refugee Council of United States of America (RCUSA) hosted CHRO delegation by organizing a meeting where all members of RCUSA participated. Ms. Amy Alexander presented update situation of Chin refugees. She raised the security and humanitarian crisis faced by Chin refugees from Burma in India and Malaysia that needed to be addressed immediately.

 

Part of the mission is to highlight human rights and political situation among the Chin people after the popular “saffron revolution”. The CHRO has just published a report “Action, Words, and Prayer: The Chin Solidarity for Protest in Burma” that highlights the active role played by ethnic Chin during the protest against the military junta State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and the aftermath crackdown in Burma.

 

Two elected Chins MPs Pu Cin Sian Thang and Pu Thawng Kho Thang were arrested by the SPDC during the protest in September for their active role in the demonstrations. Several Chin students got injuries during the crackdown and many more are fleeing the country becoming refugees in neighboring countries due to their active role in the protest.

 

When asked how the advocacy trip is going, Mr. Victor Biak Lian responded “We have a very successful trip here in Washington DC , apart from meeting with the NED and different bureau from the State Department, and other agencies we also have a chance to meet with Chin community in Maryland and Washington DC areas. We will continue our mission to meet with Chin Community in Indiana , Michigan and California ”.

 

Salai Bawi Lian Mang, director of CHRO said that “we did pretty good last year in terms of advocacy and I think we have a very good start this year but we need to do more around our neighboring countries, and inside the country. We are going to do that”.

 

CHRO had a very successful advocacy works in 2007 meeting with United Kingdom’s Minister for International Trade and Foreign Affairs, Malaysia Cabinet Minister for Prime Minister Office, several Parliamentarians from United Kingdom, European Union, Foreign Affairs Department of Germany, meeting with senior officials from National Security Council at the White House, State Department and Briefing the US Congressional staff and most of all bringing two Parliamentarians from the UK to India-Burma border.

 

The CHRO delegation is scheduled to meet with Chin community in Indiana and Michigan on Thursday and Friday.

 

“Total Oil’ Urged to Pull Out of Burma

By Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

 

London, UK – 01 February, 2008: A handful of Burmese and British protesters braved the cold weather of London, UK urging Total Oil to pull out of Burma. Holding placards and banners saying ‘Total Disgrace – Free Burma’, the group actively chanted slogans protesting against the French oil giant in front of one of the company’s petrol stations near Kilburn tube station yesterday.

 

“This has been going on since October, 2007 from place to place including Total London Headquarter. We are doing this because a western investor in Burma, Total, refuses to pull out of Burma. We want to put pressure on Total to respect the voices and wishes of Burma’s democratic movements. And we want Total to pull out of Burma rather than helping to keep the military regime in power,” a local resident, Daniel Viesnik of Totaloutofburma.org told Chinland Guardian.

 

The participants, wrapped up well yet shaken by a very chilly wind, handed out leaflets to the passers-by. Total Oil is the fourth largest oil company in the world and one of the biggest foreign investors in Burma; it is in a joint venture with Burma’s dictatorship in the Yadana gas project in southern Burma, according to the leaflet.

 

“I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Burmese people to use our freedom to promote democracy in Burma. Also, I strongly recommend more British people to get involved in this cause,” said a British participant and photographer, who asked not to be named.

 

The ongoing campaign supported by various organisations including Burma Campaign UK last month called on the company to stop giving the brutal military junta hundreds of millions of dollars as the largest western supporter of the military regime. “The existence of Total in Burma profits the junta enormously. The regime uses the money for buying weapons. And they use these weapons to kill the Burmese people instead of protecting and helping them,” said Ko Htein Lin, an 88 Generation student, wearing a red NLD-logo headband.

 

“Each and every one of us, the Burmese, has got a duty to do in this cause. We should stand together in support of giving pressure to Total Oil, a major financial supporter of Burma’s dictatorship,” said a computer student, Myint Wai, holding a placard that reads “TOTALitarian Oil Fuelling the oppression in Burma”.

 

The campaign happens on Wednesday and Thursday every week.

 

With more than a population of 50 millions, Burma has been ruled for decades by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. The regime has been condemned and accused of various human rights violations including systematic use of forced labour, rape against ethnic women and conscription of child soldiers.

 

Chins Mark National Day with Protest

 

By Plato Van Rung Mang

Chinland Guardian

 

February 20, 2008 – New Delhi: More than 800 Chins and local supporters took to the streets of downtown New Delhi today to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Chin National Day, which has not been allowed to celebrate in their homeland by Burma’s military junta.

 

‘We want to celebrate Chin National Day, We oppose Burma ’s sham referendum, we need Indian’s support,” they chanted as they marched through downtown New Delhi .

 

Mr. Lal Rem Sanga, the President of Chin Students’ Union (CSU) said, “We want to show the Indian public and government the suffering of our people under the Burmese military regime and to show the unity and determination of our people to preserve identity.”

 

In a memorandum to the Prime Minister and the President of India, the Chin community calls for India ’s principled support and action for democratization in Burma .

 

Surendra Mohan (former Indian MP), and Shri Achar Yeshi Phuntsok (MP), Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, were among prominent persons attending the commemoration who reiterated their support for the Chin and that of the Burmese people as a whole.

 

Chin National Day emerged out of a historic Chin assembly in Falam town that abolished centuries-old feudal administrative system in favor of democracy in 1948. It has since been recognized as an official holiday in the Union of Burma. But Burma ’s military regime has now banned any celebration of the occasion unless it is held as a ‘State’ day in a blatant attempt to rid of what has become a symbol of Chin identity.

 

Burmese regime bans Chin historical day

Khonumthung News

February 20, 2008 – The Burmese military regime has ordered people in Chin state, Burma not to commemorate the Chin’s historic day by the name of “Chin Nation Day”.

Over five hundred Chins in exile held a demonstration against the Burmese junta on the street of Jantar Mantar near Parliament in New Delhi, India on Chin National Day falls on 20 of February. (Photo – Khonumthung)

The 60th anniversary of Chin National Day falls today.

Chin National Day is the day on which the people in Chin state agreed to abolish the inherited chieftainship system and practice a democratic system at a national assembly held in Falam town in Chin state on February 20, 1948.

However, the democratic system failed to take off in Chin society after the military junta seized power in 1962.

Today, the regime did not allow the people in Hakha Township, capital of Chin state to hold the national day as the Chin Nation Day and instead told them to call it the “Chin Culture Day”, according to locals in Chin State.

“You all know the situation in Burma, if the regime doesn’t it want we can’t do anything,” said a local on condition of anonymity.

Moreover, the authorities from Sagaing Division also prohibited celebrating “Chin National Day” in Kalay University campus this year. In previous years, the Kalay university students were allowed to hold their national day function in the campus.

Meanwhile, the Chin Literature and Culture Committee in Rangoon said to have celebrated its historical day in City Lion in Rangoon today. – Khonumthung.

 

Ethnic Alliance Warns Constitutional Boycott

 

Chinland Guardian

 

The Ethnic Nationalities Council, the largest ethnic grouping has called on Burma’s military junta to form a broad-based ‘Constitutional Review Commission’ that will review two separate sets of constitutional drafts that have been separately prepared by the military and opposition groups.

 

In a statement issued on February 29, the ENC calls on the military junta to invite all major stakeholders in Burma’s political scene to new a constitutional consultation process towards finding a negotiated solution to the country’s problem. The ENC however, acknowledges the necessity of making a compromise and concessions on the part of all parties.

 

Among other proposals, the ENC wants any constitutional negotiation to include questions of the role of the armed forces, the right of ethnic nationalities and a federal constitutional arrangement.

 

“For the sake of peace and stability not only in Burma but also in the region, we request the international community, especially our neighboring countries, including China, India and ASEAN, to mediate a tripartite negotiation among the SPDC, the 1990 election winning party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic nationalities,” the statement reads.

 

The ENC however warns of a boycott should the military regime fails to meet its demands.

 

Facts & Argument

 

Burma’s Referendum: Why Indonesia Matters

By Salai Chan Cung Uk

23 February 2008

 

It came as no surprise when Burma ‘s military junta announced in early February that it is holding a referendum in May to adopt a new constitution that will eventually pave a way for a transition to democracy. The timing of the announcement is no coincidence either as the regime is desperate to show ‘progress’ towards political reform ahead of planned visit by UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari who has made it clear to the junta the expectation of the United Nations Security Council and the international community.

 

If anything, the generals have achieved little in convincing the world that its impending referendum in May 2008 and elections slated for 2010 would result in a genuine and participatory political process. In fact, the junta has failed even to convince its closest neighbors, let alone the rest of the international community.

 

Significantly, Indonesia has quickly expressed serious doubts as to whether new elections or constitutional referendum would produce any substantive change while the country’s main opposition groups and ethnic forces remain shut out of the political process. No other ASEAN governments have made similar statements but what is so significant is that the opinion of Indonesia matters more than anyone else given that the regime’s draft constitution was modeled on Indonesian constitution under Suharto.

 

It was no secret that for the military regime Burma ‘s aspired constitution was inspired by the Indonesian model, which allows a strong centralized and military-dominated government. In fact, state-run media in Burma regularly proudly depicted Indonesian constitution as the goal of the long-running National Convention. But state press suddenly kept silence when the popular uprising ousted the Suharto regime in Indonesia in 1998.

 

So if anyone can give advice to and comment on Burma ‘s current draft constitution with authority and credibility, it is the Indonesian people who have experienced and lived through the same constitution for more than three decades. Adopting the military’s draft constitution would thus only mean taking Burma to four decades back in time when Suharto instituted an authoritarian regime by ensuring ‘army supremacy’ in politics as part of his ‘New Order’ slogan.

 

Even putting aside its undemocratic nature and unilateralist and exclusionist drafting process, which has been the source of widespread international criticisms, Burma ‘s draft constitution is still fundamentally flawed in that all democratic freedoms and basic human rights that are essential in any democratic society, are made conditional and whimsical. The overarching power vested in the executive can take away even the most fundamental of human rights.

 

What is evident is that individual freedoms and liberties will continue to be curtailed and violated in the absence of a genuine democratic constitution. The international community, including ASEAN countries must continue to insist on an “open, transparent, inclusive and participatory process” towards a transition to democracy.

 

After all, the end goal of Burma ‘s new constitution should be to achieve sustainable peace and prosperity through NATIONAL RECONCILIATION, and not a mere mechanism to install a new regime. Any deviation from this goal is certainly going to fail to address the fundamental problems that have plagued Burma for the last half a century.

 

Burma ‘s future now hangs in the balance. It is pivotal that ASEAN and other Burma ‘s neighbors especially China and India follow suit and stand with Indonesia in demanding that the political process is both inclusive and participatory. For without any negotiated solution lasting peace will continue to be a dream rather than a reality.

 

Back Cover Poem

One Voice (Chin National Day)

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

06 February 2008

 

No longer could the Chins stand the colony

Nor could they bear the hands of nobility;

Undaunted yet united they made their ways

Towards liberty they thus yearned in one voice.

 

Despite steep mountains and deep vales in between,

Days and nights on foot they traversed to the scene;

No rains and storms stopped their long journey and choice;

Together the Chins sought and fought in one voice.

 

Many a hand had tried but failed to part them

In course of seeking their national anthem;

Many years ago today penned a Chin song

Which in one voice they all sang along so strong.

 

Years of struggles for equal rights and freedom

To the Chins begot a national custom –

Chin National Day, brought up in harmony,

Marking the strength of one voice in unity.

 

Today ought the Chins to heed the tapestry

That history wove into a net of beauty,

Intertwined in the spirit of brotherhood,

In one voice firmly and steadily they stood.

 

 

Rhododendron News

Volume XI, No II, March-April 2008

Chin Human Rights Organization

www.chro.org

 

Table of Contents:

 

Editorial

• Double Jeopardy: When Global Food Shortage Meets Local Crisis

 

Situations in Chinland

• More Communities Flee Famine Affected Areas

• Government-backed Opium-Growing on the Increase in Chin State

• SPDC Army Forced Villagers for Porters

• Gospel Baptist Church’s Silver Jubilee Postponed

• Efforts to Help Victims of Famine Underway

• Fears for Famine-Hit Chin Grow as Corruption in Local Authorities Rules

 

Statements & Press Release

• Critical Point: Humanitarian Disaster in the Making in Western Burma

• Food Relief Hampered for Famine Victims in Western Burma

• Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC) Formed

• Asylum Seeking Mother and Children at Risk

 

Referendum

• Thura Aung Ko campaigns for referendum in western Burma

• Professor Dr. Salai Tun Than To Stage Hunger Strike

• Referendum Failed in Chin State: Mock Poll Suggests

• Go To The Poll, Cast Your Vote With Clear Conscience

 

News & Events

• Global Day of Prayer for Burma Held In London

• CNF Marks 20th Anniversary of Chin National Revolution Day

 

Opinion & Commentary

• The UN and Burma: the UN Good Offices Mission May Need Alteration

• Back Cover Poem

• The People And The Nation

 

Editorial

 

DOUBLE JEOPARDY: WHEN GLOBAL FOOD SHORTAGE MEETS LOCAL CRISIS

 

Food shortage is a global phenomenon affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world and creating potentially explosive situations and instabilities in many parts of the world. But people in western Burma are facing a double jeopardy: skyrocketing food price created by global food shortage and unproductive local harvests caused by a natural cycle of bamboo flowering that has historically brought devastating crisis in the region every half a century.

 

Bamboo is the primary vegetation in much of southern Chin State and the areas along India-Burma borders. The type of bamboo species found in this region flower only once in every five decades or more. But when bamboos blossomed into flowers they produce large quantities of seeds, attracting rats to the areas. Scientists believe that rich nutrients in bamboo seeds cause rats to multiply quickly. But when the seeds are exhausted rats then turn to standing crops, literally decimating entire rice fields overnight. For the vast majority of people in the area, subsistence farming is their only source of income and survival. For many communities only a tenth of their usual harvests remained after rats have attacked their crops.

 

Hundreds of families have fled the area after depleting whatever they have left including their livestock such as cows, chickens and pigs. Others are foraging for food in the jungle by digging out wild roots and picking whatever edible vegetables they can find in the forests.

 

Meanwhile, the military regime has not provided any kind of aid to communities affected by this crisis. Instead, the authorities have seized food aid provided by private donors and church groups and resold them at overpriced rates to the very people to whom the food was being delivered. In some cases, local authorities have warned against any sort of aid delivery to people in southern Chin State citing concerns that such assistance maybe connected to opposition groups in exile.

 

Ironically, at the very same time when Chin people are struggling for their very next meal and face starvation on a scale unprecedented in recent memory, the military regime was exporting 100, 000 Metric Tons of rice to Sri Lanka.

 

By contrast, the Indian government has spent tens of millions of dollars into emergency programs and preventive measures intended to manage and combat the latest crisis with unprecedented level of inter-departmental coordination between the federal and state governments of Mizoram and Manipur, both of which lie adjacent to Chin State. In fact, in 2000 it was serious enough to prompt the Indian government to scramble an emergency session of its National Planning Commission to deal with a massive regional food shortage with the expected synchronized flowering of bamboos in Mizoram and Manipur States.

 

The most immediate concerns remain food for communities that are already starving and the potential outbreak of disease such as malaria and dysentery especially among communities that are on the move as monsoon season is fast approaching and they lack basic medical attention. But the crisis will also have longer term negative impacts that could potentially permanently transform the demography and livelihood for people in the area.

 

The need for urgent humanitarian aid to people in western Burma cannot be overstated. They are in a double jeopardy: the effects of global food crisis and unresponsive attitude of the military junta on the one hand and local food shortage caused by bamboo flowering on another.

 

 

Situations in Chinland

 

MORE COMMUNITIES FLEE FAMINE AFFECTED AREA

 

16 March 2008 : A mass migratory movement of people is being reported in Tonzang Township of northern Chin State due to devastating famine caused by bamboo flowering, coupled with soaring food price and lack of food aid from the government.

 

The bamboo started flowering from late 2006 in this area. The event was followed by acute shortage of food and harvest for communities dependent on subsistence farming. They became desperate after selling off all their livestock such as chicken, pigs and cows to buy food.

 

Few families have received some financial assistance from relatives living abroad. But the majority of people are finding themselves without any form of assistance.

 

The price of rice has soared from 16,000 Kyats for one bag in 2006 to as much as 19,000 Kyats in 2008. More households who could not afford rice are eating corns and those who could not afford corns are forced to survive on wild roots and leaves from the jungle.

Because of the remoteness, people who have the money are finding themselves unable to afford transportation cost as they need to transport the rice by car or on horseback or by porters through long distance from Tonzang or as far away as Kalay Myo in Sagaing Division.

 

Amist such difficult time, Tonzang Township PDC Chairman had instructed all village adminstrative officials in the jurisdication to collect 1500 Kyats from each household for government’s bio-fuel plantation program.

 

To date these communities have not received any help from the military government and more communities are being forced to migrate out of the area.

 

Similarly, communities in Thantlang Township such as Belhar, Tluang Ram (A) and (B), Lul Pi Lung, Hmun Halh, Sia Lam and Vawm Kua are now experiencing severe famine. They had requested food aid from the government by their request was turned down by Township administrative officials. As a result, more and more households are planning to move out of the area.

 

GOVERNMENT-BACKED OPIUM GROWING ON THE INCREASE IN CHIN STATE

 

15 March 2008 : Opium growing is on the increase in Chin State as local military authories are taxing poppy cultivators instead of punishing them, Chin Human Rights Organization has learned.

 

According to recent reports, poppy cultivation has grown considerably since the beginning of 2008. Burmese authorities have been collecting as much as half a million Kyats from each village in northern Chin State in exchange for permission to grow opium. This practice has encouraged more communities to grow opium for their subsistence.

 

In one particular incident, Burmese troops on frontline patrol used local children as young as ten years old to identify households who are growing opium. After confirming that the households are growing opium, the army then asked 500, 000 Kyats from that village.

 

Places like Tedim Township , Tonzang Township of northern Chin State are particularly good for poppy cultivation. In this fertile region, one acre of farmland can produce two to three kilograms (Kg) of pure white opium. This has encouraged more communities to grow opium and created a thriving back market each year.

 

Cultivation of opium poppy has steadily increased in Chin state in the last five years. But the government did not take any punitive actions on the cultivators. The authorities just imposed tax on their crops, which encouraged more people to grow opium as a means of subsistence.

 

According to CHRO’s source, poppy cultivation is reported to scale (100-200) acres of farmland in Suang Hoih Village , 150 acres in Lam Thang Village of Ton Zang Township, northern Chin state and 200 acres in Toi Tawng hill tract.

 

SPDC ARMY FORCED VILLAGERS FOR PORTER

 

9 March 2008 : The Burmese army, stationed at Shinletwah army camp of Paletwah Township , northern Chin state is routinely forcing villagers for porter, a local person reported to Chin Human Rights Organization. Each household has to porter for the army on a rotating basis.

 

On February 25, 2008 , Burmese army patrol column from Shinletwah army camp forced 18 people from three villages to carry army supplies. Six porters were taken from each of Khungyu, Sin-Oowah and Pathian Tlang Villages . They served on a rotating basis to carry supplies and ammunitions. Each trip lasts one to two days.

 

The continuing demands for forced porter are adding to the suffering of Chin communities who are already dealing with famine in the area.

 

GOSPEL BAPTIST CHURCH’S SILVER JUBILEE POSTPONED

Khonumthung News

April 17, 2008: The Burmese military regime is pressurizing the Gospel Baptist Church in Falam Town in Chin state, to celebrate the church’s Silver Jubilee ahead of the referendum to approve the constitution.

 

The Gospel Baptist Church in Falam had planned to celebrate its Silver Jubilee in the second week of May. However, the Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) authorities pointed out that the date set for the jubilee celebration is far too close to the referendum date on May 10.

 

The authorities asked the jubilee celebration committee to advance the date to April 25. “The jubilee committee has finally agreed to celebrate on April 25 because the authorities pressurised them,” said a member of the GBC.

 

The Gospel Baptist Church’s Silver Jubilee will be celebrated from April 25 to 27. The Burmese junta announced last week that it will hold the nation wide referendum on May 10 to approve the draft constitution.

 

The new charter is said to be designed to legitimize military rule in Burma. It also bans democracy icon Noble Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from contesting the elections as her husband was a British national.

 

The military regime scrapped the 1974 constitution after it grabbed power in 1988. Since then, the country has been under military rule. Khonumthung News

 

EFFORTS TO HELP VICTIMS OF FAMINE UNDERWAY

Chinland Guardian

6 March 2008: A fact-finding team will soon be on the ground in famine-stricken areas of western Burma to assess food scarcity situation, thanks to the effort of the recently-formed relief group Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC).

 

As its primary mission, the team will travel inside Chin State and identify worst hit areas. They will also collect data that could assist in later distributing relief aid to affected communities. Two teams of fact-finders have been assembled to assess conditions in both northern and southern Chin State.

 

“Data collection is just the first step in what will be a very challenging task,” explains a CFERC spokesperson. “Raising enough funds and getting the help to where they are needed will be an even more challenging job,” he acknowledges.

 

Initial information obtained from sources inside Chin State suggests that the southern townships of Matupi and Paletwa are worst affected by the famine. A steep and dramatic decline in crop production has caused massive shortage of food for many communities dependent on farming for their livelihood. But there are reports food shortage is a state-wide phenomenon.

The current crisis of food shortage is primarily attributed to the flowering of bamboos in vast areas along Chin State borders with India. In a stunning chain of events, the flowering of bamboos causes the explosion of crop-eating rodent population, which leads to the destruction of crops and subsequent famine for the local population.

 

“Much of the existing international humanitarian aid distribution for Burma has been largely focused on the Thai-Burma border. It is a matter of great urgency that the international community pays more attention to situations on the western border,” says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Director of Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

Aggravating Factors

Tragically for the Chin people this natural cycle is aggravated by arbitrary and repressive policies of the military junta, which have seen increased imposition of various bans and restrictions on already desperate farmers. A complete ban on clearing new forest for farmland is in place in parts of northern Chin State while communities in the southern parts are faced with excessive levies on their meagre crop productions.

 

According to the Chin National Front, one of the leading ethnic forces opposed to Burma’s military regime, a typical Chin family pays as much as 400, 000 a year to the military authorities in taxes and fines.

 

FEARS FOR FAMINE-HIT CHINS GROW AS CORRUPTION IN LOCAL AUTHORITIES RULES

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

11 April, 2008: Fears are growing among Chin communities worldwide for victims of famine-hit areas in Chin State as delivery of humanitarian aids has been hampered by corruption in the local authorities, a source disclosed.

 

More than 300 bags of rice donated by Roman Catholic Church and 150 bags of rice by the Church of the Province of Myanmar were seized and sold at an exorbitant price for profits by the local authorities according to Chin Human Rights Organisation’ s reports.

Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization said: “We again stress the importance of quick action to respond to the dire humanitarian situation in Chin State. Timely response could really prevent a disaster. And unfortunately, the military regime is not interested in solving this problem.”

 

Mizoram-based Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC) reportedly claimed that Burma’s military regime still denied the current situation, saying ‘no famine in the country’ when a Church in Germany contacted. The committee is actively involved in sending out a team of volunteers to famine-stricken areas for fact-findings and reports amid risks of possible severe punishments from the military dictatorship.

 

An increasing number of villagers mainly in the Paletwa Township in Southern Chin State are fleeing to the Indian border despite warnings from the military government.

Chin communities, churches, organisations and individuals alike have stood actively united in contributing and supporting to ease the situation since the outbreak of the ongoing famine.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization is calling on the State Peace and Development Council to allow unhindered humanitarian relief effort in Chin State and to create a conducive environment for delivery of basic needs for communities suffering starvation and famine in Chin State.

 

The famine which is causing serious shortage of food is believed to occur once every fifty years following a mass flowering of bamboos whose abundant seeds lead to an influx of rats that destroy all the crops. At least three devastating famines due to bamboo-flowering have been recorded in Southern Chin State since the 1860s

 

Statements & Press Release

 

CRITICAL POINT: HUMANITARIAN DISASTER IN THE MAKING IN WESTERN BURMA

 

18 March 2008 – Ottawa, Canada: Chin Human Rights Organization is calling for urgent and concerted international relief efforts to address growing humanitarian crisis in Chinland that has brought much devastation to hundreds of villages along Burma`s western border.

 

A severe reduction in harvest and food productions following simultaneous mass flowering of bamboos through vast areas of the state is causing massive shortage of food for communities primarily dependent on traditional agricultural system.

 

Bamboo is the main vegetation in much of southern Chin State and the areas along the border with India`s Mizoram. Mass flowering of bamboos is usually followed by an explosion of rat populations, leading to the decimation of basic crops and paddy fields in the area. At least three devastating famines associated with bamboo flowering, which happens about every 50 years, have been recorded in this area since the 1860s.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization believes that at least 120 Chin villages along the borders with India and Bangladesh , totaling no less than 50,000 people or roughly ten per cent of the entire population of Chin State , may be directly affected by the famine. According to latest information, at least 150 families from southern Chin State have fled to Mizoram and Bangldesh.

 

A further mass migratory movement of people is likely as more communities are finding themselves rapidly running out of food supplies.

 

“We are at a critical point because it really is a humanitarian disaster in the making. Without timely and effective response, the consequence could be disastrous. It is a matter of great urgency that the international community pay immediate attention to this situation,“ says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization, who recently returned from a visit to India-Burma border.

 

“Unfortunately, this tragic natural cycle is made worse by the military regime’s repressive policies against the Chin people where the Burmese soldiers are just living off the local populations through forced labor, extortion and enslavement. “ he says.

In comparison, the Indian government has spent tens of millions of dollars in an effort to forestall and manage a massive famine that was predicted in the adjacent northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur where bamboo grows heavily.

 

The present area of Chin State covers 13907 square kilometers and roughly one fifth of that area is vegetated with bamboos.

 

Exacerbating this natural calamity is a man-made catastrophe caused by the policies of systematic neglect and outright repression by the military junta.

 

A typical urban-dwelling family in Chin State pays over 200, 000 Kyats a year to the military government in mandatory `donations,` fines and taxes, while a rural household is forced to pay at least 100, 000 Kyats per year. Under this circumstance, Chin people have been for years forced to live in abject poverty.

 

It is important to note that in October of 2007, the United Nations Country Team in Burma and 13 international non-governmental organizations working in the country had already cautioned the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Burma . But rather than cooperating and working together with international agencies to address the crisis, the military regime expelled Mr. Charles Petrie, the head of UN mission in Burma after accusing him of giving disparaging remarks about the country’s humanitarian conditions. Given this kind of negative attitude and complete indifference by the military regime, a disaster was just waiting to happen.

 

Given the magnitude and urgency of this latest crisis, Chin Human Rights Organization is calling on all relevant international aid agencies including the World Food Program to carry out urgent relief efforts in Chin State by any means possible, including through existing aid mechanisms inside Burma and cross-border aid program from neighboring India and Bangladesh.

 

 

For more information contact:

 

Salai Bawi Lian Mang (CHRO Executive Director)

Email: [email protected] com

Tel: +1-510-332-0983

 

Victor Biak Lian (CHRO Member of Board of Director)

Email: [email protected] com,

Tel: +66-815300702

 

Amy Alexander (CHRO Regional Advocacy and Campaign Officer)

Email: [email protected] yahoo.com

Tel: +66.85.23.02. 609

 

 

FOOD RELIEF HAMPERED FOR FAMINE VICTIMS IN WESTERN BURMA

 

April 2, 2008 – Ottawa, Canada: Chin Human Rights Organization is concerned that food aid being delivered to famine affected communities in Southern Chin State has been seized by local authorities.

 

CHRO has learnt that more than 300 bags of rice donated by Roman Catholic Church as relief aid for famine victims were seized by local authorities in Paletwa. A mandatory purchasing order was imposed on residents of Paletwa town by the authorities to buy the seized rice at an overpriced rate. Another 150 bags of rice donated for famine victims by the Church of the Province of Myanmar were also seized and sold for profits by the same local authorities during the month of February.

 

“People are struggling for their next meal. The seizure of the food aid has left most of us in a completely destitute situation. Only about 40 households in our village have enough food for the next few weeks,” says a local villager.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization is calling on the State Peace and Development Council to allow unhindered humanitarian relief effort in Chin State and to create a conducive environment for delivery of basic needs for communities suffering starvation and famine in Chin State .

 

“We again stress the importance of quick action to respond to the dire humanitarian situation in Chin State . Timely response could really prevent a disaster. And unfortunately, the military regime is not interested in solving this problem,” says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization reiterates its call on the international community, especially the World Food Program and individual governments concerned with Burma to help address the already deteriorating humanitarian situations in Western Burma .

 

For more information please contact:

 

Salai Bawi Lian Mang (CHRO Executive Director)

Email: [email protected] com

Tel: +1-510-332-0983

 

Victor Biak Lian (CHRO Member of Board of Director)

Email: [email protected] com,

Tel: +66-815300702

 

Amy Alexander (CHRO Regional Advocacy and Campaign Officer)

Email: [email protected] yahoo.com

Tel: +66.85.23.02. 609

 

 

CHIN FAMINE EMERGENCY RELIEF COMMITTEE (CFERC) FORMED

 

20 February 2008 – Aizawl: Bamboo flowering in vast areas of Chin State along the Mizoram border has triggered a massive boom in the populations of rat and subsequent destruction of standing crops and paddy fields, causing a steep decline in food supplies for the largely agricultural local communities. Even in places where no marauding rodent population is reported, unusual climate change in the areas has caused a substantial reduction in harvest and food production.

 

As a result, hunger and famine are becoming a reality for more communities across the Chin State. Many families have been forced to flee to Mizoram to escape this latest economic devastation while others are struggling to make sustenance by digging out roots in the forest. In the ensuing tragic cylcle of events, their livestock are killed after falling into the holes they have dug in the ground in search of food.

 

In response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis that has been caused by food scarcity in Chin State, an emergency meeting involving Mizoram-based Chin religious denominations, non-governmental organizations and political parties as well as other prominent individuals, was convened on 20 February 2008 (Chin National Day) in Aizawl at Solomon`s High School under the leadership of Chin Christian Relief Committee (CCRC).

 

The meeting was attended by representatives from 29 religious groups (churches & fellowships) , 13 non-governmental organizations and political parties and 5 independent individuals. The participants unanimously agreed to establish the Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee to coordinate humanitarian relief efforts towards assisting Chin famine victims.

 

The following persons were elected to serve in the Committee

 

Chairman – H Chan Thawng Ling

V-Chairman – Lian No Thang

Secretary – Sui Thawn Tai Thio

Assistant Secretary – C. Lai Ko

Treasurer – Chungi Zahau

Financial Secretary – Ro Za Thang

 

In addition, 20 more persons representing various groups were elected to serve and assist in the committee`s work.

 

 

ASYLUM SEEKING MOTHER AND CHILDREN AT RISK

 

6 March 2008 – New Delhi: Starting from 26 January 2008 , a Burmese Chin women asylum seeker and her three minor children have been staging a sit-in demonstration in front the UNHCR office in New Delhi , after they were made homeless following eviction by their landlord.

 

Far Hniang (30), a single mother of three children, Jaremiah (12), Dawt Tha (8) and Ca Dawt Iang (3 months) have been camping out in front of UNHCR office for six weeks now without proper food and shelter. Abandoned by her husband, Far Hniang’s application for refugee status remains unprocessed for over a year.

 

“We come to seek the attention and sympathy for our plight as we have no other place to live and no food to eat. We are destitute without the help of UNHCR. We have no choice but to remain here until we die,” pleaded Far Hniang.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization is highly concerned for the safety and well-being of the family especially in light of the fact that Far Hniang is still a nursing mother and one of her children is barely three months old. CHRO calls on the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to urgently respond to their needs. Any further delay could put them into serious jeopardy.

 

Having gone without proper food for over six weeks, on 5 March, Far Hniang was rushed to a nearby local hospital after collapsing from physical weakness. UNHCR office has not intervened as of today.

Ms. Far Hniang’s family fled to New Delhi in November 2006 from Zephai village of Than Tlang Township , Chin state of Burma , in search of safety. Their application for refugee status with UN refugee agency remains pending to this date.

 

Similarly, due to lengthy delay in registration and processing by UNHCR many Chin asylum seekers are facing a host of problems including lack of food and shelter, healthcare and education for their children.

For more information please contact:

 

Plato Van Rung Mang, CHRO Delhi Office Assistant Coordinator at + 91-11-25617368

Or visit www.chro.org for background information on Chin refugees in India

 

Referendum

 

THURA AUNG KO CAMPAIGNS FOR REFERENDUM IN WESTERN BURMA

Khonumthung News

April 21, 2008: Burma’s Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Brig-General Thura Aung Ko made an official trip to townships in southern Chin state, western Burma to campaign for the referendum to approve the constitution in the first week of April.

 

On April 4, Thura Aung Ko along with Chin State’s tactical commander Brigadier Huen Ngai visited villages in Matupi town, southern Chin state and reportedly encouraged villagers to cast the ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum to approve the new charter.

 

“They said that the military will rule the country for another 15 years if people do not approve the draft constitution, ” a villager said.

 

During the campaign in Thura Aung Ko, around 500 people from Cawngthia, Phaneng, Ngaleng and Kace villages in Matupi were summoned to attend a meeting.

 

Thura Aung Ko told a gathering of villagers to cast their vote to approve the new constitution so that genuine democracy is restored in Burma soon, said a villager.

 

The regime is also planning to have only one ballot box in a village for casting votes in the referendum scheduled to be held on May 10.

 

The local authorities in Matupi Township have already set up a committee with 20 members of the village council to monitor the polling booths, another villager in Matupi Township said.

 

The polling booth committee has been tasked to persuade voters by whatever means to cast a ‘Yes’ vote to approve the constitution drafted by hand picked men of the junta after a 14 year long national convention.

 

Similarly, local authorities in Thangtlang Township are pressurizing locals to cast the ‘Yes’ vote in the ensuing referendum.

 

“Actually, the people really don’t feel like voting in the referendum. I don’t know whether they will cast a ‘No’ vote if the authorities keep pressurisng them,” said a villager in Thangtlang township.

 

According to a source in Chin state, the authorities might take note of the voter’s bio-data in the polling booths to identify those who cast the ‘No’ vote.

 

The new charter is said to be designed to entrench army rule. It also bans pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from contesting elections because her husband was a Britisher.

 

The military regime had scrapped the 1974 constitution after grabbing power in 1988. Since then, the country has been under military rule. Khonumthung News

 

PROFESSOR DR. SALAI TUN THAN TO STAGE HUNGER STRIKE OVER BURMA’S REFERENDUM IN NEW YORK

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

1 April, 2008 – London, UK: A retired Chin Professor, Dr. Salai Tun Than, arrived in New York, USA yesterday to urge the UN Security Council to monitor Burma’s referendum which is to be held in May, 2008.

 

Flying from San Francisco on his 80th birthday, a prominent Christian political prisoner intends to start a solo hunger strike in front of the UN headquarter if and until his demands are not considered and met.

 

“Regarding the referendum, I don’t think we can do anything to stop them [the military regime]. But we would like the UN Security Council to take necessary actions by supervising the process,” an 80 year-old Burmese scholar told Chinland Guardian.

 

Admitting he has been talking with a Church pastor in New York for his funeral service in case he passes away during his hunger strike, Dr. Salai Tun Than of Inbyit village in Thayetmyo District added, “We are not fighting anybody but injustice. I will like to spend the twilight days of my life fighting for Burmese people and I will like to do this in the name of God. This is, I think, the only thing I can do for Burma as I am getting old.”

 

In addition to his hunger strike, Dr. Than also plans to give speeches and distribute brochures on Burma’s referendum, calling on ASEAN to take part in monitoring along with the UN Security Council and Burma’s regime to hold referendum with pro-democracy people including MPs, lawyers and ethnic groups, a source close to the professor revealed late last month.

 

In 2006 while on his way back to Burma to stage a solo protest against the military regime, Dr. Salai Tun Than was denied getting on board by Thai Airline due to threats on discontinuation of the airline’s service in Burma by SPDC if he was allowed.

 

The professor who once served 16 months of a seven-year sentence for protest in December, 2001 was released in 2003 from the notorious Insein Prison by the military regime after staging a week-long hunger strike from his bed in the prison hospital, also calls on Burmese people and international organisations for supports.

 

A retired agronomist, Dr. Salai Tun Than established Myanmar Integrated Rural Development Association (MIRDA) in 1993 with aims of cultivating oranges, coffees and teas for villages in Ngaphe Township of Magwe Division. But MIRDA, which was reportedly never allowed to operate officially in the country, faced various repeated interferences from the junta.

 

REFERENDUM FAILED IN CHIN STATE: MOCK POLL SUGGESTS

 

Chinland Guardian

 

April 27, 2008: An early simulated poll conducted by authorities in Chin State’s capital of Haka came up with a resounding “no” to the constitutional referendum slated for May 10. The poll, conducted as part of a state-sponsored campaign to educate and persuade voters in Chin State to vote for the new constitution, reveals that the majority of people voted “No” to the new constitution. The shocking result came as the State Peace and Development Council intensified campaign efforts in Chin State.

 

Earlier this month, Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Brigadier General Thura Aung Ko, accompanied by Brigadier Genral Hung Ngai, chairman and administrative head of Chin State Peace and Development Council were in southern Chin State where they asked people to vote for the new constitution at a public meeting attended by more than 500 people forced to attend the assembly.

 

“You should vote ‘yes’ in this referendum unless you wish to have another 15 years of military rule, since it was the time taken to draft the constitution by the army,” was the message delivered to the Chin public by the two ranking generals.

 

Meanwhile in Falam Township of northern Chin State, authorities have warned public employees of termination of their jobs and punishment if they voted “no” in the upcoming referendum.

 

“The surprising result of the recent mock poll may have prompted the SPDC to change their campaign tactics” observes a local person. Brigadier General Hung Ngai is now campaigning in Thantlang and Haka Township by trying to buy votes by providing 150 bags of rice to villagers who are facing food shortage due to bad harvest.

 

Report coming from inside Chin state said that 5 people per village including village headmen in Thantlang Township have been summoned by the local authority for training on how to conduct referendum. On April 24, several mock poll station “huts” were built in front of Thantlang town hall where the training was conducted.

 

GO TO THE POLL, CAST YOUR VOTE WITH CLEAR CONSCIENCE

 

Dear fellow Chin people,

 

The referendum is approaching, if you are eligible to cast your vote, please go to the poll and cast your vote because;

 

The voice of the Chin public in the upcoming referendum will be symbolically significant given that the Chins are co-founding member of the Union of Burma. We should keep in mind that we are from a distinct nation and people who joined the Union of Burma by choice accordance with 1947 Panglong agreement. To make the message short, we, the Chin people should, wholeheartedly participate in the upcoming referendum with a clear conscience and express our sincere opinion based on the following points;

 

WE SHOULD PARTICIPATE IN THE UPCOMING REFERENDUM BECAUSE;

 

• This is a very rare opportunity for the people of Burma, especially the Chins, to participate in this kind of referendum and make our voice and opinion heard.

• It is the rights and responsibility of every citizen to participate in the process of decision making in any democratic society.

• It is very important for us (the Chin People) to participate in the referendum that we have the right to decide our own future and what kind of government we want.

 

WE SHOULD THINK SERIOUSLY, DECIDE AND VOTE WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE:

 

It will be difficult for ordinary citizen to understand lengthy explanation of the SPDC’s plan to make the military as the main arbiter of power in the future. However, the following few points from the SPDC’s 104 basic principles are enough to say “NO” for us (I mean the Chin People from Burma);

 

• The SPDC Draft Constitution places Buddhism in a special position while putting Christian, and other religions in a subordinate position. We should keep in mind that this point alone make every Chin Christians to vote a big “NO” because about 90% of Chins in Chin state are Christians and religious freedom is a major concern for us (Remember SPDC destroyed crosses one by one and replaced with Buddhist pagodas and statue in many places of Chinland?).

• All Chin political parties Zomi National Congress (ZNC), Chin National League for Democracy (CNLD), Mara People Party (MPP) and several elected MP during 1990 general election in Burma have been declared illegal organizations by SPDC and no Chin political party will have a place in the coming election.

• The distinct culture, language and national identity of the Chins are at stake because;

 

1. The Commander-in-Chief will appoint 33% of regional and state legislators

2. The Commander-in-Chief will appoint 25% of national legislators

3. State Governments will have no power;

4. The President (not the people) will decide the state and national budget

5. The minister for border area appointed by the commander in chief will be more powerful than Chief Minister of Chin state.

 

So, tell your friends relatives your community and Church leaders about the above facts. If you are eligible voter, go to the poll on May 10. Think seriously. Then decide, and then cast your vote with clear conscience.

 

FEAR FACTORS:

Of course, the Burmese soldiers are ruthless, crook and they are xenophobic. But this time we have the golden chance. They put the ballot in front of us. The choice is ours. Whoever is eligible to cast the vote should express his/her opinion without fear this time.

 

YOU ARE IN THE MAKING OF HISTORY:

We may be small in percentage, number and geographical area, but we are equal to any nation and people in terms of our collective rights, as a people and nation.

 

SPDC may do whatever they want, but what you chose today will remain in history and shape the future of many generations to come. You are NOT nothing, as SPDC wants you to think, you are something that you are making history with your vote.

 

Sincerely,

Salai Bawi Lian Mang

Director

Chin Human Rights Organization

www.chro.org

 

 

News & Events

 

GLOBAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR BURMA HELD IN LONDON

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

10 March, 2008 – London, UK: Prayer for Burma 2008 was held with more than 200 participants at Emmanuel Centre in Central London last Saturday as part of an international prayer initiative for Burma.

 

The event jointly hosted by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Partners Relief and Development, Karen Aid and the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) called for an end to the oppression and brutalities inflicted on the peoples of Burma by the military regime.

 

The speakers included Ben Rogers of CSW, Oddny Gumaer of Partners Relief and Development, and Rob Crouch and Shelley Guest of 3P Ministries. Mizo’s talented singer Dadudi sang on behalf of the Chins at the service and Goon Tawng of Kachin State gave a short speech on the Kachin.

 

Churches around the world were urged to pray for Burma during their services on Sunday 9 March, 2008. CSW is also calling on Christians and churches around the world to devote the first week of March to keep watch and pray for Burma.

 

CSW’s Advocacy Director Tina Lambert said: “With recent events including the regime’s brutal crackdown on protests last September, continuing offensives against civilians in Karen State and further human rights violations in all parts of the country, prayer for Burma is now even more vital than ever.

 

“Added to this the assassination of the Karen leader Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, and the regime’s efforts to rubber-stamp its rule by introducing a sham constitution through a sham referendum which would exclude Burma’s major democratic and ethnic representatives, make it so important for churches around the world to remember Burma, and we hope many people will be able to join us in this important event in London.”

 

A message from a relief-team leader from Karen State, Burma reads according to the booklet by Prayerforburma. org, “I am thankful to all of you who pray and care for the people of Burma and to God who has all things in His hands. As I look around the beautiful jungle valley we are in and see the rushing streams and rising mountains and enthusiastic new teams I am filled with gratitude. All of this is a gift from God and those of you who help us in this.”

 

“It is really encouraging that a lot of people come to this service for praying for Burma. But I have seen only a few Burmese. We all need to make more efforts to take part in any activities for our country,” a Chin participant, Sawma told Chinland Guardian.

 

Burma has been ruled by one of the most brutal regimes in the world. Since taking power in a coup in 1962, the military junta (currently known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)) has gone to terrifying lengths to subdue and annihilate the democratic opposition and the country’s numerous ethnic groups. Civilians are regularly used as human minesweepers, bullet shields and forced labourers. Children are abducted and sent to the frontline. Villagers are shot on sight, villages are burnt down, paddy and livestock are destroyed. SPDC has been accused of human rights violations on its own peoples.

 

The Global Day of Prayer for Burma is an annual event initiated in 1997 by Christians Concerned for Burma at the request of Burma’s democracy leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

CNF MARKS 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHIN NATIONAL REVOLUTION DAY

Chinland Guardian

March 20, 2008 – Indianapolis: Chin National Front and her supporters around the world celebrated the organiation’ s 20th year of fighting for democracy in Burma.

 

The event took place in many different countries and cities including India and, Washington DC and Indianapolis where the USA Regional headquarters office is located. In every different place of the event, all participants observed a moment of silence for those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Chin people.

 

When asked why celebrate the day in USA, the Regional Committee Chairman Salai Thla Hei said “This kind of celebration is very important because it is the day that the Chin people revolution was born. By doing this, we give our highest respect to our leaders and all members for their efforts and sacrifices. This act I believe also gives a moral boost for our front fighters. I wish to send my full support once again to all members of CNF and CNA. I would also like to encourage younger generations to join this movement”.

 

In the program conducted in the regional headquarters office, participants including the CNA veterans shared their revolutionary experiences and send their best wishes for CNF as a whole.

 

In a statement issued from CNF headquarters on this day by Chairman Pu Thomas Thangnou warns the SPDC about the inevitable continuation of civil war in Burma unless the military regime adheres to the call by international community and the ethnic people for a serious dialogue to bring about change in Burma.

 

He further calls upon the whole Chin people to be united in national spirit and stand against the military roadmap plan which democratic forces and international see as a sham. He also encourages Chin people to go out and vote “no” at the referendum in May 2008.

 

According to the front’s website The Chin National Front was formed on 20 March, 1988, dedicated to securing the self-determination of the Chin people and to establish federal Union of Burma based on democracy and freedom.

 

Opinion & Commentary

 

THE UN AND BURMA: THE UN GOOD OFFICES MISSION MAY NEED ALTERATION

 

By Salai Laini

Chinland Guardian

 

April 23, 2008: The United Nations Secretary General should reconsider its ‘good offices mission’ mandate on Burma if it continues to fail to help Burma move forward to a real democracy, formulating the possiblity of pushing for the Security Council action.

 

The UN Chief Ban Ki-moon, while on his visit to Thailand in December 2007 using his good offices mission prestige and the weight of the world community he represents, warned Burma that the return to the status quo is not acceptable. His special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has been to the country three times to help it move forward from the status quo to a real democratic reform in Burma after September saffron revolution. So far it achieves nothing.

 

In January 2007 when China and Russia vetoed a resolution on Burma at the UN Security Council, they gave two technical reasons: (i) Burma issue is not a threat to regional security and stability, and (ii) The UN Secretary General good offices mission has its mandate on this issue. If the UNSC takes up on this issue, that will directly undermine the good offices mission efforts.

 

In contrast, the problem in Burma is continuing to be a threat to regional peace and stability for the fact that thousands of Burmese refugees are fleeing to neighbouring countries causing chaos and instability in the entire region. In recent years, there have been reports narrating that those groups having a close connection with the Burmese generals have been engaged in human trafficking and drugs smuggling activities which invite a serious international attentions and concerns. The cruel atrocities committed by the Burmese regime are well documented.

 

Thus far, Burma’s military rulers have rejected the UN good offices mission offer of sending an independent observation team to constitutional referendum on May 10. Despite the western governments have rightly dismissed this move as a blueprint for the generals keeping their grip on power, the generals are clever enough to understand that the international community can do virtually nothing without UNSC binding resolution.

 

Understanding there is no credibility and inclusiveness in the constitutional drafting process, the people in Burma have clearly indicated that they are overwhelmingly casting a “No Vote” at the military backed constitutional Referendum in coming May. But the military junta is using all possible means threatening and forcing people to approve their charter. This kind of actions are only redoubling concerns about the freedom and fairness of both polls, and drafting, deliberating and ratifying the constitutional process as a whole.

 

Probably this is the best last chance for the United Nations Chief to show that its good offices mission can help the people of Burma by pushing itself to monitor the Referendum in May and general election in 2010. Therefore, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should fully exercise the good offices mission mandate to implement it. It may use the threat of UN Security Council action if need arises. However, if the good offices continues to fail at this point, it should consider resigning from its mission completely and hand the full mandate over to the UN Security Council.

 

Such move will pave the way for the Council to fully take over Burma agenda. That will be followed by introducing and implementing binding resolutions on Burma issue and then take the subsequent actions accordingly. This may best help a real democratic reform and national reconciliation in Burma.

 

Back Cover Poem

 

The People and the Nation

Plato Van Rung Mang

The nation is created by the people,

And the people are known by the nation they established.

The nation is founded by the constitution,

And the people are raised by the constitution they established.

The nation is run by the government,

And the people are ruled by the government they established.

Thus, the nation is by the people,

And the people are the custodian of the nation.

 

 

 

Rhododendron News

Volume XII, No. III. May-June 2008

Chin Human Rights Organization

www.chro.org

***************************************************

CONTENTS:

 

SITUATIONS IN CHINLAND

 

 Arrested Campaigners Tortured

 Villagers Forced to Catch Fish from Conservation Area

 Corruption Causes Rapid Environmental Destruction

 Hunger Victims Taxed for Transporting Rice

 Forced Labour, Extortion Fuels Hunger

 Civilians Forced to Pay for Referendum Costs

 Over 30 Millions Kyats to be Collected from Chin Public

 School Teacher Raped by SPDC Cabinet Minister

 Villagers Forced to Feed Burmese Soldiers Amidst Looming Starvation

 Rice-mill Owners Unfairly Taxed

 People Faced Junta’s Post-Referendum Reprisals

 

REFUGEE SITUATIONS

 

 Teenaged Refugee Girl Abducted in New Delhi

 Tensions Rise As More Chin Refugees Arrested In Malaysia

 

CAMPAIGN & ADVOCACY

 

 Chin Delegation Visited UK

 Chin Delegates To Attend Conference At Liverpool Hope University

 Ethnic Women From Burma Met UK Prime Minister

 

STATEMENTS AND PRESS RELEASES

 

 BURMA: Allow Unhindered International Humanitarian Aid and Rescue Operations

 More Chin People Voted “No” Amidst Threats and Intimidation

 Update: Threat, Intimidation and Manipulation Shroud Burma’s Referendum

 

FACTS & ARGUMENTS

 

– R2P Concept and Burma

 

NEWS & EVENTS

 

– KNU Chairman Passed Away

 

BACK COVER POEM

 Cries From The Chin Jungle

 

Situations in Chinland

 

ARRESTED CAMPAIGNERS TORTURED

 

26 May 2008: Four persons arrested for distributing leaflets urging citizens to vote “No“ in the May 10 constitutional referendum were severely tortured, a relative of one of the arrested campaigners told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

U Ko Htak (28), U Tui Ling (40), both from Lete village, U Aung Bih (29) from Taluwa village and U Lah Min Aung (27) from Kinwa village of Paletwa Township were arrested on May 2 and May 4, 2008 respectively for their pre-referendum political activities by Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (20), based at Shin Letwa village.

 

Their arrests followed a tip-off from two informants, U Tun Win (Arakanese) and U Racho (Mara), both former village council members.

 

“When we went to the detention center to give them food, they were hung upside down and their bodies were bruised and covered with blood. Their faces were so disfigured that it was difficult to even recognize them,“ the relative recounts.

 

In attempt to secure their releases, the relatives tried to bribe the army with 800, 000 Kyats but the offer was turned down. “As of this point, we don’t know for how long they will be detained or what kind of penalty they will receive,“ says the relative.

 

 

VILLAGERS FORCED TO CATCH FISH FROM CONSERVATION AREA

 

14 June 2008: Eight civilians from Cintuai Village of Kanpalet Township were forced to catch fish from a local conservation area by dynamiting a fishpond. On April 2, 2008, Burmese troops from Light Infantry Battalion (274) ordered Cintuai villagers to dynamite a fishpond that has been designated as a conservation area for the last 8 years.

 

The catches were meant to feed visiting SPDC Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Thura Aung Ko, who was in southern Chin State to campaign for the upcoming constitutional referendum on May 10. The eight villagers were also forced to carry and transport the catches, which weighed up to 400 kilograms for a distance of 10 miles from the pond to Cintuai village.

 

Catching fish in Mungchawng fishpond has been prohibited for the past eight consecutive years as. “After they dynamited it, there is no sight of moving fish in the pond anymore,“ said a local man.

 

The price of a raw fish at the local market per kilogram is Kyat-2000 and a dry fish is Kyat-4000 in the region. But in Mindat town and Kanpalet town, it is Kyat-2500 per Kg and Kyat-4500 Kg.

 

CORRUPTION CAUSES RAPID ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION

 

15 June 2008: Corruption of government officials is causing widespread environmental destruction and deforestation in southern Chin State.

 

Since 2000, U Sein Ke Naing, head of the Forestry Department for Kanpalet Township has been collecting 3 million Kyats annually from poachers and smugglers in exchange for a free pass to extract wild orchids, hunt wild animals and cut down trees on the famous Mount Victoria range, which has been designated as a national forest since 1995.

 

In addition to giving free pass to paochers and smugglers, U Sein Ke Niang has aslo allowed his relatives from nearby Mindat Town to clear the priced and bio-rich forests of Victoria range for slash and burn cultivation. The locals have been carefully preserving the forests for generations, by avoiding grazing their livestock in the area in order not to disturb the delicate ecology.

 

U Sein Ke Naing is also said to have a business partnership with the Chairman of Kanpalet Township Peace and Development Council. By order of the Chairman, tourists visiting Mount Victoria, the highest peak in Chin State, are only allowed to do so if they stay at a hotel run by U Sein Ke Niang in Kanpalet town.

 

Some villagers in the area who are angry with the conduct of U Sein Ke Naing have reportedly deliberately set the forest on the forests. According to one local villager in the area, the forests around the famous Mount Victoria are now almost completely destroyed due to the corruption.

 

HUNGER VICTIMS TAXED FOR TRANSPORTING RICE

 

26 June 2008: Villagers facing acute shortage of food due to the bamboo flowering and rat infestations, who tried to transport rice from elsewhere have been heavily taxed by the Burma Army, a local man reported.

 

The practice of taxing the transfort of food started in August 2007. Communities from Ye Chiantha, Shwe Hlying Puai, Du Ri Tawng, Puan Letwa, Pa Kawa and Pung Hyinwa Villages must pay 500 Kyats per one bag of rice to the army to carry them by ferry. The 500 Kyats tax is in addition to transportation costs they have to pay to ferry and boat operators.

 

Faced with severe food shortage in their areas, these communities must buy rice from elsewhere and carry them by boats along the Kaladan River. The journey takes up to one day by boat.The soldiers collecting the taxes are from Tuyah Ai camp in Paletwa Township.

 

FORCED LABOUR, EXTORTION FUELS HUNGER

 

17 June 2008: Amidst widespread shortages of food and lingering starvation caused by bamboo flowering and rat infestation, Burmese troops continued to impose forced labour order on communities in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township.

 

On May 11, 2008, commanding in charge of Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 20 stationed at Shin Oo Wa village forcibly ordered several villages to contribute unpaid labour to repair an army camp.

 

“We are already struggling for our very next meal. The army is well aware that we cannot afford to spend time repairing the camp,” says a Shin Oo Wa villager.

 

To avoid the forced labour, every household in the entire region had to pay Kyats 1,000 to LIB (20) on May 24, 2008. The affected communities were from Shin Oo Wa, Shwe Letwa and Pathian Tlang Village Tracts.

 

But soon after the money had been collected from these communities, troops stationed at the camp were replaced by another battalion, taking with them all the money they had collected. And on June 2, 2008, the new army battalion again ordered the villagers to contribute money for repairing the camp.

 

CIVILIANS FORCED TO PAY FOR REFERENDUM COSTS

 

20 June 2008: Over half a million Kyats were forcibly collected from the public by local authorities in Kalay Township to cover the cost of the May 10 constitutional referendum, according to a local resident.

 

U Myo Lwin, Chairman of the Village Peace and Development Council, forcibly ordered more than 600 households of Chawngkhuah village to contribute 1,000 Kyats per household to pay for the wages of poll workers and commissioners during the May 10 poll.

 

But residents later learned that poll commissioners were already paid under the government’s referendum budget. U Myo Lwin never accounted for how over 600, 000 Kyats were used.

 

The majority of Chawngkhuah residents are Chins.

 

OVER 30 MILLIONS KYATS TO BE COLLECTED FROM CHIN PUBLIC

 

21 June 2008: According to an official memo dated April 25, 2008 and signed by U Swe Khanh Thang, Chairman of Haka Township Peace and Development Council, more than 30 million Kyats will be collected from residents of Haka and 74 villages in the Township to finance the procurement of jatropha (bio-fuel plant) seeds.

 

The memo, an original Burmese copy of which was recently obtained by Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), outlines detailed plans for jatropha plantation project in Hakha Township for the 2008-2009. The total area of jatropha plantation for the township for 2008-2009 is projected as 60, 607 acres.

 

To implement the order, special committees were tasked to collect the money by the end of April 2008.

 

SCHOOL TEACHER RAPED BY SPDC CABINET MINISTER

 

23 June 2008: Brigadier General Thura Aung Ko, SPDC Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs was accused of raping a Chin school teacher during his official campaign tour in southern Chin State ahead of the May 10 constitutional referendum.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization has learned that on April 4, the high ranking SPDC official sexually assaulted a Chin woman at Cin Duai Village, Kanpalet Township. The assault took place after a day of campaigning and public speeches by the minister asking people to vote for the new constitution. After his public event, the minister was entertained with traditional rice wine by local officials. He later forced the Chin woman to sleep with him overnight.

 

According to a local villager who spoke to CHRO on condition of anonymity, on the next day of the assault, the rape victim who is a school teacher by profession was awarded Bachelor or Education (B.Ed.) degree by verbal decree of the Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs.

 

In preparation of the minister’s visit, on April 3, 2008 villagers from Hauhphongcin, Phongtuaicin, Cinduai, Tinpungcin, Hmawlawnglung and Khayiang Villages were forced to repair roads, construct tents and prepare meals and traditional rice wine for the visiting official.

 

 

VILLAGERS FORCED TO FEED BURMESE SOLDIERS AMIDST LOOMING STARVATION

 

24 June 2008: On June 14 2008, Captain Tin Aung Win, company commander of Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion (140) stationed at Sabawngte camp and operating under Tactical Command II based out of Matupi, requisitioned ration supplies for his troop from 11 village tracts in Matupi Township.

 

Each village was ordered to supply 9 tins of rice (about 180 kilograms). As people in the area were already dealing with severe food shortages due to the bamboo flowering, the headmen of the affected villages pleaded with the Captain for exemption on June 16, 2008.

 

However, Captain Tin Aung Win insisted that the villages complete delivery of supplies to the army camp by the end of June.

 

The affected villages included; Kase, Lunghlaw, Ki Hlung, Tibaw villages from Kase Village Tract, and Tangku, Amlai, Rengkheng and Pakheng villages from Tangka Village Tract.

 

 

RICE-MILL OWNERS UNFAIRLY TAXED

 

25 June 2008: Rice mill owners in Thantlang Township were the latest targets of arbitrary tax collection by the authorities. According to one mill owner, U Mang Er, Secretary of Thantlang Township PDC has been collecting 3,500 Kyats annually from mill owners in the township.

 

A written order issued by U Mang Er, (original copy on file with CHRO) rice mill owners in the township must pay 1000 Kyats as a fee for an operating license, 2000 Kyats for municiple taxes and a late registration fee of 500 Kyats.

 

Village headmen in the township are to bring in the money they have collected from mill owners at the annual meeting of Township and Village Peace and Development Council.

 

PEOPLE FACED JUNTA’S POST-REFERENDUM REPRISALS

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian_

 

05 June, 2008: Burma’s ruling junta declared the country’s referendum as ‘approved and passed’ but the Chin people are still suffering the aftermath, resulting in forced labour and detention in Chin State, sources unveiled.

 

Villagers in Shinletwa, Paletwa Township in southern Chin State where the majority voted against the plebiscite, are forced to build military camps on the Indian-Burma border, according to Khonumtung News.

 

The military authorities allegedly arrested Aung Be, Hla Myint Aung, Tulin and Ko Htet from Paletwa Township in connection with ‘vote no’ campaigns as some other villagers who were reportedly known as voting against the referendum received ‘surprise visits’ as a sign of threat and warning. Also in Thantlang Township, villagers had been detained and interrogated for distributing campaign leaflets ahead of the May 10 referendum.

 

A statement made by Chin National Council (CNC) on SPDC’s referendum announcement results said that the SPDC, after blatantly rejecting the wills of the people, counted “No” votes cast on the referendum as “Yes” votes while counting the poll results.

 

“In some places, ‘No’ votes are not accepted and the people are forced to cast ‘Yes’ vote for the second time. In addition, people in the voting booths are intimidated by various forms and forced to cast a ‘Yes’ vote only. In some villages, villagers are forced to vote for ‘Yes’ with a threat to burn down their whole village if they fail to vote for ‘Yes’,” added the CNC’s statement released last month.

 

The local authorities issued an order that any villager who failed or did not want to participate in the construction of the military camps would be fined and have to pay large amount of money. The military authorities will continue in other villages hunting down those who rejected and voted against the military-controlled referendum, it is believed.

 

The Chin people, like other ethnic nationalities in Burma, have been for decades suffering from various human rights violations and harassment from the military regime.

 

Refugee Situations

 

TEENAGED REFUGEE GIRL ABDUCTED IN NEW DELHI

 

24 June 2008: A 17 year-old Chin refugee girl was the latest victim of crimes committed against Burmese refugees by local Indians.

 

On June 3, 2008, Ms Lalnunthari was reportedly dragged away from a local shop she has been working at since January 2008. She was taken into a waiting car by three Indian youths at around 4:00 p.m. local time. According to another worker, it was the owner of the shop who grabbed the girl and handed over to the three youths.

 

After informing the girl’s abduction, the parents filed a report at the local police station. The involvement of police apparently got the shop owner nervous, who was suspected of calling his friends to abduct his own employee, and the girl was dropped back at the shop at 11:30 unharmed. The motive for the abduction remains unclear but sexual assault was believed to be the prime reason.

 

Since the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in New Delhi terminated financial assistance to Burmese refugees several years ago, refugees from Burma have been forced to seek employment with local Indian employers. Many of them are now working as shop keepers, domestic help and as daily labourers in the local factories, to struggle for their livelihood. Under these circumstances, they have been facing discriminations, assaults and sexual abuses at the hands of their employers and local people.

 

TENSIONS RISE AS MORE CHIN REFUGEES ARRESTED IN MALAYSIA

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

 

29 June, 2008: The number of Chin refugees being arrested in Malaysia has increased dramatically in recent months, raising fears among the Chin communities and leaders worldwide that their lives could be highly jeopardized if they are sent into the brokers’ hands at the Thai-Malaysian border or sent back to Burma.

 

More than 60 Chin refugees, sources revealed, were arrested in their rented houses in late-night raids last week by the government-formed corps called Volunteers of Malaysian People aka RELA which is accused of ‘abusing the laws and conniving in taking measures’ against immigrants.

 

Mothers with newly born babies and children under 14 were those among arrested even though Malaysia is a signatory to the Convention on Child Rights Convention (CRC) and on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), meaning Malaysia has an obligation to protect women and children. Instead, Malaysian authorities put even a newly born baby into jail, according to Chin Human Rights Organisation’s reports.

 

“The situation of Chin refugees in Malaysia is like a bad dream. Anything could happen at any time of period at any place. As far as we can, we try to stay within reach voluntarily so that we can act in time to help those in serious trouble. We are not dealing only with refugee issues. There are several other issues including visiting patients in critical condition and funeral services,” a member of CRC (Chin Refugee Committee) told Chinland Guardian.

 

A Chin refugee, Thang Khan Thawng, 62, died of depression in Kuala Lampur last week after learning his application had been rejected, according to Khonumtung News.

 

“They [Chin refugees] are hiding without food in the jungle in fear of being arrested. The situation gets really worse as the rainy season has come in. Some get really ill but dare not come to the camp as RELA can lie in wait for them nearby,” said a Falam Chin.

 

“Some people get seriously hurt while running through thorny bushes. Being aware that RELA can secretly follow them and know where the refugees are hiding in the jungle, Doctors who want to help, just try to get medicines to the refugees in any possible means,” added he.

 

It is estimated that at least 30,000 Chin refugees, both unregistered and registered with UNHCR, live in Malaysia and about 60,000 Chin refugees in India. In hope of finding safety and refuge, tens of thousands of the Chin people have fled their native place to escape the military junta’s brutal atrocities including torture, persecution and the threat of death.

 

Campaign & Advocacy

 

 

CHIN DELEGATION VISITED UK TO HIGHLIGHT ONGOING FAMINE IN CHIN STATE

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian_

 

22 June, 2008 – London, UK: In attempt to draw attention to the ‘unknown’ devastating famine in Chin State, a Chin delegation made a three-day visit to the UK, which ended last Friday. The trip was sponsored by the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) and hosted by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

 

The delegation comprising Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), Cheery Zahau of Women League of Chinland (WLC) and a Mara-Chin medical student, Sasa met with Ministers and MPs including Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague MP and joint chairman of the all party parliamentary group on Burma, John Bercow MP, and visited various offices including UK Departments for International Development (DFID), World Vision and Tearfund.

 

Baroness Cox, C.E.O of HART said: “We are delighted to have Cheery Zahau, Victor Biak Lian and Sasa here in the UK. Their activism on behalf of the Chin state and the people of Burma is invaluable and the vital meetings in the week are crucial to the international struggle to bring relief and justice to the people of Burma.”

 

The Chin trio highlighted how this disaster has brought extreme food shortage in the jungle-covered mountainous region in Southern part of Chin State and how it has been still largely unknown to the international community. They also stressed the fact that many Chin people from the famine-affected area have already started fleeing and migrating into the nearest Indian-Burma border.

 

Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW said: “This is a unique opportunity to highlight at senior levels in British government and parliament the plight of both the Chin people and Burma as a whole. The Chin people in particular, have long been forgotten, and their suffering has been ignored: we hope that through this visit they will receive increased attention and action from the international community.”

 

The famine, locally known as mautam or mangtam, happens every fifty years when the bamboo trees produce flowers and seeds which are believed to make rats sexually active and proliferative. Infestation of rats has led to massive destruction of crops and even rice stocks stored by the villagers.

 

Benny Manser, 24, a photographer from Aylesbury, UK who visited affected villages in Chin State from Mizoram State last month, told The Telegraph about seeing stick-thin children and old women who hardly had the strength left to dig up roots to eat, and about villagers telling of vast packs of rats, thousands strong, which would turn up overnight out of the bamboo thickets and eat everything in sight.

 

Similar rat-infested famine happens in Mizoram State of India and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh but governments of both countries have prepared and responded effectively to ease the situation while Burma’s military dictatorship still denies the existence of famine in the country. Yet the SPDC’s soldiers have escalated the condition worse by blocking humanitarian aids and forcing the villagers as porters.

 

“People from inside Chin State have to travel on foot through the jungle for many days to fetch bags of rice for their families since the military authorities do not allow aids from outside,” reported the Chin delegation. Cheery Zahau said according to The Telegraph: “We don’t really know what is happening deep inside Chin State where there are no telephones or roads. We fear that thousands will die if no help is made available.”

 

During their UK visit, the delegation also spotlighted other issues concerning Chin refugees in neighbouring countries such as India, Thailand and Malaysia, SPDC’s rigged referendum, religious persecutions and human rights violations inflicted on the Chin people. They also called for British and international supports to find alternate ways of giving pressure on the regime and to convene a multi-party talk on Burma.

 

The delegation also met with the Chin and other ethnic friends from Burma living in the UK.

 

HART is a non-denominational aid and advocacy charity founded by Baroness Cox, which focuses primarily on people largely ignored by the media and not served by major aid organisations. CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

 

CHIN DELEGATES TO ATTEND CONFERENCE AT LIVERPOOL HOPE UNIVERSITY

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian_

 

04 June, 2008 – London, UK: A trio of Chin delegates are today to attend Global Youth Congress, The Big Hope, organised by Liverpool Hope University in Liverpool, UK. The group includes Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), Cheery Zahau of Women’s League of Chinland and Sasa, a Chin medical student studying in Armenia.

 

The Big Hope which is expected to host more than a thousand attendants from across the world has got a line-up of various top speakers including Archbishop of Westminster, Cherie Booth QC, wife of Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Baroness Caroline Cox.

 

“This is a good opportunity for us to share with people from different corners of the world the ongoing plights of Burma. We will also like to draw their attention to famine-related problems in Chin State which is still untold and neglected,” Victor Biak Lian told Chinland Guardian.

 

One of the main issues the Chin delegates would like to address the Big Hope includes raising awareness and humanitarian aids for the Chin people who are facing extreme scarcity of food in Chin State.

 

“We will, of course, talk about Burma’s problems such as the devastating cyclone Nargis, SPDC’s rigged referendum and various human rights violations. And also, it is very important that the world now know clearly about the man-made humanitarian crisis that the Chin people has been quietly facing for decades. For that, we need to raise awareness,” said Cheery Zahau, co-ordinator of WLC when asked about the main purpose of attending this conference.

 

A Mara-Chin from Southern Chin State, Sasa, said that we, the Chin youths, should not be discouraged and disintegrated but remain united and focus on our future development mentally. His points at the conference will include how the youths in Burma have been brainwashed, intimidated and left just to listen to what is being told.

 

The Big Hope has got delegates from 45 countries in the world so far.

 

The Chin delegates are also set to meet with certain international organisations and the Chin people in the UK after the conference. It is estimated that there are about 100 Chin people living in the UK.

 

 

ETHNIC WOMEN FROM BURMA MET UK PRIME MINISTER

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian_

 

22 June, 2008 – London, UK: A delegation of five ethnic women from Burma on Aung San Suu Kyi’s 63rd birthday met UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, at 10 Downing Street last Thursday, signalling the international community has not forgotten Burma’s democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

The delegation asked the Prime Minister for putting more pressure on the ruling military regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma. The women team also called for stronger targeted sanctions from the EU governments, and an international arms embargo against Burma’s longstanding military dictatorship.

 

“It was amazing to see the Prime Minister. He has been supportive and has told us what he has done for Burma,” Cheery Zahau, co-ordinator of Women League of Chinland told Chinland Guardian. “This meeting really reveals that the Prime Minister does care for the peoples of Burma and we all are pleased to see his concerns and actions.”

 

The team also asked the British government to try to convince China, India and ASEAN nations to take more serious actions on Burma.

 

“We are very encouraged by this meeting,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator of Burma Campaign UK. “The Prime Minister has taken strong position on Burma, pushing it up the international political agenda. He said he would continue to push for more action on Burma.”

 

The Prime Minister told the delegation that the international community should do more to address the problems in Burma and that he would take these issues seriously to the British and EU governments.

 

The meeting was also attended by Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn MP along with Glenys Kinnock MEP, and Ann Clwyd MP.

 

The Nobel laureate and leader of National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for more than 12 years, spent her 63rd birthday in detention on 19 June after the military regime extended her detention another year in late May, 2008.

 

The delegation was made up of 5 of Burma’s ethnic nationalities, Cheery Zahau of Women League of Chinland, Nang Seng of Burma Campaign UK from the Kachin ethnic group, Zoya Phan from the Karen ethnic group, Moe Bue from the Karenni ethnic group, Wai Hnin Pwint Thon and Hlaing Sein from the Burman group.

 

This is the very first time a delegation of ethnic women from Burma has ever had a meeting with the British Prime Minister, demonstrating the unity of the peoples of Burma in their struggle against the brutal military dictatorship.

 

Statements and Press Releases

 

BURMA: ALLOW UNHINDERED INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN AID AND RESCUE OPERATIONS

 

Immediate Release

6 May 2008

 

Ottawa, Canada: Chin Human Rights Organization is deeply saddened and horrified by the devastation and tragedy resulting from Cyclone Nargis that had swept some of the most populated areas of Burma over the weekend and claimed the lives of over 22, 000 with more than 41,000 people still unaccounted for. CHRO express its deepest and profound sympathy to the thousands of victims and families who have lost everything in the catastrophe.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization remains gravely concerned about the slow pace and virtual lack of meaningful relief and rescue efforts by the authorities. Regrettably, many of the restrictions in place for humanitarian agencies that have long prevented effective humanitarian efforts in the country still remain in effect despite the need for urgent relief effort and rescue operations in the affected areas.

 

At this tragic juncture, Burma’s ruling generals must put aside all of their suspicions and politically-motivated apprehensions about outside help and immediately allow unrestricted international aid and rescue operations inside Burma in order to avoid further miseries and loss of lives.

 

“Any delay in allowing unhindered international aid access to Burma would only add to the suffering of people and further undermine the regime’s own image and credibility with the Burmese citizens. This is not a time to play the usual political games because it is about the lives of hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens,” says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

CHRO commends Canada, the United States and all of the countries and international organizations that have pledged assistance to Burma and would like to encourage more long term humanitarian commitments and assistance towards the recovery and reconstruction process.

 

For more information contact:

Salai Bawi Lian Mang (CHRO Executive Director)

Email: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tel: +1-510-332-0983

 

Victor Biak Lian (CHRO Member of Board of Director)

Email: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tel: +66-815300702

 

 

MORE CHIN PEOPLE VOTED “NO” AMIDST THREATS AND INTIMIDATION

 

Immediate Release

11 May 2008

 

Ottawa, Canada: Amidst widespread coercion and intimidation by military authorities, early poll results obtained by Chin Human Rights Organization from seven polling stations in two townships in Chin State indicates that more than 80 per cent of Chin people voted against the military-backed constitution. This is despite the fact that many votes were thrown off as ineligible or because they were marked “inappropriately.”

 

More than nine per cent of the total votes in these polling stations were not counted towards the final tally.

 

But results for government servants who voted early are still not known. In Thantlang town of northern Chin State, more than 300 government employees cast their votes in a specially arranged early poll.

 

In one particular polling station, 549 out of 673 people voted against the new constitution.

 

“Based on these early results and what we have seen across polling stations, all indications are that there would be a resounding “no” to the new constitution in Chin State,” says an observer on the ground.

 

There are also reports of several arrests in connection with the referendum on Saturday. Two youths were arrested in Thantlang over the weekend in suspicion of distributing leaflets urging citizens to vote “no” in the referendum, but they were released after two days of interrogation in detention. Four other people were also reportedly arrested in Paletwa townships of southern Chin State earlier in the week.

 

“No matter how the Burmese regime tries to manipulate the result of the votes, these early results suggest that Chin people are not convinced that things will be any better for them under this constitution. It would be of such enormous significance symbolically, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of Chin people rejected it, given that Chins are co-founding members of the Union of Burma,” says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

The following is the results from six polling stations in Chin State (The exact locations are withheld for security reasons)

 

Polling Station I

In Favor (114)

Against (410)

Discarded votes (111)

Toral Votes Cast (635)

 

Polling Station II

In favor (89)

Against (549)

Discarded (35)

Total Votes Cast (673)

 

Polling Station III

In Favor (101)

Against (368)

Discarded (64)

Total Votes Cast (533)

 

Polling Station IV

In Favor (65)

Against (512)

Discarded (41)

Total Votes Cast (618)

 

Polling Station V

In Favor (76)

Against (176)

Discarded (8)

Total vote casts (260)

 

Polling Station (VI)

In Favor (15)

Against (200)

Discarded (0)

Total Votes Cast (215)

 

Polling Station (VII)

In Favor (55)

Against (262)

Discarded (29)

Total Votes Cast (317)

 

For more information contact:

Salai Bawi Lian Mang (CHRO Executive Director)

Email: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tel: +1-510-332-0983

 

Victor Biak Lian (CHRO member of board of Directors)

Email: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tel: +66-81-530-0702

 

 

UPDATE: THREAT, INTIMIDATION AND MANIPULATION SHROUD BURMA’S REFERENDUM

 

For Immediate Release

15 May 2008

 

Ottawa, Canada: New reliable information received by Chin Human Rights Organization has revealed that voting in last weekend’s constitutional referendum was fraught with threat, intimidation and manipulations by the authorities. But early results from four Townships in Chin State and Sagaing Division indicate that despite the military regime’s campaign of threat and intimidation, an overwhelming majority of Chin voters rejected the military-backed constitution. The results were obtained through local observers and workers who counted the votes at polling stations, but who could not be named for security reasons.

 

Chin Human Rights Organization has received several reports of voting irregularities and tactics of manipulations by the authorities during and prior to May 10. All government employees were asked to vote in mandatory early polls or by mail-in voting before the actual voting date. These early voters are required to put in their names and national registration number on the ballot. There are reports of threats of employment termination and revocation of family registration for those found to have voted ‘No.’ In Kalay Township of Sagaing Division, where there is a significant Chin population, local officials were reported to have visited residences beforehand and asked people to fill in the ballot on-site along with their names and national registration number.

 

“Of course people are naturally intimidated when they had to vote right in front of the officials. Many people might have actually voted for it under that circumstance,” says an observer who cannot be named for his safety.

 

In some polling stations, poll workers are clothed in white T-Shirts that have “Let’s Vote Yes” written on them in Burmese with illustration of a checked box. Elderly voters and people who cannot read Burmese are greeted by these workers and explained to them what they should do by pointing to the writings on their T-Shirts.

 

One poll worker admitted to having to recount the votes and flipping the result after his superiors and local officials received harsh rebuke from higher authorities when the first count came out with a resounding “No.”

 

In another polling station, some members of local Peace and Development Council were seen trying to force people to vote “yes” inside the polling booth.

 

“These reports only show how flawed the whole voting process is and how far the SPDC is willing to go to skew and manipulate the results in its favor,” says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

SPDC’s Pre-Referendum Campaign Efforts:

 

Since the beginning of April the military regime has launched an aggressive campaign to persuade voters in Chin State to approve its draft constitution. On April 4, Naypyidaw sent Major General Thura Aung Ko, Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs to Chin State where he urged Chin voters to vote for the new constitution saying, “It took the army 14 years to complete the draft and unless you approve this constitution, it will take another 14 years of military rule to prepare another draft.”

 

On April 10, the State Peace and Development Council held a mock referendum in Chin State capital of Hakha in which 150 people were called in to vote. Over 80 percent of the people voted “No” in the mock poll, prompting Major General Hung Ngai, Chairman of Chin State Peace and Development Council to travel to several townships and distributing free rice to people in an effort to court Chin voters.

 

About two weeks prior to the referendum on May 10, 16 army patrol columns consisting of several hundred Burmese troops (No less than 300 soldiers) from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 226 (based in Hakha), LIB 268 (Based in Falam), LIB 228 (Based in Kalay Myo), LIB 89 (Based in Kalay), LIB 289 (Based in Teddim) and LIB 274 (Based in Mindat), were sent to remote areas along India-Burma border to campaign for the referendum. According to local villagers in these areas interviewed by Chin Human Rights Organization, Burmese troops threatened them with 3 years of imprisonment and 300, 000 Kyats in monetary fines for anyone found to have cast a “No” vote. “Your only way out of military rule is through voting “yes” in this referendum” was the army’s message to rural Chin public.

 

Seven arrests were reported in Thantlang and Paletwa Township in the days leading up to the referendum in connection with leaflets produced by opposition groups urging citizens to reject the constitution. Three were confirmed released after two days in interrogation. The fate and whereabouts of the remaining four remain unclear.

 

The following is updated voting results from 11 polling stations in Chin State and Sagaing Division. The exact locations of these stations are withheld for security reasons.

 

Polling Station 1

 

In Favor (36)

Against (334)

Discarded Votes (5)

Total Votes Cast (375)

 

Polling Station 2

 

In Favor (23)

Against (216)

Discarded (8)

Total Votes Cast (247)

 

Polling Station 3

 

In Favor (19)

Against (228)

Discarded (6)

Total Votes Cast (253)

 

Polling Station 4

 

In Favor (20)

Against (406)

Discarded (56)

Total Votes Cast (482)

 

Polling Station 5

 

In Favor (16)

Against (183)

Discarded (19)

Total Votes Cast (218)

 

Polling Station 6

In Favor (114)

Against (410)

Discarded votes (111)

Toral Votes Cast (635)

 

Polling Station 7

In favor (89)

Against (549)

Discarded (35)

Total Votes Cast (673)

 

Polling Station 8

In Favor (101)

Against (368)

Discarded (64)

Total Votes Cast (533)

 

Polling Station 9

 

In Favor (65)

Against (512)

Discarded (41)

Total Votes Cast (618)

 

Polling Station 10

 

In Favor (76)

Against (176)

Discarded (8)

 

Polling Station 11

In Favor (15)

Against (200)

Discarded (0)

Total Votes Cast (215)

 

 

For more information contact:

 

Salai Bawi Lian Mang (CHRO Executive Director)

 

Email: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tel: +1-510-332-0983

 

Victor Biak Lian (CHRO member of board of Directors)

Email: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tel: +66-81-530-0702

 

FACTS & ARGUMENTS:

 

R2P CONCEPT AND BURMA

 

by Lloyd Axworthy

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Once again the world is faced with the serious question of how far the international community should go in challenging the right of national sovereignty when a government denies its most basic responsibility to protect citizens faced with mass suffering and loss of life during a humanitarian catastrophe.

 

There has been a long litany of tragic cases where violence and killing have been directed against innocent people whose governments have stood by or were themselves the perpetrators. Think of the killing fields of Rwanda , the Balkans, more recently of Uganda , the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Darfur . And now, another example of a national government committing a major travesty of justice, but with a different twist.

 

The cyclone that has recently ravaged Burma , resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of people, has rightfully prompted widespread global calls to relieve the plight of the survivors and for immediate international action to forestall the threat of further agony and death due to the spread of disease and starvation. Yet the governing dictatorship in Burma is bizarrely thwarting the kind of comprehensive humanitarian assistance needed to give relief and hope to its own people.

 

In response to this appalling performance of Burma ‘s military junta in impeding the timely arrival and distribution of life-saving aid, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner rightly called on the UN Security Council to use the principle of “responsibility to protect” (R2P) as the basis for a resolution to expedite relief efforts. Under this principle when a national government refuses to protect its own people the international community, under the auspices of the Security Council, must assume this role.

 

It is a principle that has been written into the basic framework of international standards. At the 2005 UN World Summit, world leaders declared that governments can no longer hide behind the narrow precepts of national sovereignty in the face of catastrophic human tragedy. This endorsement of R2P in a global declaration was ground-breaking because it recognized for the first time that there are limits to the UN Charter’s prohibition of international interference in the “domestic jurisdiction” of a member state.

 

The R2P concept was given life in 2000 when Canada established the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. The commission’s mandate evolved from the concept of human security, a touchstone of Canadian foreign policy in the 1990s, which put the protection of people at the top of the global agenda. Human security became the focus for Canadian diplomacy during our tenure in the Security Council in 2000-2001 and we took a leading role in having R2P enacted as a basic United Nations reform. While much of our efforts centered on the threat to innocent people because of war, there was no doubt in our minds that human security applies to natural disasters and pandemics just as much as it does to civil conflict and state-sanctioned violence.

 

R2P became a way of building a bridge between the sovereign state and the international community in meeting shared global human security threats. These threats which transcend national boundaries are proving difficult and intractable to address at present.

Some critics have expressed strong reservations about applying this important international standard in the present situation in Burma . They fear that it would result in military intervention or that it could raise the spectre of some form of new colonialism. They fail to understand that under R2P military intervention is considered to be an absolute last resort. The R2P toolbox contains a wide range of diplomatic, political and economic measures to pressure governments, and to build their own capacity to fully exercise their responsibility to protect the people within their borders.

 

Surely the fundamental message of R2P is that there is no moral difference between an innocent person being killed by machete or AK-47, and starving to death or dying in a cholera epidemic that could have been avoided by proper international response.

 

Burma is in need of more than just statements of indignation and lament from the international community over the scope and injustice of this tragedy. Governments such as Canada ‘s, which previously championed the R2P agenda must add their voices to the diplomatic effort to advance the concept and to provide urgently needed humanitarian relief for the cyclone victims.

 

There is a strong likelihood that using R2P as a call to action will put the onus on many countries — including key members of the Security Council such as China and Russia — to mobilize and focus the necessary political and economic pressures on the Burmese government to change its stance. It also can give the signal to humanitarian aid groups and governments alike to find creative ways of working together to alleviate the suffering by means such as military drops and the establishment of security zones for those displaced by the tragedy.

The failure of the international community to take effective action in places like Darfur and the Congo reminds us that the R2P concept is in need of those who will support and advance it. The application of R2P to the situation in Burma would be a strong demonstration, especially to Asian countries, of the importance and viability of this international norm.

 

As the British historian Sir Martin Gilbert has said: “Since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, non-interference in the internal policies even of the most repressive governments was the golden rule of international diplomacy. The Canadian-sponsored concept of ‘responsibility to protect’ proposed the most significant adjustment to national sovereignty in 360 years. It declared that for a country’s sovereignty to be respected, it must demonstrate responsibility toward its own citizens.”

 

Lloyd Axworthy is president of the University of Winnipeg. He was Canada’s foreign affairs minister from 1996 to 2000. the article is taken from Ottawa Citizen Editorial Page

 

 

NEW & EVENTS

 

KNU CHAIRMAN PASSED AWAY

 

 

Chinland Guardian

May 22, 2008

 

Pado Ba Thin Sein the chairman of Karen National Union and chairman of Ethnic Nationalities Council of Union of Burma passed away at Thai-Burma border on May 22, 2008.

 

Pado Ba Thin Sein joined the Karen National Union (KNU) since the beginning of its founding in 1949 and played many important roles in the Karen people’s long struggle for democracy, equality and self-determination within the framework of federal arrangement. He served his people faithfully through the KNU as its General Secretary from 1983 to 1999, and as the Chairman from 2000 to 2008 until his last breath.

 

Under his leadership, all the non-Burman ethnic nationalities in Burma founded the Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Corporation Committee (ENSCC) in 2001, which was transformed into the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) in 2004. He served as the Chairman of both ENSCC (2001-2004) and ENC (2004-2008). The Ethnic Nationalities Council, under the leadership of Pado Ba Thin Sein, has undertaken pro-active and constructive action to bring about a peaceful resolution to the political conflict in Burma through a negotiated-settlement.

 

The Ethnic Nationalities Council in its condolence letter released today said that “He was not just a leader of the Karen people but a staunch supporter of the establishment of accountable democratic governance for all the peoples of Burma. He was not just a warrior but a consensus builder and peace maker, who always expressed his willingness to solve political crisis in Burma through a Tripartite Dialogue, that is., dialogue amongst the SPDC, democratic forces led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic nationalities”.

 

Karen National Union is the largest ethnic armed resistance group fighting against the Burmese military regime for greater autonomy of the Karen people and the Ethnic Nationalities Council is an umbrella political organization representing seven ethnic states from Union of Burma.

 

The body of Chairman Pado Saw Ba Thein Sein 82 is going to be buried in Kawthoolei, Pha-Ann district, the homeland of the Karen people under the control of Karen National Union.

 

CRIES FROM THE CHIN JUNGLE

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

24 June, 2008

 

A child cries in hunger and for her mother

Her face bathes in tears and cowers in fear

In a grimy bamboo shanty, cold and empty

Nowhere between mountains and valleys

Her whimpering voice vanishes but unheard

Just like a gagged prisoner with a long beard

 

A ‘mautam’ famine preys on the Chin people

– A nation oppressed, ignored and in peril

Besides, families shattered by the military regime

Women are raped and left as if in a bad dream

And men enslaved, coerced and beaten like a mule

In the ‘unknown’ jungle where rats and soldiers rule

 

Distraught and worried as comes the rainy season

Further will the Chin be blocked yet unknown

Landslides, forest leeches and soldiers on patrol

The people know not how long more to roll

With ‘untold’ pain which has begun to fester

In a famine-hit jungle where life’s in danger

 

 

 

Rhododendron News

Volume XII. No. IV. July – August 2008

Chin Human Rights Organization

www.chro.org

 

 

CONTENTS:

 

HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS IN CHINLAND

 

Cross-Border Traders Face Rampant Extortion

Hunger Victims Forced to Finance Government’s Project

SPDC Authorities Collected Money from Civilian for Bridge Repair

SPDC Army Looted Passenger’s Goods

Vengeful Authorities Punished Villagers Who Voted against the New Constitution

Local Man Hospitalized After Attacks by Vigilante

Two Women among Arbitrarily Detained and Tortured

Internet Cafes Start To Boom In Chin State Amid Fears For Users

FOOD CRISIS IN CHINLAND

 

Starvation Stalks In Chin State As Burma’s Regime Ignores

Severe food shortages in Chin State focus of WFP meeting

More Than 30 Children Died Due To Food Crisis In Chin

Chiangmai Concert Raises Awareness and Money for Famine Relief in Chin State

Chin Medical Student on Noble Mission

Live Aid Concert to Take Place in Malaysia

NEWS AND EVENTS

 

Chin Traditional Dress Impressed Britain’s Prince Charles

Chin Student Union of North America Held Its Third Conference

Commemoration of 20th Anniversary of Burma’s 8888 Uprising In Full Preparation

Hundreds Joined ‘8888’ Demonstration in London

Chin Communities Held Seminars and Conferences Across The World

HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN CHINLAND

 

CROSS-BORDER TRADERS FACE RAMPANT EXTORTION

 

17 July 2008

Burmese soldiers stationed in Tedim Township regularly extort money and loot goods from cross-border traders, one of the traders told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

On July 20, 2008, Major Phyu Zaw Aung, from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 228 arrested Pu Pa Cin from Laitu village for importing hardwood lumber into the country. He was forced to pay two and half million Kyats.

 

In a similar incident on July 19, another trader who was carrying canned meats on 54 horsebacks was arrested by Burmese soldiers from LIB 226 and extorted 50,000 Kyats. Further into his journey, he ran into another group of Burmese soldiers from LIB 228 who made him pay another 70,000. When he arrived at Fartlang village on the Indian border he was again extorted 30,000 Kyats by Burmese army patrol unit from LIB 228.

 

Besides, on July 23, 2008, Mr. San Lian Thang from Kalay Myo, who loaded dry chili with 43 horses to Mizoram was asked Kyat- 2000 per horse by Lieutenant Myo Ko Zaw and his men from LIB- 268. He was again asked Kyat- 4000 per horse by major Phyu Zaw Aung. The victim had purchased (340) tins of dry chili at a rate of Kyat- 7500 per tin in Kalay Myo. The current price of dry chili in Aizawl is Rs- 250 per kilogram.

 

HUNGER VICTIMS FORCED TO FINANCE GOVERNMENT’S PROJECT

 

27 July 2008

Nine villages in Tiddim Township of northern Chin State were forcibly ordered on July 6, 2008 to contribute money for the procurement of jatropha seed (a type of bio-fuel), according to a local resident.

 

Major Phyu Zaw Aung from Light Infantry Battalion 228, ordered every household in nine villages in Tiddim Township under his jurisdiction to pay Kyats 500 in finance government’s bio-fuel plantation project in the area.

 

As villagers were already dealing with acute food shortages in the area, they pleaded repeatedly with the Major to extend the deadline for collection of the money. But Major Phyu Zaw Aung insisted that every household pay the money before the end of July.

 

Similarly, Tiddim Township Peace and Development Council’s chairman also issued the same order affecting all villages in the township to collect Kyat- 500 per household. A deadline of submission of the money to TPDC’s office is slated for the first week of May 2008.

 

SPDC AUTHORITIES COLLECTED MONEY FROM CIVILIAN FOR BRIDGE REPAIR

 

28 July 2008

The Chairman of Sagaing Division’s Kalay Township Peace and Development Council, citing the need for funds to repair a bridge, arbitrarily collected money from the public – 500 Kyats per household in the area, a local person reported to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

 

Each year the authorities collected money from the public to repair the bridge which connects Kalay Town and Say Kyi Village. But the bridge gets ruined every rainy season and people in the area have been regularly forced to pay of its repair.

 

“If all the money collected from the public has been spent, the bridge would have not been damaged every rainy season. The authorities have been pocketing the money for themselves and that’s why we are in this situation,” says a local resident.

 

The Roman Catholic Church of Myanmar in Kalay Town, trying to alleviate the public burden, asked the local authorities to allow them to construct the bridge with its own fund in June 2008. But the authorities had rejected the Church’s proposal.

 

“They turned down the Church’s proposal because the authorities know their source of income will be lost if the bridge is fixed,” says the local resident.

 

Damage to the bridge has disrupted transportation and seriously affected the daily livelihood of people in the area. Residents, for example, have to spend an extra 1000 Kyats to hire a motorcycle to transport their goods and foodstuff.

 

SPDC ARMY LOOTED PASSENGER’S GOODS

 

29 July 2008

The Burmese soldiers, stationed in Khampat and belonging to LIB-82 (Based in Sagain Division) routinely loot properties from bus passengers, traveling between Tamu and Kala Town, a local told CHRO.

 

A group of Burmese soldiers and drunken local thugs on June 13, 2008, stopped a bus coming from Tamu Town. Upon entering the town of Khampat, all passengers were ordered to get off and the soldiers and their associates looted goods on board, saying the goods were illegally imported from India.

 

“If you whine about it you all will be put in jail,” the soldiers told the passengers who tried to claim back their goods. Most of the passengers were residents of Kalay Town and they were carrying goods they had purchased from the Indian town of Moreh.

 

VENGEFUL AUTHORITIES PUNISHED VILLAGERS WHO VOTED AGAINST THE NEW CONSTITUTION

 

30 July 2008

Villages in Thanlang Township who overwhelmingly had voted “No” in the constitutional referendum on May 10 are being punished by the Township authorities, a local source told CHRO.

 

As part of a campaign tactic to persuade voters to approve the constitution, military authorities distributed free rice to several villages in Thantlang Township. Thantlang Township Peace and Development Chairman Khuang Hlei Thang is now asking all the villages that received free rice from the authorities in the pre-referendum period, and who had voted against the draft constitution to pay back the price of rice they have received.

 

The villages included; 1. Hmun Halh village which is being asked to repay Kyat- 500,000 for receiving (15) bags of rice, 2. Banawh Tlang village, Kyat- 80000 for receiving (6) bags of rice. The other villages such as Zephai –A and B, Tluangram- A,B,C, Vungtu village and Hriphi village respectively are to pay for the “free” rice they received

 

LOCAL MAN HOSPITALIZED AFTER ATTACKS BY VIGILANTE

 

31 July 2008

A Chin civilian was admitted to the hospital on May 15, 2008 for severe bodily injuries after he was violently attacked by government’s vigilante group, a relative of the victim reported to CHRO.

 

Mr. San Thuan Thang, a 29 year-old from Waybulah Village of Falam Township, was brutally assaulted by “firemen” or local vigilantes on his way home from work. At 9 pm, the victim was walking home when he was accosted by a group of vigilante who asked him for money to buy alcohol. When San Thuan Thang told them he doesn’t have any money, the group gang-beat him. He was then taken to San Myo police station where the group filed a criminal charge against him for attempted robbery.

 

According to the relative, San Thuan Thang was again badly beaten and tortured by the police in custody until he lost consciousness. He was released on bail after his aunt and the Chairman of No. 9 Taunghila ward put up a bail three days later.

 

The victim was unable to urinate and his whole body was swollen as a result of the beating and torture. Upon his release from the police station, he was immediately admitted to Whisley Hospital where he spent a week in recovery and accumulated 150, 000 in hospital bills. He was also asked to give the police in bribery 250,000 Kyats if he wished to close his case with the police. He was threatened with three years jail time if he did not pay the cash to the police upon his recovery.

 

Suan Thuan Thang has no parent or relatives who could afford the money for him. So he sold off his house below the market rate in order to pay off the police for the settlement of his case. He has since fled to India’s Mizoram, says his relative.

 

TWO WOMEN AMONG ARBITRARILY DETAINED AND TORTURED

 

11 August 2008

Two married women along with four villagers from Ngalaing village of Matupi Township are still in army custody after the Burma Army accused them of involvement in the case of a missing rifle belonging to a member of the opposition Chin National Army (C.N.A), the husband of a woman who escaped the arrest over the same case and who also fled to India testified to Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

According to him, the victims were arrested on July 10 at around 6 p.p. local time by a group of 12 soldiers and a local police chief. The order for arrests was issued by Colonel Zaw Myint Oo, Commander of Tactical Command (2) based in Matupi town.

 

The arrests and detention follow a 2000 incident in which one Maung Khaw Lin, a Chin National Army deserter, who later went to Thailand, left his M16 rifle at his uncle’s house. The uncle then handed over the gun to the village headman who then hid the gun in his barn. The headman later returned the gun over to the Chin National Army in early May 2007.

 

But Maung Khaw Lin secretly returned back to his village when he was stopped and questioned at a checkpoint at Mindat by Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 274. He then revealed the entire incident about his desertion from the C.N.A and how he left his gun.

 

Upon hearing a confession from the former C.N.A member, the army went looking for all people implicated in the case. U Maung Thang and U Thi Muai fled before they were apprehended by the army. But their wives were taken into custody when they learned about their escape. U Maung Thang’s wife was physically abused, beaten and humiliated. She was forced to do sit-ups for one hundred times before she fainted in pain.

 

All the people are still in detention in army custody at the time of this report.

 

INTERNET CAFES START TO BOOM IN CHIN STATE AMID FEARS FOR USERS

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

16 August, 2008

 

Communication seems to get better and more accessible to the Chin people as a number of Internet Cafes opened to the public, yet with limited access, has increased recently in Chin State, sources revealed.

 

At least 3 Internet Cafes have been opened last month by private owners, making a total of 4 in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, Burma. There is at least one Internet Cafe, according to unconfirmed sources, each in Falam, Than Tlang and Tiddim towns, three of the biggest in Chin State.

 

“The Internet is mostly used for communicating with the Chin people living in other countries. We are quite busy these days with customers who have got families and relatives abroad. Internet facilities such as chatting and email are the most common ones,” a local Internet Cafe assistant told Chinland Guardian.

 

Depending upon the facilities and quality of computer accessories provided, the Internet users have to pay the fees ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 Kyats per hour, which is said to be much cheaper than using the telephone.

 

A local Internet user from Than Tlang town told Chinland Guardian: “We come to use Internet because it is much better than telephone. We can chat, talk and use emails. The problem is that we don’t have electricity regularly. Luckily these days, the electricity is running every day as one of the government officials is visiting the town.”

 

Sudden growth of Internet cafes in Chin State sparks fears for the users who can be tapped or eavesdropped at any times by the military authority. In Burma, anyone can be arrested without a warrant for being involved in any form in the promotion of human rights and democracy.

 

Some well-known media websites such as BBC and VOA are banned from public use but these blocked websites can be accessed by using a different proxy server. The users, well aware of the possible consequences, are being cautious and careful when they are online and using the Internet, a local Internet assistant said.

 

Military-monitored Internet has been used in government offices in Chin State since the early 2000s. A public Internet with very limited access was first available in Hakha in 2005. Introducing a more advanced communications technology called ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) brought about the rise of Internet cafes in Chin State this year.

 

Chin State has been isolated and cut off communications from the outside world for decades. Till today, no tourists have been since then allowed to travel into the mountainous state. Little is thus exposed and known about the sufferings of the Chin people who like other ethnic groups in Burma have been facing the callous brutalities of Burma’s military regime. This has led to a continuing massive exodus of the Chin people from their homeland towards other countries in search of safety and refuge.

 

 

FOOD CRISIS IN CHINLAND

 

STARVATION STALKS IN CHIN STATE AS BURMA’S REGIME IGNORES

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

04 August, 2008

‘Government-neglected’ starvation, locally known as Mautam, has been ravaging Chin State, sparking fears that the affected areas could be immensely increased unless more relief aids are promptly delivered, sources revealed.

 

Burma’s regime has been, for the second time after the Nargis cyclone, severely condemned for denying the existence of famine in the country and ‘turning a blind eye’ to the suffering of its own peoples while governments of India and Bangladesh have at least prepared, although reported inadequate, for the present bamboo-flowering cycle which occurs every fifty years.

 

A recent report by Project Maje stated: “As the swarming rats of the Mautam devour the people’s food, so do the generals ruling Burma relentlessly steal, extort, plunder and confiscate, leaving nothing. Unless military rule is ended, Burma will continue to be a disaster zone and the present hunger belts will stretch from border to border.”

 

“As was apparent in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, when the regime of Burma will not facilitate relief aid, grassroots groups must take action as best they can. Such a do-it-yourself equivalent of a civil society occurs without the regime’s approval and often with its hindrance but it can be powerfully effective”, the report continued.

 

Efforts have been made but no way near ‘enough’ by Chin organisations, churches and individuals yet with little help from international communities. Some locally formed organisations including Mizoram-based Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC), Burma-based Maraland Social Welfare and Development Committee (MSWDC) and Country Agency For Rural Development Myanmar (CAD) have also been actively working in response to the current situation.

 

Project Maje’s report suggested: “Relief aid including emergency rice and seed stocks, with rat-proof containers, would be given directly to the hunger belt of Chin State by Burma’s regime (which is wealthy, with a reported US$150 million a month income from its petroleum joint ventures with France’s Total, the United States’ Chevron, South Korea’s Daewoo, China, Thailand and India) or the United Nations and other international donors.”

 

Rev. Dr. C. Duh Kam, Executive Minister of Chin Baptist Fellowship of America (CBFA) strongly called on Chin individuals worldwide to take a ‘life-saving aid’ action, saying: “If each one of us puts just our half-day wages aside, our fellow Chins can survive. Let us waste our time no more but take some food out of our own mouths for our nation now.”

 

The bamboo flowering and rat infestation cycle has in the past lasted for about three years, until the rats run out of food and their populations return to normal. According to The Times of India, “the last flowering in Mizoram, in 1958-59, caused a famine that killed between 10,000 and 15,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of livelihoods.”

 

An increasing number of Chin victims are migrating, leaving their native places towards the Indian-Burma border in search of food and security. “If this famine continues for the next three years, our land will be completely deserted and empty. We need your immediate actions,” said Rev. M. Thawng Kam, General Secretary of Zomi Baptist Convention.

 

Perhaps most importantly, as has been stated in other Project Maje reports, a complete end to the abuse of ethnic nationality people of Burma must be an unwavering condition of any political process in Burma. Human rights violations, exploitation and degradation of the environment for commercial purposes have made the Chin people particularly vulnerable to the current Mautam and cut off from the relief aid which is reaching those affected by the bamboo/rat cycle in the neighboring countries, the report said.

 

Locally known as Mautam, the famine is caused by a massive influx of rats following the blossoming bamboos which produce avocado-like fruits. After feeding on the bamboo fruits/seeds, the rats begin to reproduce in an accelerated birth surge. The rodents often grow to particularly large sizes and can gnaw through wood floors, walls, storage containers and granaries. Swarms of these nocturnal rats quietly invade farms and villages to devour crops, stored rice and others such as potatoes, maize, chilli and sesame.

 

SEVERE FOOD SHORTAGES IN CHIN STATE FOCUS OF WFP MEETING

 

August 7, 2008 – The severe food crisis in Chin state of Burma was the focus of the meeting of international and domestic non government organizations held at the World Food Program’s (WFP) head-office in Rangoon yesterday. All present agreed on the acuteness of the crisis and expressed fears about imminent famine in Chin state.

 

In an e- mail sent to Khonumthung News , the director of Country Agency for Rural Development (CAD), Joseph Win Hlaing Oo says, ” Many news agencies are broadcasting there is famine in Chin state; so far famine has not started, but there is certainly a serious food crisis.”

 

He further said the report of the Chin Human Right Organization on food crisis in Chin state dominated the discussion in yesterday meeting.

 

Participants of the meeting agreed rat infestation and draught have badly affected villagers in Chin state.

The WFP approved CAD’s proposal of free distribution of food and implementation of the food for work program. CAD believes these would help people in affected areas.

 

The meeting was concluded with a resolution to work closely for more concrete data and methodology on the food crisis in Chin state, Joseph Win Hlaing Oo added.

 

A total of 12 participants from WFP, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) , GRET (Groupe d’échange et de recherche technologiques), Care, KMSS(Karuna Myanmar Social Services), CDRT, CAD and DFID (Department for International Development) were present at the meeting.

 

The food crisis which is about to assume proportions of a famine (local known as Mautam) follows the flowering of bamboo plants. It is said to have started in 2006 and plagued several parts of Chin state and caused food shortage in the region.

 

Rats multiply after eating bamboo flowers and damage paddy and other crops, which is the main food of the Chin people. The rats attack even the barns where paddy stocks are kept.

 

According to Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC) the Chin relief group based in Mizoram in northeast India, 100,000 of over 500,000 people in Chin state are facing severe food shortages. – KHONUMTHUNG.

 

MORE THAN 30 CHILDREN DIED DUE TO FOOD CRISIS IN CHIN STATE

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

23 August, 2008

 

At least 31 children have died due to the ongoing ‘government-ignored’ severe food crisis in Chin State, Burma, a statement by Chin National Council on Tuesday revealed.

 

The statement said the current situation will even get worse if no immediate aids are addressed and delivered, accusing Burma’s military dictatorship of not only ‘shrugging off’ but also making the situation worse by continuing various human rights violations, ruthless exploitation of people and resources, religious persecutions and systematic repressions against the Chin people.

 

The number of children dying from famine-related malnutrition and diarrhea has increased to 44 and about 2,000 Chin victims have fled to India, Khonumthung News said.

 

At least 200 Chin villages along the Burma, India and Bangladesh border with an estimated 100,000 Chin people are directly affected, facing starvation, according to a recent report by Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO).

 

In an attempt to response to the rat-infested famine situation in Chin State, Rangoon-based CAD (Country Agency for Rural Development) is set to have a second meeting with international organisations including WFP (World Food Programme), UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), CARE, GRET (Groupe d’échange et de recherche technologiques), KMSS (Karuna Myanmar Social Services) and DFID (UK Department for International Development) on 25 August.

 

Some individuals are concerned that it is not time for having a series of meetings but for taking immediate yet effective actions.

 

“Cross border initiative to support the victim is also in progress despite some differences among the groups that are engaged. The need is too much and the challenges are immense. We all must response collectively so that it will be effective,” said a prominent Chin political figure, Victor Biak Lian, who met the government officials and NGOs in the UK last June, 2008.

 

“UN agencies and WFP are now engaged which is a big step forward. And the government even acknowledge the problem of food crisis in Chin State,” added Victor Biak Lian.

 

A team of famous Chin and Mizo singers are to perform at a series of fundraising ‘Chin Famine Live Aid Concert’ scheduled to take place in Thailand,Singapore and Malaysia in August and September. The band includes Zam Nu, Sung Tin Par, Mimi Lalzamliani, Malsawmtluangi and San Pi.

 

Rat-related famine has been said to be spreading into Tamu, Kalay township in Sagaing division where crop-destroying rats and insects wer eating up crops in the fields, recent reports said.

 

Chin Humanitarian and Relief Committee (CHRC), consisting of 16 members, was established by Chin Naitonal Council on 18 August with the aims of assisting with relief items to the starving people, establishing social security and providing services, uplifting of the social life of Chin people and assisting in various kinds of development in the state.

 

The Chin National Council called on Chin communities worldwide, groups, individuals and the international donors to work together with the CHRC for implementation of famine relief, developments and social upliftment of the victims of famine in Chin State.

 

CHIANGMAI CONCERT RAISES AWARENESS AND MONEY FOR FAMINE RELIEF IN CHIN STATE

 

By Cer Chin

Chinland Guardian

28 August, 2008

 

Chiang Mai, Thailand: Last night, over one thousand concert-goers filed into the stadium at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand to hear performances by top artists from Burma and Mizoram participating in the Chin Famine Live Aid Concert. The Chin community of Chiang Mai organized the concert to benefit victims of the ongoing famine and food shortages in Chin State, Burma.

 

“We had a very good turnout last night. The performances were all top-notch and they generated a lot of excitement from the crowd,” said Freddy Lian, a Chin community leader based in Chiang Mai. “We are grateful that these talented musicians were able to bring much needed attention to the problems currently affecting the Chin people.”

 

The people of Chin State, Burma are now struggling with food shortages caused by the flowering and dying of bamboos in parts of Chin State starting in 2006. When the bamboo flowers, it produces a fruit that attracts rats, which has led to a rapid infestation of rats particularly in the southern areas of Chin State. After exhausting the supplies of bamboo fruits, the rats turn on the food stores and crop harvests that the Chin people depend upon for their daily subsistence. With food shortages spreading throughout Chin State, many are on the brink of starvation. There are also increased reports of deaths due to starvation.

 

The proceeds from last night’s Chin Famine Live Aid Concert in Chiang Mai will go to benefit relief operations in Chin State, Burma. Teams of relief workers are working to bring food aids to famine affected areas. “Ticket sales and donations received at the concert will hopefully bring some comfort to those struggling with hunger in Chin State,” Freddy Lian went on to say.

 

NGO workers, Burma advocates, academics and scholars, religious leaders, members of the Burmese and Chin communities, as well as many others were among those in attendance. Many in the crowd sang and danced along with the singers. The singers also received bundles of flowers from their fans. “It is a rare opportunity for us here in Thailand to be able to attend a live concert with such famous performers. It was very encouraging to see them and we hope they come back for more performances,” remarked one concert-goer.

 

The Chiang Mai concert is the first of a series of concerts scheduled to take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore within the next week to raise awareness and money for the Chin famine relief efforts. Performers participating in the concert series include famous Chin singers, Sung Tin Par, Zam Nu, and Sang Pi, along with Mizoram-based singers, Mimi Lalzamliani and Malsawm Tluangi (SP).

 

CHIN MEDICAL STUDENT ON NOBLE MISSION

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

30 August, 2008

 

Thousands of Chin patients from the most famine-affected areas in Chin State have travelled on foot across the mountains to the Indian-Burmese border to receive free medical treatment from a village clinic opened by Chin medical student, Sasa.

 

Five other MA students, who ask not to be named for security reasons are also volunteering in this dangerous yet worthy life-saving mission with Sasa, a final year medical student at Armenian University.

 

“As an individual, I have the privilege of giving medical treatment for 3757 patients who came to the border village clinic. I am so thankful to Prince Charles and his charity, and International Health Partners for the medical help,” a doctor-to-be, Sasa, told Chinland Guardian.

 

“I wish all the Chin people across the world know that our people are dying due to this ongoing famine. We need not words but actions. This is not the time for playing political game by putting on the face of the famine but for standing together to face the reality and help the life to be saved,” added Sasa.

 

Sasa said 759 rice bags have been delivered directly to 61 villages and some more are on their way to the villages as he thanked an unnamed mother and other friends who lent a helping hand to make this operation possible.

 

When asked about completing his education, Sasa, who is due to continue his remaining study in the middle of September, said: “Actually, I haven’t finished my study. But the time has come for me to do this. I have heard our people crying with my own ears, I have seen their sufferings with my own eyes and I have felt the brokenness and the pain in my heart. I will serve them with all I could. What is the use for me to come back to my native place when the famine has finished our people’s lives? This is the time our people need us most.”

 

Meanwhile, a series of concerts to raise awareness and fund for the famine victims is organised in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore with well-known singers, Zam Nu, San Pi and Sung Tin Par from Burma, and Mimi Lalzamliani and Malsawm Tluangi (SP) from Mizoram State of India.

 

A doctor-to-be, 27, urged all the Chin communities across the world including Chin political parties, religious and social leaders to put all their political, religious and social differences away but to come together to save the lives of the Chin people who have been suffering from all kinds of famine-related illness starting from malnutrition to hunger to death.

 

A Mara-Chin from Southern Chin State went to the Indian-Burmese border in July, 2008 after meeting Britain’s Prince Charles, government ministers and International organisations in the UK as a member of the Chin degelation that made an advocacy trip, raising awareness and relief aids for Chin victims of the devastating food crisis in Chin State, Burma.

 

CHIN FAMINE LIVE AID CONCERT TO TAKE PLACE IN MALAYSIA

 

By Cer Chin

Chinland Guardian

31 August, 2008

 

Six performers from Mizoram, India and Burma arrived in Malaysia yesterday afternoon to participate in the Chin Famine Live Aid Concert to benefit victims of famine and severe food shortages in Chin State, Burma. Chin singers Sung Tin Par, Zam Nu, and Sang Pi, along with Mizoram-based singers, Mimi Lalzamliani and Malsawm Tluangi (SP) are among the singers scheduled to perform on August 31 and September 1 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city.

 

“We are honored to have these talented artists visit us in Malaysia, and we have been preparing for their arrival for quite some time now. We are all looking forward to their performances,” said Paul Rung Er Lian, Director of the Malaysia Concert Organizing Committee.

 

The concerts in Malaysia follow a successfully held concert in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Wednesday evening, where more than a thousand concert-goers attended events to raise awareness and money about the food crisis currently ravaging parts of Chin State.

 

A rapid infestation of rats in Chin State starting in 2006 has led to food shortages and economic devastation for an estimated 100,000 people, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization. The World Food Program (WFP) recently indicated that they would be looking into the situation in Chin State. Meanwhile, many victims have already crossed the border from Chin State into India in search of relief. Deaths due to starvation have also been reported.

 

The proceeds of the Chin Famine Live Aid Concerts will go to support cross-border relief efforts already underway in affected areas of Chin State. “We really appreciate the time and energy donated by these musicians to support this important cause,” said Paul Rung Er Lian.

 

Chin Christian churches and fellowships are responsible for organizing the concert in Kuala Lumpur. The performers are also scheduled to travel on to Singapore later this week and will be performing in Singapore next weekend.

 

NEWS & EVENTS

 

CHIN TRADITIONAL DRESS IMPRESSED BRITAIN’S PRINCE CHARLES

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

04 August, 2008

 

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales expressed his admiration for the Chin traditional dress during a meeting at his residence in London with Burmese students including a Chin medical student, Sasa, early July, 2008.

 

Prince Charles, first in line to the British crown, described the Chin traditional dress as ‘colourful and beautiful’ when Sasa was first introduced on the occasion.

 

“Among the group, I was the first person introduced to the Prince and his first response to me was ‘your dress is so beautiful’ and his comments on my dress opened the door for me to explain about the Chin traditional dress that I was wearing,” said Sasa, a final year medical student at Armenian university.

 

“He liked the Chin dress and kept saying at least 5 times how beautiful the Chin dress is. And I was even thinking to send him one as a present through his secretary,” added a doctor-to-be, 27, from Southern Chin State.

 

The Chin people nowadays wear their traditional dresses mostly on important occasions and celebrations including Chin National Day, Christmas, New Year and wedding ceremonies.

 

It has been claimed that Chin traditional dress became better known among the Burmese people after Burma’s famous female Chin rock singer Sung Tin Par performed wearing Chin dresses. The dress was even once known as ‘Sung Tin Par Fashion’, increasing sales and demands on the streets across the country.

 

Traditionally men would wear distinctively patterned silk blankets, aka shawls, over one or both shoulders in some tribes, wrapping around the whole body and another piece of material in a loincloth style. Women’s dress would include smaller shawls wrapped around their waist as skirts tied with belts and a small piece of cloth (tunic-top) hung over their chest with the help of necklaces over it to keep it in place. However, this tradition is dying out amongst the younger generations.

 

Burma’s democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi mentioned in her book Letters From Burma: “Winter begins for me when at night I start piling on the Chin blankets that we have always used in the family. These blankets of thick cotton come in stripes or checks, usually in different shades of greens, reds and reddish browns.”

 

She continued: “Now, the first blanket I place on my bed at the advent of the cold weather is an old one given to my father by Chin friends: it is white with faded red stripes and in the corner is the date embroidered by my mother, ’25-3-47′.”

 

The cultural, economic and political changes of the last century have particular impact on the way the Chin textiles are woven and worn. Traditionally, Chin textiles are hand-woven by women with a bamboo-made back-strap loom. Commercial weaving which is more machine-woven rather than hand-spun is more common and a variety of modified Chin dresses can be found in the market. Today, Chin state is one of the seven states in Burma, where people wear widely in western, as opposed to Burmese, styles.

 

A variety of patterns and colours in Chin dresses can be seen among the Chin tribes. The main colours for Tiddim tribe are reddish brown, white and black whereas red is for Hakha. Likewise, the same occurs among Chin tribes in the southern part of Chin State.

 

The modern trends in Chin textiles contain coats, neckties, sarong-like longyis and hta-mains, and accessories including handbags, wallets and wall-scrolls. These textile products have been popularly used as souvenirs and also highly viewed as artworks.

 

Chin communities and a growing number of foreign enthusiasts are making efforts in a bid to protect and preserve the traditional weaving methods and material patterns from the influence of modern fashion styles.

 

CHIN STUDENT UNION OF NORTH AMERICA HELD ITS THIRD CONFERENCE

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

05 August, 2008

 

The third Chin Student Union of North America (CSUNA) conference was held on August 2-3 in Battle Creek, USA where more than 60 participants including high school students attended.

 

The event is organised once a year in a bid to discuss the opportunities and challenges confronting the Chin students in North America and find ways to promote students’ education, welfare, cooperation and solidarity among Chin students across the world.

 

This year, the committee was said to have included other programs for encouraging the young students in a way that they can develop a better understanding of national values and contribute efforts towards the development and rebuilding of Chinland.

 

“We are very happy to see all the participants from different places with different background come and sit together without parochial attitudes,” said one of the committee members of CSUNA in Michigan State.

 

The first conference was held in Indiana with a total of 53 Chin students and the second in Washington DC with more than 80 Chin students from United States and Canada.

 

The organisation has been actively involved in supporting the global campaign to boycott Chinese Products and the upcoming Olympic 2008 after accusing China of lending its unwavering economic and diplomatic supports, and protecting Burma’s military regime internationally.

 

The CSUNA, formed in August 2006, is an independent and non-profit organization, dedicated to promoting and standing up for the common causes of the Chin people, the educational opportunities and capacity development of Chin students, as well as cooperation, solidarity and unity among Chin people and is committed to working towards the promotion and preservation of Chin culture, literature, and heritages.

 

COMMEMORATION OF 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF BURMA’S 8888 UPRISING IN FULL PREPARATION

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

07 August, 2008

London, UK: A concatenation of demonstrations in commemoration of what is known as “8888 Uprising” is set to take place in London, UK tomorrow, 8th of August. The events will mark the 20th anniversary of Burma’s national revolution demanding democracy in 1988.

 

Friday’s programmes include an opening ceremony at Peace Garden in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum to unveil a glass monument to political prisoners in Burma, which will be followed by a demonstration in front of the Burmese embassy, calling for the release of Burma’s political prisoners.

 

“Our focus would be on political prisoners in Burma, and linking that as a crucial benchmark for progress by the UN initiative. We need to focus our efforts on where we can make a real difference, and the situation of political prisoners is getting increasingly worse. We strongly believe we must do what we can to help them, and BCUK will devote its resources on this day to doing what it can to make sure the situation of political prisoners gets the attention it deserves, “said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK.

 

School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London will host a photo exhibition on political prisoners in Burma. Another demonstration is organised to happen at the Chinese embassy in a protest against the Beijing Olympics, which opens coincidentally on 8th of August.

 

“Unfortunately, despite what we all agreed, some people have decided to go ahead with a demonstration at the Chinese embassy. In our opinion this is a mistake, it takes away our focus from political prisoners, and we can’t see how it will have any impact on China. Any message we might want to get out about Burma will be completely lost,” added Mark Farmaner of BCUK which is not supporting, promoting and attending the demonstration at the Chinese embassy.

 

A ‘Bike Ride for Burma’ event is organised this Saturday, 9th of August by a London-based coalition of Burmese students and exiled activists, commemorating the ‘8888 Uprising’, and showing solidarity and support for the citizens of Burma.

 

In Edinburgh, Scotland, crowds of people will be holding up a giant saffron ribbon as a demonstration to mark the 8.8.1988 Burmese uprising which will be followed by a special gala performance of The Burma Play, starting a minute’s silence.

 

Today there are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma, many subjected to brutal torture and denied medical care, according to Burma Campaign UK.

 

The 8888 uprising began in Yangon, the former capital of Burma, led by University students which suddenly spread throughout the country. Thousands, mostly Buddhist monks, students and civilians were slaughtered by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council). Burma has been ruled by the brutal, repressive and isolated regime since the military coup in 1962.

 

HUNDREDS JOINED ‘8888’ DEMONSTRATION IN LONDON

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

09 August, 2008

 

London, UK: More than 200 Burmese and British supporters yesterday braved London’s drizzle in a protest as part of 8.8.08 Global Day for Burma, commemorating the 20th anniversary of student-led ‘8888 Uprising’.

 

The protesters, wearing ‘Free Burma’ T-shirts and ‘Fighting Peacock’ headbands which symbolise the University Student Union and its Fighting spirit for justice and freedom, demonstrated peacefully in front of Burmese embassy, calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma.

 

Standing inside a ‘dummy’ iron prison bar in front of Burmese embassy, a former potilical prisoner Ko Zaw Zaw Aung told Chinland Guardian: “We all come here today to show that the spirit of ‘8888’ is still alive and that we are still fighting for democracy as we remember those who gave their lives in the fight for democracy back in 1988, . Today’s demonstration signals clearly that the peoples of Burma are standing against the military regime.”

 

With some holding a big banner that reads ‘None of us are free while one of us is in chains’ and placards reading ‘Free Aung San Suu Kyi, Free all political prisoners’, the protesters from prominent Burmese political figures to babies as young as one filled up the street, shouting slogans ‘Free, Free – Burma, Burma’.

 

“Today we are here gathering together in solidarity without brothers and sisters who are in prison in Burma. And we are here to commemorate the 88 uprising. Also at the same time, we are here to demand for the release of our fellow citizens of Burma who are currently in jail in Burma. And we are calling on the regime to release all political prisoners immediately and on international communities to push Than Shwe and the generals to secure the release of all political prisoners including our democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to start a tripartite dialogue with the opposition party and ethnic nationalities,” a Karen activist, Zoya Phan of Burma Campaign UK told Chinland Guardian.

 

“The longer we wait, the more people will die; the longer we wait, the political prisoners in Burma will suffer and die. People in Burma do not have the rights to access to their freedom of expression and opinion. But here, we can do that. So we need to appeal to our freedom and rights to free the peoples of Burma who have suffered too much,” added daughter of the late KNU General Secretary Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan.

 

A ceremony of consecrating and unveiling a glass monument dedicated to the political prisoners in Burma was held in the morning with more than 50 participants at Peace Garden on the grounds of Imperial War Museum. “This monument is dedicated to the political prisoners of Burma and will be temporarily held in the UK. Then it will be one day placed in Burma where it belongs when we have democracy,” said a former political prisoner, Ko Aung of Burmese Democratic Movement Association.

 

During the 88 uprising which ended on September 18, 1988, the long-standing military dictatorship slaughtered thousands, mostly monks and students. It is estimated that those killed 20 years ago today and in the subsequent crackdown range from 3,000-10,000. The regime also suppressed peaceful pro-democracy uprisings in 1996 and 2007. Today there are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma, many subjected to brutal torture and denied medical care, according to Burma Campaign UK.

 

CHIN COMMUNITIES HELD SEMINARS AND CONFERENCES ACROSS THE WORLD

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

17 August, 2008

 

A series of seminars and conferences was held in recent months by Chin communities in their respective residing countries including USA, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

 

The event which happens once a year or once in two years time in some countries is organised as part of the aims for protecting and promoting unity and developing a closer relationship among the Chin people.

 

Chin communities in Germany yesterday held a conference, ending with a friendly football match. One team from a combination of those living in Nuremberg and Munich played against another team from Frankfurt.

 

In North America, Chin Christian Fellowship of Canada (CCFC) held a four-day long conference in Kitchener, Ontario with more than 300 participants in June and Chin Baptist Fellowship of America (CBFA) their second annual conference in Dallas, Texas with more than 600 participants in July.

 

Salai Cung Cin, the newly elected Executive Director of CCFC, said: “Year after year, I am so impressed to see the growing national Unity, understanding, cooperation, and love among our Chin people across Canada. Indeed, I am so thankful to all our respective Church/fellowship leaders, community leaders, Resource persons, and all my fellow Chins for all their contributions and painstaking works which make our works possible. May we continuously strengthen the very spirit of our oneness as a people with a shared history, cultures, and a shared common destiny!”

 

The first meeting ever held by the Chin people living in Norrbotten, Sweden, combined with the opening ceremony of Chin Christian Church Sweden took place in the last week of July this year.

 

In Norway, more than 500 Chins attended the 3rd biennial conference organised in Stavanger, the fourth biggest city in Norway by Norway Chin Christian Fellowship (NCCF) and the conference was also attended by some Chin fellows from countries including Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Burma.

 

Invited as special guests to the conferences in Denmark and Norway included Rev. Dr. Stephen Hre Kio and his wife from the US. Known among the Falam-Chins as their missionary ‘Siangbawipa’, Rev. Dr. Stephen Hre Kio, the current pastor of Indiana Chin Baptist Church, Indianapolis, was a United Bible Society Translation consultant after working for various religious organisations and churches in Chin State including translating the Bible into Falam from 1974 to 1985.

 

Former General Secretary of Zomi Baptist Convention, Rev. Dr. Chum Awi meanwhile called on Chin communities worldwide for forming International Chin Christian Fellowship which will serve as an umbrella organisation for Chin Christians and churches across the globe.

 

The 3rd Chin Student Union of North America conference was successfully held on 2-3 August, 2008 in Battle Creek with over 80 Chin university students, high school students and alumni from Canada and the US.

 

“Our fellow students once again have shown us how important and invaluable unity is amongst ourselves. On the other hand, I have come to realize that the differences among the Chin peoples are what make the Chins unique. I am honoured to be a small part of an organization that always shows us ‘Unity in Diversity’”, says the newly elected General Secretary, Salai Shing Ki Gei.

 

The conference programs incorporated various items such as Praise and Worship, Bible Study, workshops on various topics which include health, education, and the prevalent Chin humanitarian issues aiming at promoting the social and spiritual well-being of the Chin people, sing-song services, sports, writing competitions and concerts.

 

The Chin people, like other ethnic nationalities in Burma, left their homeland in search of refuge in other countries due to political repression, religious persecution, ethnic cleansing and fundamental human rights violation inflicted upon by the brutal military regime. It is estimated that there are currently, according to a report by CHRO (Chin Human Rights Organisation), about 60, 000 Chin refugees in India and 30,000 in Malaysia, and several thousands more in Bangladesh as well as Thailand.

 

BACK COVER POEM

 

THE SPIRITS OF 8888

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

08 August, 2008

 

Two decades have passed in a clear memory

And so have many lives but unknown like a mystery:

Monks, students, civilians gun down to death

And more leaders imprisoned and tortured by stealth

 

The people stood unarmed, united for democracy

Holding hands as one family and walking for liberty

But broken was their dream into a pool of blood

When with martial law the regime struck like a flood

 

Many students have away run from their loved country

Climbing uphills and crossing borders as a refugee

While their families suffer from the Junta’s forces

Yet many more still serve their ‘uncharged’ sentences

 

The spirits of ‘Fighting Peacock’ today among us live

With ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ they then did give

However long and hard the road may be before us

We all must stand as one and fight till the end thus

 

 

 

Rhododendron News

Volume XI, No V. September – October 2008

Chin Human Rights Organization

www.chro.org

 

CONTENTS:

HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS IN CHINLAND

• Villagers Punished for Failing to Comply with Forced Labour Order

• Unfair Restrictions on Ferry Operators Cause Price Hike

• Chin Widow Taxed 30, 000 for Owning Two Cows

• Soldiers on Killing Spree of Livestock for Meat

• Villagers Flee to India as Burma Army Rages

• Farmers Compelled to Buy Govt-Produced Fertilizer

• Villagers Forced to Supply Porters and Chickens

 

FOOD CRISIS IN CHINLAND

• Severe Food Shortages Blamed for Sharp School Dropout

• Discriminatory Practice in Aid Distribution

• Forced Labour Exacted from Areas Hard Hit by Food Scarcity

• Food Crisis Puts Mothers and Children at Risk

• Chin People Brace for Famine-Related Diseases

• ENC Calls for Immediate Action to Address Food Crisis

• DFID Hailed for its Response to Food Crisis in Chin State

• Burma’s Regime Slammed for Neglecting Food Crisis in Chin State

• Local Relief Group Raised Funds for Famine Victims

 

NEWS AND EVENTS

• Deportation Feared for a Chin Refugee in Malaysia

• Joint Cross-Border Effort Planned for Victims of Hunger in Chin State

• Mizoram University Host International Seminar on Chin History

• Chin Scholar Urged to Look Back into the Past

• Demonstration to Mark Suu Kyi’s 13 Years in Detention

 

OPINION

• Making Burma ungovernable

 

BACK COVER POEM

• Saffron Revolution

 

HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS IN CHINLAND

 

Villagers Punished for Failing to Comply with Forced Labour Order

 

Three villages in Paletwa Township of Southern Chin State who are already dealing with acute shortages of food were fined thousands of Kyats for failing to comply with a forced labour order, a local villager reported to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

 

Captain Khin Zaw from Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 538 forced civilians from nine village tracts in southern Chin State to construct an army camp at Shinletwa village. The affected villages were Pathiantlang, Sin Oo Wa, Shweletwa, Ma Oo, Sha Oo, Para, Ma Oo, Paungmu, Kupi.

 

The work lasted from July 13 to 19, 2008 but Para, Pathiantlang and Sha Oo could not contribute labourers for the camp construction. Each village was ordered a fine of 80, 000 Kyats each for failing to show up for the construction. A total of seven barracks were completed during a week-long work at the camp.

 

Unfair Restrictions on Ferry Operators Cause Price Hike

 

Unfair orders by Major Than Zaw Myint from Light Infantry Battalion 289 is causing commodity prices in the southern Chin State to shoot through the roof, and creating further hardships for communities in the area who are already struggling with a major food crisis, according to a local person.

 

According to Major Than Zaw Myint’s order, ferry owners can now only operate once in every 40 days up the Kaladan river, obstructing the movement of goods and commodities for communities living on the edges of the Kaladan river. Moreover, the army officer is requisitioning at least two ferries at all times for use by the army. The ferry owners are responsible for diesel fuel cost during use of their boats by the army.

 

The local association of ferry owners has approached the Township Peace and Development Council Chairman U Zeya to ask for his intervention to reverse Major Than Zaw Myint’s order, saying it was unfair for them since they already paid up all necessary fees for their operating licenses. So far the Township Chairman had done nothing in the matter.

 

Chin Widow Extorted 30, 000 Kyats for Owning Two Cows

 

A widow was the latest victim of extortion by Burmese troops operating in southern Chin State. A troop consisting of 17 soldiers commanded by a Captain from LIB (304), during the last week of July 2008, extorted 30,000 Kyats from a widow in Satu village of Matupi Township for owing two cows, a local person told Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

 

Severe shortages of food due to rat infestation have forced more Chin families to sell their livestock to India’s Mizoram. Burmese troops are now asking 30,000 Kyats for each family owning or selling a cow.

 

Soldiers on Killing Spree of Livestock for Meat

 

26 August 2008

Burmese soldiers stationed in southern Chin State have been on animal killing spree, shooting people’s livestock and consuming their meat without paying for them, a resident of Matupi town told Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

 

Soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (304), commanded by Colonel Zaw Myint Oo have been blamed for much of the killing of domestic animals. According to a Matupi resident, the battalion is responsible for unlawfully killing at least 8 mithuns, 15 pigs and countless number of chickens belonging to the local people in Matupi area.

 

“Since May of 2008, soldiers from LIB 304 have been deliberately hunting mithuns by shooting and killing them at will by going to the grazing area. They killed them by shooting and laying traps,” a Maputi resident explained.

 

Owners of the livestock who tried to claim compensation at the office of the Battalion commander were told by Col. Zaw Myint Oo, they would be compensated once the owners paid for the bullets that were used to kill their animals.

 

Among the people whose mithuns have been killed by the soldiers are U Yahe, U Ram Tang and U Yung Bal, all residents of Matupi town.

 

Soldiers from LIB 304 were blamed for the killing of more than 15 pigs in the villages of Sabawngpi, Sabawngte, Lumang and Darling just in the month of July, 2008.

 

Villagers Flee to India as Burma Army Rages

 

5 October 2008

Dozens of Chin villagers have fled to India to avoid possible arrests by the Burma Army in connection with the death of one of its member whose dead body was found with his gun missing.

 

On September 23, 2008, a dead body of Corporal Thant Lwin of Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 87 was found in a rice field near Hmawnkawn village on the borders with India. His MA-2 rifle along with 30 rounds of ammunitions were also found missing.

 

The Burmese army subsequently conducted a widespread search of the area for the missing gun. Nearly 150 villagers in the area were forced to participate in the search from 25 to 27 September. 40 persons from Doih Khen village, 60 persons from Hmawngkawn A & B villages, and another 47 persons from Leilet village were forcibly deployed in the search for the missing gun for three days.

 

The dead soldier was part of a unit led by Sergeant Wi Sandar based at Tibual village in LIB 87 camp. They were on duty on India-Burma border to extort cross-border traders when Corporal Thant Lwin was killed. Sergeant Wi Sandar was subsequently arrested and interrogated at Hakha Tactical Command Office.

 

To date, neither the missing gun nor the suspected killer has been found. On September 25, Brigadier General Hung Ngai, the highest ranking military officer in Chin State visited the area and personally saw the place where the soldier body was found. As the army could not find the killer, they turned their attention to villagers in the area, spreading fears and causing many villagers to flee to Mizoram.

 

Farmers Compelled to Buy Govt-Produced Fertilizer

 

11 August 2008

The authorities in Sagaing Division are forcing farmers to buy fertilizer in a bid to increase the production of rice in the 2008-2009 cultivating season.

 

A resolution reached at a joint meeting between the Kalay District and Township Peace and Development Council on 12 June 2008 required farmers to:

 

1. Produce 100 tins (1 tin consists of appx 20 Kilograms) of rice per acre

2. Buy fertilizer from the government

3. Not grow any other crops but rice in their farms

4. Meet all rules and conditions set by the government

5. Non-compliance would result in punishment under article 31 (1) of the Land Act – offence under the Act could result in seizure of their land and up to six months jail terms

 

Part of the conditions for farmers includes the purchase and use of fertilizers from the government. Each farmer must purchase 2 bags of fertilizers per one acre of farmland. The price of the fertilizer would be determined and collected from the farmers upon harvest.

 

Farmers believe that the reason for making mandatory purchase of fertilizer is because the sale of fertilizer has been down for some time.

 

Villagers Forced to Supply Porters and Chickens

 

30 September 2008

Lt. Toe Ya and his unit from Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 304, on 3 August 2008, demanded five porters and five chickens from Sabawngpi village.

 

Afraid to disobey the order, U Maung Kyi, the headmen of the village arranged five porters and chickens the following day. The porters transported military equipments and supplies to fifty miles away in Razua Town.

 

In his previous visit to the village on July 30, 2008, Lt. Toe Ya had assaulted the headman when he discovered that the school building in the village was in disrepair. The assault happen after U Maung Kyi told the army officer the building was in disrepair due to lack of funding from the government.

 

FOOD CRISIS IN CHINLAND

 

Severe Food Shortages Blamed for Sharp School Dropout

 

28 August 2008

Acute shortages of food are being blamed for a high number of dropouts among school children in Matupi Township of southern Chin State. The number of students attending school this year has been sharply reduced by half compared to last year, according to a teacher who teaches at a school in Sabawngte village of Matupi Township.

 

“Parents can simply no longer afford to send their children to school when there is no food left to eat at home. People have done everything they can to continue surviving by selling every livestock and possession. They have depleted everything they have,” said the unnamed teacher.

 

Sabawnge village has a government high school with the usual enrolment of at least 400 students. That number has now been reduced to half this academic year due to massive rat infestation and related shortages of food in the entire region.

 

Discriminatory Practice in Aid Distribution

 

26 August 2008

Discriminatory practice and favouritism by government officials may be costing thousands of people and households in Thantlang Township their entitlement of aid from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), CHRO source has revealed.

 

Clerks in the Township Peace and Development Council office who are responsible for identifying and preparing the list of eligible recipients of UNDP assistance are reported to deliberately omit the names of otherwise eligible recipients and include only households that have contributed free labour for government`s projects and parents whose children have already submitted “Physical Activities Fees“ at school.

 

Among those have been omitted from the eligible list are widows, orphans and religious leaders, CHRO source said.

 

The UNDP was to distribute 10,000 Kyats in food aid to every household in Thantlang Township in August but the distribution has been delayed due to conflicting lists prepared by the UNDP staff and the Township officials.

 

The UNDP reportedly arranged urgent aid effort in response to the reported death of over 44 children in Thantlang Township`s Lautu area from diseases and malnutrition since the beginning of the year.

 

Forced Labour Exacted from Areas Hard Hit by Food Scarcity

 

22 September 2008

Five civilians have been forced to serve as cooks for the army on a daily basis since the beginning of the year by Burmese troops stationed at Darkhai village of Tonzang Township. The troops belong to Light Infantry Battalion 269, CHRO has learned.

 

Burmese troops started setting up a new camp in early 2008 at a village of about 100 households. Since then, at least 5 villagers have been forced to serve as cooks for the army on a daily basis. Households serve as domestic help for the army on a rotating basis.

 

Villagers on cooking duty must forfeit work for their own survival. A daily wage a person could earn in the area is 1000 Kyats. “We don`t have enough time for work for our own survival just because we have to work for the army without pay,“ complained one villager. “We cannot even afford to make a living as it is, the forced labour duty has deepened our hardship,“ he said. “At least two people contract Malaria each month in our village because we cannot afford a mosquito net,“ explained the villager.

 

Tonzang Township is one of the areas hardest hit by extreme food scarcity since 2007 following massive rat infestation due to the flowering of bamboos.

 

Food Crisis Puts Mothers and Children At High Risk

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

 

11 September, 2008 -Burma’s military-ignored famine has forced thousands of Chin villagers to flee in search of food for survival, leaving especially mothers and children vulnerable to famine-related diseases, sources warned.

 

Many children have been left malnourished and starved as their breast-feeding mothers do not have enough milk due to hunger and malnutrition.

 

“All the villagers including my own village are living day-to-day life by eating the jungle banana, yam and anything really. Some villagers eat even bamboo flowers,” Sasa who returned last week from a trip to the Indian-Burma border told Chinland Guardian.

 

“As a result, many villagers are suffering from all kind of gastro-intestinal disease, particularly indigestive. The water-born disease and respiratory disease are also widespread. This hunger makes their immunity lower, putting all the hungry villagers at high risk,” added a Chin medical student who gave free treatment to famine-hit Chin victims last month.

 

The villagers including many children who have to drop out of schools to support in fetching rice bags have to travel approximately 4 to 5 days on foot through the jungle to get to the Indian-Burma border where food relief aids can be obtained.

 

It was the most painful moment, Sasa said, when a pregnant woman finally got, after 5 days’ walk, to the clinic where I had to help out with her dead baby inside the belly due to malnutrition.

 

Many children have died due to famine-related malnutrition and many more at high risk, according to the recent reports.

 

Many elder villagers said they would like to commit suicide rather than to see their children crying and dying from hunger, according to Sasa who opened a free clinic at a village near the Indian-Burma border days ago. Sometimes, they would say to me ‘Where has God gone?’ Sasa continued.

 

This ongoing rat-infested crisis, which has brought food shortages since 2006, has been worsened as the famine-hit villagers are still forced to contribute money and food towards the ration of the SPDC’s soldiers camped in some areas in Chin State.

 

The devastating famine is reported to have been massively spreading from Southern into Northern areas of Chin State including Falam, Than Tlang and Tiddim townships.

 

Chin People Braced For Famine-related Diseases

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

19 September, 2008

 

Fears for the lives of Chin victims from famine-stricken areas in Burma’s Chin State have mounted after an increasing number of villagers have suffered from various diseases due to the devastating food crisis, sources said.

 

At least five villages of Thantlang Township including Lungcawite, Lungcawipi, Ngaphaipi, Ngalang and Lailen villages have been seriously hit by famine-related diseases and as many as 50 people from each village are said to be suffering according to Mizzima news.

 

An outbreak of ‘endemic’ diseases including diarrhoea and dermatoses has been ascribed to the ongoing food crisis due to bamboo-related rat infestation in the region.

 

At least four villagers have been reported dead and about 30 villages suffering from the famine-related diseases according to reports.

 

More than 40 children were said to have died in recent months due to the famine-related diseases including malnutrition and diarrhoea.

 

Famine-hit villagers are said to express their heartfelt thanks to various charity organisations, Chin communities, churches and individuals for their relief aids and supplies.

 

This ongoing military-neglected food crisis, which started in 2006, has been caused by a plague of crop-destroying rats that multiply in large quantities after eating bamboo flowers. The bamboos blossom once in fifty years.

 

ENC Calls For Immediate Action To Address Food Crisis In Chin State

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

30 September, 2008

 

In its statement on the devastating food crisis in Burma’s Chin State, the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) today expressed concern for the Chin victims, calling for the immediate action to address the ‘military-neglected’ situation.

 

The statement said the continuing lack of meaningful response to the food crisis is now putting the entire population in western Burma on the brink of starvation and a famine, demanding urgency and decisive actions by the international community.

 

Dr. Salai Lian Hmung Sakhong, Vice Chairman of the Ethnic Nationalities Council said: “The food crisis in Chin State has reached a point where immediate action is warranted in order to prevent a human tragedy of great proportions. The international community should now act immediately on this crisis to avert a Nargis-like situation.”

 

More than 2000 civilians have been since late 2006 forced to flee to India and dozens of deaths reported in connection with malnutrition and infectious diseases including diarrhoea and malaria, the statement claimed. More than 100, 000 people from over 200 villages in Chin State are now facing hunger and starvation, according to a recent report by CHRO (Chin Human Rights Organisation).

 

Concerned about the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the Union of Burma, ENC has on several occasions made clear its position in support of direct international humanitarian aid efforts in the most affected areas.

 

The ENC called on SPDC to act immediately, to allow complete and unfettered international aid access to the affected areas, and cooperate fully with aid organisations as well as provide them a conducive environment for meaningful and effective relief efforts in Chin State.

 

The statement by the Ethnic Nationalities Council urged the UN agencies including WFP, UN OCHA and UNDP, and international aid organisations to immediately engage in providing emergency food relief assistance in collaboration with local Chin organisations and churches. It extended an appeal to the government of India and Mizoram for further assistance to avert a humanitarian tragedy in Burma’s Chin State.

 

The Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) was originally established as the “Ethnic Nationalities Solidarity and Cooperation Committee” (ENSCC) in August 2001. It was entrusted with the task of fostering unity and cooperation between all ethnic nationalities in preparation for a ‘Tripartite Dialogue” and a transition to democracy.

 

DFID Hailed For Its Response To Food Crisis In Chin State

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

06 October, 2008

 

Chin communities, churches and individuals across the globe welcomed DFID’s ‘philanthropic’ responses to the devastating food crisis that has been facing the Chin people in Burma’s Chin State since late 2006.

 

The Department for International Development (DFID), part of the UK Government that manages Britain’s aid to poor countries and works to get rid of extreme poverty, has provided an estimated 1 million US dollars in financial support through NGOs including UNDP, CAD and WFP, sources confirmed.

 

“We are very happy to hear about DFID’s generous support in response to the ongoing food crisis in Chin State, and that WFP has now accepted the situation and is also taking steps in the food relief collaboration,” a prominent Chin political figure Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organisation told Chinland Guardian.

 

The programme will initiate to focus on giving food relief to six of the most affected tonwnships such as Matupi, Paletwa, Tonzang, Tiddim, Hakha and Thantlang for the first three months starting from October.

 

The overall objective of this project is to improve the food security situation of farmers and their family members, affected by rat infestation and crop destruction, as well to enhance rural transportation and communication systems, according to Rangon-based CAD (Country Agency for Rural Development).

 

In an effort to bring about a long-term solution, another programme called Food Plus Cash For Work (FCFW) is to be formed, aiming to facilitate road construction and tiered farming in Tiddim, Tonzang, Hakha and Thantlang townships.

 

A Chin delegation comprising Victor Biak Lian, Cheery Zahau and Sasa met Deputy Director of DFID in London during their visit in June this year, raising awareness and fund for the famine victims in Chin State, Burma.

 

Burma’s Regime Slammed for Neglecting Food Crisis in Chin State

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

19 October, 2008

 

The rights groups and activists fighting for relief aid have severely criticised the SPDC for ‘doing nothing’ to help its people who are facing a devastating famine in Chin State of Western Burma, according to the ABC News on Thursday.

 

The ‘military-ignored’ spreading food crisis caused by a rat infestation has put an estimated 100,000 people on the brink of starvation and about 100 children and elderly have died from malnutrition and famine-related diseases, according to reports by human rights organisations and relief aid groups.

 

Salai Bawi Lian Mang of Canada-based Chin Human Rights Organisation told the ABC News that the famine is little known, poorly dealt with, and ignored by the government and that people have been suffering, dying in the Chin region, the most isolated jungle area in the country but no one knows about it.

 

The local SPDC authorities have been condemned for ‘seizing and selling’ food aids to make money for their own profits while a spokesperson for the Asian Division of U.N World Food Program, Paul Risley said care should be taken when dealing with the Myanmar government with a bunch of old generals sitting high in their newly built capital, Naypyidaw.

 

The Chin communities and relief aid groups welcomed the WFP for accepting the existence of famine in Chin State although its report earlier this year concluded there was no famine.

 

The UN proposed a work-for-food program where Chin farmers and villages will jointly work on community projects such as building roads and schools in exchange for bags of rice, according to Paul Risley who added: “we are fairly confident we can do this.”

 

HART, a UK-based aid and advocacy charity that travelled to the famine-affected areas in Chin State from the Indian-Burma border in August and September, said that there is an inevitable delay before the affected people can be reached from within the country. HART, engaged with local Chin organisations and famine relief committees on the border, makes a time-limited appeal to the end of October in order that the major organisations will be able to carry out their responsibilities effectively.

 

Similar devastating rat-infestation has hit India and Bangladesh but the governments of both countries have prepared in advance and responded to the situation as this predictable phenomenon in which bamboos flower and produce fruits, causing the population of rats accelerates upon consumption, occurs about once every 50 years.

 

It is estimated that the rat-infested famine, which started in late 2006, will last between two and five years.

 

One of the ethnic nationalities in Burma, the Chin people, mostly Christians, have long suffered from mistreats, abuses, oppression and persecutions inflicted upon by the military regime, one of the most brutal in the world.

 

Local Relief Group Raised Funds for Famine Victims

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

28 October, 2008

 

A concert to raise awareness and fund from among the local people for famine-stricken Chin victims was organised in Thantlang town on 19 October 2008 as many locals from unaffected areas have not been well informed of the ongoing famine.

 

The 2600-odd strong audience attended the event which was arranged by Mautam Relief Programme (MRP). The programme, which has done fact-finding trips to Thantlang townships and Kalay-Khampat region, is set to coordinate with other relief teams in areas including Falam and Tiddim townships as well as Southern Chin State, according to the President of MRP.

 

We didn’t make the ticket for the concert but the concert-goers contributed as much as they could, ranging from 5 to 1,000 Kyat as an entrance fee and the proceeds would be used for buying and contributing rice to the most famine-affected villages, said the MRP member.

 

The concert was voluntarily entertained by a local band named S2 and singers including Dawt Hlei Hniang, Bil Sung, Ni Hlei Sung, Zung Iang, Sui Tha, Sui Hniang, Sui Hnim, Tha Lian Bawi and Cung Lian Thawng.

 

MRP is set to have another fundraising concert in Hakha, the capital of Chin State next month, teaming up with a music group called Lai Par En in commemoration of its 20th anniversary.

 

The ongoing famine, which started in late 2006 in the bamboo-forested Southern Chin State along the Indian-Burma border, has spread northward, affecting Falam, Tiddim, Thantlang townships and Kalay-Khampat areas.

 

MRP was established on 9 September 2008 in response to the devastating rat-infested famine, locally known as Mautam. The programme was firstly engaged in raising awareness among the local people in the Northern part, making survey and collecting data in the newly affected areas.

 

NEWS & EVENTS

 

Deportation Feared for a Chin Refugee in Malaysia

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

28 September 2008

 

Fears for the safety of a Chin refugee currently being held in Malaysia’s Pokok Sena Jail rise after a decision to deport him into Thailand in December 2008 has been announced by Malaysian authorities, his inmate recently released said.

 

Mr. Thawng Hu, who was arrested and detained in February 2008 by Rela Corps while his wife was pregnant, has reportedly suffered four times from ‘inhumane’ acts of caning as a form of punishment.

 

“After being registered as a refugee and giving birth to a baby in May, his wife keeps trying to talk to the UNHCR for assistance in helping out her husband. But nothing has been achieved yet until today,” Salai Chan Duh Ceu, one of Chin Refugee Committee members told Chinland Guardian.

 

Since his arrest earlier this year, his wife, Dar Vang, and her newly born baby have been looked after by Mr. Thang Hu’s friends, who are also refugees in Malaysia. “Now that her husband’s friends and their families are going to the US by the end of this month, there have been worries and concerns as to who will take care of them,” added a volunteer CRC member.

 

Meanwhile, an accident which claimed a life of another Chin refugee, Mr. Hram Er, 47, was reported last Wednesday. A father of four, three daughters and a son, was around lunchtime found unconscious and bleeding from his head near the lift of a construction site where he worked. As of today, the cause of his death has not been known yet.

 

There are more than 30,000 Chin refugees, both unregistered and registered with the UN refugee agency in Malaysia. Refugees and asylum seekers are vulnerable to extortion, theft, sexual abuse, arrest, deportation, and many other difficulties, according to a report by Chin Human Rights Organisation.

 

Rela Corps, a civil volunteer corps formed by the Malaysian government, has been slammed as being “corrupt and responsible” for numerous cases of illegal detentions, unlawful use of force and extortion.

 

Joint Cross-Border Effort Planned for Victims of Hunger in Chin State

 

Chinland Guardian

12 October, 2008

 

Aizawl, India: A meeting of Chin groups yesterday agreed on launching a coordinated cross-border relief program from Mizoram to provide emergency food relief to thousands of people in Chin State who are facing a major food crisis.

 

The meeting was held in Aizawl, Mizoram and attended by representatives from Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC), Chin Humanitarian Relief Committee (CHRC), Public Affairs Committee (PAC), Women League of Chinland (WLC), Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) and the Burma Relief Center (BRC).

 

The purpose of the meeting was to find ways to more effectively carry out cross-border relief programs through a joint and coordinated relief efforts inside Chin State from Northeast India to help thousands of hunger victims in western Burma. The different groups reported on the progress of their efforts and agreed to lauch a coordinated relief programs together.

 

Reports of the meeting show that cross-border emergency food relief has been provided to 76 villages so far from Mizoram. This number accounts for only a third of the villages that are believed to be facing severe food shortages, according to a report by Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

“There is a continuing need for relief provision. The amount of food provided to these villages is only enough to last them for less than a month. And the food aid has not even reached the majority of people,” explains one participant of the meeting who has been involved in the cross-border relief program.

 

Since late 2006, a massive rat infestation due to a cyclical flowering of bamboo, exacerbated by repressive policies of Burma’s military junta has caused massive shortage of food in Chin State. The crisis has forced more than 2000 people to flee across the border into India and is blamed for dozens of deaths associated with malnutrition and hunger.

 

Mizoram University Host International Seminar on Chin History

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

14 October, 2008

 

An international seminar on ‘exploring the history, culture and identity of the Chin people’ which kicked off last Monday is held at Chaltlang Tourist Lodge in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram State, India.

 

The three-day seminar organised by Mizoram University has presentations and discussions on the Chins by Kuki-Chin historians. The event, initiated by Chin National Council, is sponsored by Brussels-based Euro-Burma Office.

 

Professor A.N. Rai, Vice Chancellor of Mizoram University, inaugurated the programme which was followed by a lively and beautiful welcoming song from students of History Department. An introductory speech was given by Coordinator of the seminar, Dr. K. Robin of History Department and keynote address by Professor J.L. Dawar.

 

Euro-Burma Office Research Director and Chairman of Chin National Council, Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong, gave a speech on behalf of Euro-Burma Office (EBO) and Salai Kipp Kho Lian, Chin Forum Coordinator, spoke on behalf of Chin National Council.

 

Dr. Lalngurliana of Mizoram University proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Harn Yawnghwe, Director of Euro-Burma Office for supporting financially to make this auspicious seminar possible where both the attendees and organising committee members alike delight in the historic occasion.

 

More than 150 scholars on Kuki-Chins from across the world came to attend this important seminar with a total of 36 scholarly papers on Chin identity, according to the organising committees.

 

The first day of the seminar saw presentations from 16 scholars including Professor Dr.T.T. Haokip of North-Eastern Hill University, Professor Laltluangliana Khiangte of Mizoram University, Professor George Bedell of Payap University, Professor Lehman of Illinois University and Chin history scholar Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong.

 

It is said that Mizoram University will publish all the papers presented at the seminar in a book form.

 

Speaking in both Chin and English at the opening ceremony of the seminar, Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong said: “It is such a privilege to have a seminar like this on Chin history and culture, well organised by Mizoram University in our capital city, Aizawl. Your [the audience] presence recognise our name, our culture and our identity.”

 

Salai Kipp Kho Lian, Secretary of the first Chin Forum Magazine distributed at the seminar, said: “I believe that in the near future when we could successfully agree on a new federal constitution for the Union of Burma, the Chin people on both sides of the Indo-Burma border line will be of great help to India and play a vital role in helping her implement the Look East policy in many ways.”

 

The first day of vibrant and magnificent moments with scholarly presentations and discussions was ended at 5 pm with a dinner party thrown by Professor A.N. Rai, Vice Chancellor of Mizoram University.

 

The first session of the second day that started at 9:30 am was chaired by Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong and the second session from 12 noon to 2 pm by Professor Dr. Lehman. The last session continued with Dr. Sangkima as a chairperson.

 

This is the third time the international Chin seminar is held. The first one named ‘Chin-Lushai Conference’ was said to be done with no Chin participants in Calcutta, India in 1892 by the British and the second with only Chin participants in Ottawa, Canada in 1998. The seminar this year has been hailed as the most comprehensive as it includes not only the Chin people but also scholars with knowledge and experiences on Chin history and culture from various countries including USA, Canada, Thailand, India, Burma and Europe.

 

Chin Scholar Urged to Look Back into the Past

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

16 October, 2008

 

A well-known Chin scholar Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong made a presentation on ‘the origin of the Chin’ at the international Chin seminar, calling to look back together into the past in order to see the origin of the Chin. The seminar was held in Aizawl, Mizoram State for three days on 13-15 October.

 

In a historic conference with more than 150 scholars attending from across the globe, Dr. Sakhong said that he was standing there as an activist and historian, adding: “As a historian, I am engaging a dialogue between the past and the present, and when I look the future, I look backward. I first look backwards in order to look towards the future.”

 

“As an activist, I am currently engaging dialogue between the present and the future. But an activist approach is quite opposite to a historian: we first look towards the future in order to look backwards into the past,” continued the author of a widely acclaimed book ‘In Search of Chin Identity: A Study in Religion, Politics and Ethnic Identity in Burma’.

 

Speaking about a series of historical workshops conducted for the ethnic groups in Burma, Dr. Sakhong, the current Vice-Chairman and former General Secretary of Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) highlighted the purpose as ‘knowing the past and understanding the present’.

 

The Arakan Historical Workshop was done in 2006 and the Mon in 2007 which was followed by the Chin this year. The Shan historical workshop will be done next year in Shih-song-pana in Yunan Province of China.

 

His message included the importance of challenging the notions of ‘self-determination’ and ‘nation-state’ in the course of writing history by people, both low and high, after admitting the Chins have very little knowledge about their own history between 1896 and 1948, and also after 1948. The right of self-determination should not be narrowly interpreted as a sovereign nation-state but is the good part of federal system that we are advocating for the future of Burma, according to his paper presentation.

 

“As a people, and as a Chin, we don’t want to remain forever a child. And that’s the reason why we want to re-organize our past memory in order to preserve, protect and promote our identity, our culture and our ways of life so that we would be able to create a vibrant and admirable future for the next generations to come,” said Dr. Sakhong, winner of the 2007 Martin Luther King Prize.

 

Blaming the international boundaries for dividing us today as Indian, Burmese and Bangladeshi citizens with different Standard Times practiced in each country, and slight differences in the suffix of our names, Dr. Sakhong said this is part of the destruction of primordial identity that bound us as a distinctive ethnic group with clearly defined territory of homeland before.

 

The seminar was sponsored by Brussels-based Euro-Burma Office and organised by Mizoram University. This is the third time the international Chin seminar has been held with the first in 1892 and the second in 1998.

 

A prolific Chin writer on Chin history, traditions and politics in Burma, Dr. Lian H. Sakhong said: “In order to reclaim our identity and declare that we are brothers and sisters from the same ancestors, who proclaimed this land as our homeland by their lives and their destiny, we have to look back our past and ask the question of ‘Why’ very boldly. Asking the question of ‘Why’ in history is very much related with the question of change and continuity.”

 

“It is this process of change that influences our day-to-day behaviour, thereby our ways of life and our thought pattern, which eventually creates our new identity. Through change, we created socially constructed identity but continuity allowed us to preserve our primordial identity. If change occurred on constant basis and if we didn’t realize what happened to us, then we wouldn’t be able to freeze the reality, and then we all would become the strangers in the midst of our brothers and sisters.”

 

All the scholars’ papers and documents presented at the seminar will be published as a collection in a book form, according to the organising committee.

 

Demonstration to Mark Suu Kyi’s 13 Years in Detention

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

17 October, 2008

 

A coalition of campaigners and activists in the UK is to stage a demonstration as part of a global protest on 24 October, signalling a total of 13 years that Aung San Suu Kyi, 62, has been detained by Burma’s brutal military regime. The protest will take place in front of the Chinese Embassy in London, UK

 

The day coincides with the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in China, which will be attended by leaders of Asian and European countries.

 

The campaign will call on the leaders of ASEM to team up and back UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in securing the release of all political prisoners when he visits Burma in December.

 

A giant key with the names and pictures of Burma’s 2,120 political prisoners on it will be handed in to the Chinese Embassy by 13 people wearing Aung San Suu Kyi face masks. It symbolises ‘the key to freedom’ that world leaders hold should they work together to pressure the regime.

 

Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK, said: “We have never had European and Asian government joining forces to directly pressure the regime to release prisoners. For too long the UN has fallen for the lies of the regime. Thirty-seven visits by UN envoys have secured not a single reform. It is time the UN set timelines and benchmarks for change. The release of political prisoners should be the minimum benchmark for progress that Ban Ki-moon aims for in December.”

 

The number of political prisoners in Burma has increased over the past year amid calls for their immediate release from the United Nations Security Council. No one can be held for more than five years without being put on trial according to Burmese laws, lawyers representing Aung San Suu Kyi’s family said.

 

Recently, sources said that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi made an appeal to Burma’s ruling junta against her detention, which was extended one year in May this year. Her detention, which is renewed periodically, has been criticised of being ‘illegal’ under international law by the UN.

 

Burma’s ruthless military regime will have detained the Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in her home for 13 of the last 18 years on Friday, 24 October with her latest house arrest in 2003.

 

OPINION & COMMENTARY

 

Making Burma Ungovernable

 

By Salai Za Ceu Lian

Chinland Guardian

21 October, 2008

 

The prospect of Burma transforming into a democratic state from the totalitarian rule seems to be diminishing as the junta gear up their effort to implement their own seven-step road-map to the so-called ‘disciplined democracy’. The fact that the regime is hell-bent on its own road-map is clearly indicative of the considerable weakness of the democratic opposition of Burma as a whole. For the last 18 years since Burma ‘s 1990 general election, the military junta shows no real sign of flexibility and willingness to find a negotiated settlement of the country’s long crisis with the democratic opposition. As long as the regime sees no potential threat to their power from the opposition, no one should be under any illusion that the military regime will actually hand over power or make a concerted effort to compromise.

 

It should always be noted that the junta leadership will try to cling to power at all costs. That is a given. While safeguarding themselves from opposition forces, the regime will neither initiate nor support a genuine democratic reform effort unless their power is threatened. Only if there is enormous and irresistible pressure, will the repressive regime be open to negotiating with the democratic opposition. The sad truth is that a transition to democracy for an authoritarian country does not come without cost and enormous sacrifice. Drawing lessons from countries going through such transitions, the first step towards democracy often begins with a crisis caused by the authoritarian regime which degenerates into a peoples’ uprising, followed by mass riots, and a nation-wide protest against the ruling government which eventually leads dictators in power to step down. We have had more than our fair share of such crises and uprisings in Burma , yet the regime continuously consolidates its power. It’s become clear that without concerted and persistent efforts to resist and discredit the military junta – especially from the inside – the people’s demand of democratic reform seems impossible.

 

Take the case of South Africa , where the xenophobic “national party” governed the country from 1948 to 1994. Despite the apartheid regime’s oppression of the opposition, the democratic movement relentlessly tried to create a crisis with the goal of making the country ungovernable. In time, the democratic movement propelled the government to negotiate with the opposition. Even when the main opposition force – the African National Congress – was banned, the opposition managed to organize a dramatic series of events, including the student uprising in 1976; an anti-apartheid campaign that ground down the South African economy; and most importantly, the continued effort of the United Democratic Front (UDF) which tried to destabilize the country into chaos in order to achieve their goal of “making South Africa “ungovernable, ” as their slogan stated. To crack down on the UDF-led “people’s power” opposition movement to make South Africa ungovernable, the apartheid regime under the leadership of P.W. Botha employed different military strategies. However, the Botha apartheid regime’s heavy-handed military strategy failed as the opposition movement grew stronger and stronger.

 

Having seen the failure of Botha’s oppressive military strategy in trying to contain and eliminate the campaign of ungovernablity, the successive leader, F.W de Klerk, had no choice but to install a legitimate government by sharing power with the opposition leaders when he took office in 1989. With that power-sharing negotiation, we saw the eventual success of democratic movement in 1994. In retrospect, the success of the democratic movement in South Africa could not have been possible without the persistent and courageous efforts of the United Democratic Front, the front that led South African peoples of all walks of life to join their movement against the oppressive apartheid regime. Note that the UDF nation-wide movement was initiated and led by Prominent leaders of the UDF such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rev. Alan Boesak to name a few, while African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

 

The South African example demonstrates that democratic forces can be effective despite the fact that an authoritarian regime will do whatever it can to stay in power even to the extent that it will employ military forces to suppress the opposition. In the case of South Africa , democratic forces of South Africa were not only within the country, but also in exile. Locals and expatriots both employed a variety of means to discredit the apartheid regime. In 1994, their efforts forced an end to the country’s four-decade long apartheid regime.

 

When this lesson is applied to Burma , no one would dispute the fact that Burmese citizens from all walks of life have done their part in protest of the repressive military regime. Sadly, thousands of peaceful demonstrators have already died in cold blood. So far, all the sacrifices that they made for our country have not resulted in the just cause they were fighting for. Again and again, sporadic and occasional uprisings against the Burmese military junta have proven that a genuine democratic reform is unachievable without the persistent and co-ordinated effort of a nation-wide people’s movement

 

While Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is crippled the same way Nelson Mandela once was, it is unfortunate that the other main opposition leaders in Burma today (unlike leaders of the United Democratic Front in South Africa) cannot provide overall strategic and organizational leadership. For the last 18 years since 1990, the main opposition leaders inside Burma – most MPs elected in 1990 – are doing nothing more effective than issuing statements. One can’t help but wonder, is that what they were elected for? When the people of Burma gave them a mandate to govern in 1990, they did so in fully believing that those elected representatives would responsibly and courageously stand up to serve the national interest of the country and protect them against the authoritarian rules of the military dictatorship. It is unfortunate that none of their expectations have been met. Given that the opposition leadership has been thrown into total disarray at this point in our history, it is unimaginable that Burma will have competent and dedicated opposition leadership equivalent that of the United Democratic Front Movement. That said, we must now strive to ‘make Burma ungovernable’ untill the junta is forced to cede to the demands of the people and reinstall civilian rule.

 

The task is ours for the taking. While Daw Suu and some political figures are under house arrest and in jail, it is paramount that those who have been elected in 1990 take charge of leading the movement, particularly people’s power movement. They must do so by relentlessly organizing a persistent nation-wide peoples’ movement by instigating civil disobedience against the military regime. As a grand strategy, when leading the opposition movement, they should be offensive rather than defensive and pro-active rather than reactive in discrediting the illegitimate rulers. More aggressively than ever before, it is necessary that the democratic opposition should devote resources, both human and material, towards strengthening the movement inside Burma . The fight for democracy in Burma must be vigorously carried on not just because it is possible, but because it is necessary.

 

BACK COVER POEM

 

 

Saffron Revolution

By Van Biak Thang

20 September 2008

A volcanic rupture of the peoples’ desire

Extruding from Burma’s deeply rooted magma

Monk-led eruption with ash cloud of vision

For a country poisoned and sundered by SPDC

 

The lava of people, peaceful and harmless, flows

Along the conduits throughout the country

Layers of monks, civilians and students

Flanked and united for freedom and liberty

 

A barbaric junta of Ne Win, the late sire

Shooting to kill its innocent citizens, ala!

Military-led coup with some well-fed captains

For their own greed against the peoples’ need

 

Sweat in the heat and blood on the streets

With litters, odd flip-flops and dead bodies

Those grim days of 2007 in September’s rain

When the SPDC’s soldiers cracked the mantle

 

The vents and craters left on Burma’s crust

No more hidden from the world’s eyes at last

Maroon-robed monks convected the hotspot yet

From a vitiated Burma to be healed and set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhododendron News

Volume XI, No VI. November – December 2008

Chin Human Rights Organization

www.chro.org

 

CONTENTS:

 

Editorial

Deteriorating Conditions Despite Increased Awareness on Situations in Western Burma

 

Situations in Chinland

• Rights Activist Feared Dead

• Junta-Backed Sex Industry Growing in Chin State

• Chin Farmers Forced to Change Rice Seeds

• Burmese Soldiers Living off Villagers

• Immigration Officials Seized Family Registration Cards,

• Students Supply Rice and Firewood to Underpaid Teachers

• Porter for Us or Give Rice or Money: Burma Army

• Forced Labor to Construct Army Camp

• Church Building Foundation Destroyed In Tayawaddy Village

• Chin Political Prisoners Isolated from Families

• Burmese Soldiers Live Off Villagers Struck by Major Food Crisis

• Students Regularly Forced to Perform Forced Labor Duty

• Forced Labor to Repair Army Camp

• Parents of Students Struggling to Pay Compulsory Fees for Extra Classes

• Corrupt Immigration Officers Extort from Travelers

• Illegal Tolls Collected from Travelers

 

Refugee Situations

• Chin Refugee Died at UNHCR Gate

• Chin Refugee Committed Suicide Due To Depression In Malaysia

• Whereabouts of Detained Chin Children Refugees Not Known In Thailand

• Czech Republic Welcomed For Opening Its Door To Chin Refugees

• New Focus on Refugee Protection in Asia-Pacific Region

• New Uncertainty for Burmese Refugees over India’s Provincial Election

 

Activities Highlights- 2008

• Advocacy

• Conferences/Seminars

• Referendum & Public Mobilization Campaign

• Awareness and Fund Raising Activities

• Reports, Publication & Media Coverage

• Field Coordination

• Human Rights Education/Capacity Building

• Acknowledgements

 

 

Editorial:

 

Deteriorating Conditions despite Increased Awareness on Situations in Western Burma

 

Awareness has been slowly but steadily increasing on the situations in Burma’s western border, particularly on the food scarcity and famine-like conditions in Chin State over this past year. But along with this new but long overdue attention, there has been a parallel increase in rights abuse and related consequences of human suffering due to the combined policies of neglect and repression. This week, the United Nations General Assembly renewed its condemnation of Burma’s abysmal human rights record, a highly symbolic expression of world opinion against Burma’s human rights practice, but has little weight in affecting situations on the ground in terms of improvement in the area of human rights or the democratic reform expected by the international community.

 

But the General Assembly’s resolution, which represents the official views and opinion of the 192-member nations, reinforces testament to the fact that the overall conditions in Burma have further worsened in 2008. Take the situations in western Burma, for example, where the military junta is continuing systematic human rights abuses against the civilians despite severe and ongoing food shortages faced by the Chin people, and one will need no convincing to realize that this week General Assembly’s resolution on Burma was reflective of the true conditions on the ground in that country – contrary to what the junta regularly calls it “slander and baseless accusations” that are nothing but a “blatant interference” in the internal affairs of Burma.

 

As this issue of Rhododendron, this year’s last edition demonstrates, there has been no improvement in the situations of human rights in western Burma and Chin State. The regime’s policies and practices of abuse and repression continue in the region, despite the fact that Chin people are now struggling with one of the worst humanitarian crises they have encountered in half a century.

 

In this issue, instances of civilian forced labor, extortion, confiscation of livestock and properties, restriction and prohibition on farmers and farming methods – all contributing to and exacerbating the Chin people’s ability to survive and undermining their basic means of livelihood – continue unabated.

 

The mass flowering of bamboos, which cover at least a fifth of their current homeland, followed by massive rat infestation and subsequent destruction of food crops, and resulting in widespread shortages of food for the local communities primarily dependent on subsistence farming, has caused a massive humanitarian crisis in the region.

 

In July, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) released a report “Critical Point: Food Scarcity and Hunger in Burma’s Chin State” highlighting the issues of the humanitarian situations in western Burma, and calling on the international community to urgently intervene in order to avert a massive human tragedy in Chin State. The CHRO made specific recommendations regarding how to meet and respond to the needs of thousands of people in western Burma who are struggling with a massive food crisis. Subsequently, the CHRO with its partner organizations made international lobbying efforts to draw attention to the urgent humanitarian crisis in western Burma. The position of Chin Human Rights Organization is to advocate for both internal and cross-border humanitarian assistance and food relief, essentially by all means possible, to reach all those suffering hunger in the region. International organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and partner organizations are now operating in the relief effort.

 

However, the relief efforts thus far, both through cross-border operations and from within inside the country, have been limited, and Chin people continue to suffer hunger and malnutrition, and are still struggling with a massive food crisis.

 

There has been greater awareness about the situations in western Burma during the last year, but not enough has been done to tackle what is essentially a humanitarian disaster in the making.

 

Rights Activist Feared Dead

 

1 November, 2008 – Aizawl, India: A Chin human rights activist is reported missing and feared dead after a small boat he was riding in was swept away by fast currents of the Kaladan river in southern Chin State on October 30, Chinland Guardian has learned.

 

Jonh Tuihing, a staff of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) was crossing the Kaladan River on a small boat on a return from a clandestine trip inside Burma to assess food scarcity situations in Paletwa Township of southern Chin State when he was reported drowned. His body has not been recovered.

 

John, in his 20s, joined the CHRO in April of 2008, and was actively engaged in a clandestine monitoring mission inside Chin State during the May 10 constitutional referendum in Burma . He recently assumed the position of acting coordinator for the Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC), a Mizoram-based relief group engaged in cross-border relief work inside Chin State.

 

“The news of John’s death shocked us beyond belief. He was a dedicated and hardworking individual. The operation of CFERC would not have been possible without his contributions,” says the group’s Chairman H. Chan Thawng Ling.

 

John was on a mission to conduct assessment on food scarcity situations in the southern township of Paletwa as part of a joint effort for cross-border food relief programs initiated by four Mizoram-based Chin groups: Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC), Chin Humanitarian Relief Committee (CHRC), Women League of Chinland ( WLC ) and Public Affairs Committee (PAC). The four groups recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), agreeing to launch a more effective and coordinated cross-border relief efforts inside Chin State.

 

“John was a dedicated activist who will be remembered as someone who gave his life for the promotion of human rights. His death is a great loss us. We will do everything on our part to recover John’s body so that he can be honored and properly laid according to the Chin customs,” says Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization. He says John is the third person in his organization to die while fighting for human rights. In 1998 and 2000 respectively, Michael En Za Pau, Secretary of CHRO and Salai Zo Thang, the organization’s field monitor were killed while on a mission to document human rights situations in Chin State.

 

A search is still on for John’s body.

 

(Editor’s note: John`s body was recovered within less than a week of the accident and was laid to rest at a location on India-Burma border)

 

Junta-Backed Sex Industry Growing in Chin State

 

4 December 2008: The numbers of hotels that service sex entertainment have sprung up in Chin State in recent years, with the full knowledge and backing of local authorities and military officials, sources have told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

A hotel located on the bank of a natural heart-shape Rih Lake is the latest of such an example. The owner is reported to be using young girls as sex entertainers to tourists and visiting junta officials.

 

U Maung Aye opened the hotel in 2007 and hired four local Chin young girls (names withheld) to serve as waitresses. But the girls are actually used to perform sex services to tourists from India and junta officials visiting the area, according to a local resident whose identity is withheld for his personal security.

 

“The town’s elders have made several complaints against this illegal activity, but U Maung Aye paid no heed since he has the backing of the police and the army,” he said.

 

According to him, the clients are charged 300 Rupees per service together with Rs. 200 for room per night. As for the four girls, he pays them 50,000 Kyats per month, he added.

 

U Maung Aye is the first person to open such kind of business in the Rih sub-town area. He reportedly paid 6 million Kyats to the authorities for running his business. “This business is meant to attract more tourists to come and see the beautiful Rih Lake,” U Maung Aye was quoted as saying.

 

Since 2000, at least four different hotels and restaurants servicing sex entertainment have been opened in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, with the backing of local military officials.

 

Chin Farmers Forced to Change Rice Seeds

 

16 December 2008: Farmers working wet farmlands in Chin State have been told to change their regular rice seeds to a new type of rice recommended by the authorities, according to a local farmer.

 

An order issued by the Chief Administrative Officer of Rih Sub-Township in 2007 required all farmers in the area must stop growing the type of rice they have been traditionally growing for generations, and switch to “Shwe Yin Aye” rice that is grown mainly in the lowlands of Burma. Penalties will be imposed on those failing to comply, the order stipulated.

 

“This new type of rice is only productive in the lowlands and delta region and is not suitable to the type of climate that we have in Chin State,” says Pu Run Hlei Thang, a local farmer who refused to comply with the order last year. “Last year, I was fined 50 Tins (1 tin consist of about 20 kilograms) of rice because refuse to switch to the new type of rice. But it was still worth it since I would have had lost 100 tins had I complied with the order,” he explained.

 

Farmers are required to buy Shwe Yin Aye rice seed at the rate of 8000 Kyats per tin. “Some farmers have chose not to farm at all and find an alternative means under this condition,” Pu Run Hlei Thang said.

 

 

Burmese Soldiers Living off Villagers

 

2 December 2008: Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 304 stationed at Lasin camp in Matupi Township are reported to be living off the local population, and selling their army rations for profits, a local village told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

“Villages under the jurisdiction of LIB 304 Sergeant and his troops have to supply them with rice, chickens and livestock on a rotating basis. Each village has to feed them for an entire month. If any village is late in making the supplies, they are yelled at and threatened for defiance of army order,” explained a villager.

 

“It doesn’t make a difference if the village is big or small, each village must meet the required amount of rations for the troops, and it includes two to five chickens.”

 

CHRO has learnt that for the past two years, the troops at Lasin camp has been selling their own ration for profits while compelling villagers to supply them with whatever they need.

 

Immigration Officials Seized Family Registration Cards

 

16 December 2008: A group of government staff from Matupi Township’s immigration department have been seizing family registration cards from villagers in southern Chin State, a source told Chin Human Rights Organization. The seizure took place in July and November 2008.

 

“Hundreds of families have had their family registration cards seized without knowing why,” a local resident said. “The officials also collected 1500 Kyats from each family. When asked by the villagers, they said they were simply following orders from higher authorities,” he said.

 

The officers did not explain whether the families were receiving new registration cards.

 

Students Supply Rice and Firewood to Underpaid Teachers

 

5 December 2008: Due to insufficient of salary from the government, school teachers in Chin state are compelled to take rice and firewood from their students.

 

A head master of Rihkhuadar town’s block (2) primary school, Pu Lian Vung, on December 4 and 5, 2008, asked 359 of his pupils to bring a cup of rice and a piece of firewood for the teachers. The name of those bringing the rice and firewood were recorded, and assured them of passing their month tests.

 

“The headmaster has to take this measure because of the desperate conditions we are in,” said one teacher working at the school.

 

“We do not see this as a fault of the headmaster. If the government gives us sufficient salary and commodities prices are made balanced with our salary, he would not have done what he did,” comments an officer working for the government.

 

The rising rate of inflation and grossly insufficient salaries for government servants are fueling corruption throughout Burma.

 

The No. 2 State Primary School has up to Grade seven with a total of 359 students. Of the 10 teachers employed only four of them are paid by the government while six other teachers are supported entirely by the community.

 

Porter for Us or Give Rice or Money: Burma Army

 

9 December 2008: A company commander of Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB-269), stationed at Vuangtu army camp in northern Chin state, collected rice from villagers who could not porter for the army or pay money as a substitute.

 

On October 6, 2008, the commander collected 3500 Kyats or 40 kilograms of rice from any household that could not contribute porters for the army. The money, 120, 000 Kyats in total, was used to hire eight horses to transport army supplies at the rate of 15,000 Kyats per horse. Among those contributed human labor to porter the army supplies were Belhar, Tluangram (a), Tluangram (b), Zephai, Vomkua and Lulpilung.

 

“Giving away 40 kilograms of rice to the army when we are faced with extreme food scarcity is putting us in unbearable situation. Worst still, this kind of practice is likely to continue in the area,” said a local villager.

 

 

Forced Labor to Construct Army Camp

 

11 December 2008: On October 10, 2008, a Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion (99) commander Major Kyaw Wa, forced dozens of civilians to cut bamboos to construct an army camp.

 

Forced laborers were recruited from nine village tracts in the southern Township of Paletwa, including villagers from Chin Letwa and Shin Oo Wa villages. Each village was forced to cut (200) sticks of bamboo to fence an army camp.

 

Church Building Foundation Destroyed In Tayawaddy Village

 

Van Biak Thang & Thang Pi

Chinland Guardian

 

05 December, 2008: Some pillars erected, wood planks piled and foundation blocks laid down in a plot where construction of a church building is planned by students of Government Technological College (Kalay Myo) were pulled out and removed by Tayawaddy villagers on 27 November 2008.

 

This ‘gruesome’ move came under the leadership of the village’s headman following an order issued on 24 November by Chairman of Township Peace and Development Council U Ko Ko Latt who is said to have summoned and interrogated leaders of University Christian Fellowship.

 

“The purpose of building this church is to have a worship service among students since it is difficult and far away from our college to get to Kalay Myo for going to church. At first, the authority did not give us permission by saying it is not Chin State. After proposing consistently and explaining the fact that a church is not to be built only in Chin State, permission was at last given to us,” said a Christian Fellowship member whose name is not mentioned intentionally.

 

“This effort has begun by saving a little out of our pocket money from our parents. We all are very sad that our church is destroyed like this and it is not good that religious and ethnic discrimination still exists in the country.”

 

All the materials removed from the plot owned by Technology Christian Fellowship based in Tayawaddy village, Sagaing Division are still kept in the compound of the village’s headman.

 

It is claimed that there has been an unofficial order issued in the village that no Chin students should be allowed to rent a house and that any house letting out to Chin students will be stoned to pieces.

 

Students of GTC (Kalay Myo) have started saving and contributing towards the construction plans since 2005. The church building foundation was laid down in 2005 and the activities delayed due to insufficient fund and Burma’s political unrest. It was only on 26 November 2008 that the students who re-started voluntarily clearing up the plot were ordered to stop their activities.

 

Student Union is said to have written a report, calling on Regional and District Offices, Principal of the College and Kalay Christian Churches to take appropriate action in this matter.

 

 

Chin Political Prisoners Isolated from Families

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

 

13 December, 2008: Concern has mounted among the Chin people over the safety of Kam Lam Khup, also known as Kyaw Soe, and Kap Kham Khual, also known as Anthony, who have been moved to Myaungmya and Bassein jail respectively in late November 2008, according to sources.

 

The duo prisoners, along with an Arakanese activist, were arrested last year for their involvement in the Saffron Revolution. Recently, Kyaw Soe, Pu Cin Sian Thang’s son, was given a 33-year sentence and Anthony, his nephew, 8-year in jail.

 

The transference from Rangon-based notorious Insein jail to remote prison was said to have intended to make it difficult for family members to visit their loved ones at prison.

 

Pu Cin Sian Thang, a prominent Chin political leader and Chairman of Zomi National Congress, said that he and his family had learnt only when they went to the prison that his son, Kyaw Soe and his nephew, Anthony, were transferred somewhere and that he feared he might not live long enough to see the two upon their releases.

 

Burma’s military regime brutally cracked down on last year’s monk-led demonstration, widely known as Saffron Revolution, killing and arresting thousands of protesters as well as bystanders and spectators. It is estimated that there are over 2,100 political prisoners in Burma.

 

Burmese Soldiers Live Off Villagers Struck by Major Food Crisis

 

16 November 2008: Burmese soldiers patrol column from Light Infantry Battalion (89) regularly confiscate chickens and crops from villagers of Lungding, who have been suffering severe food shortages due to rat infestation and a violent storm that destroyed much of their crops, a local villager has told Chin Human Rights Organization. The troops are stationed at Burmese army outpost at a nearby village of Lungler.

Located in Thantlang Township, Lungding village has been hit by a severe food crisis after their annual crop yields were substantially reduced by rat infestation and a storm. Of the 114 households in the village, about 105 to 110 make their living by subsistence farming. According to the villager, 42 households had lost their crops to marauding rats and birds while another 45 households had their crops completely destroyed by the storm. He said at least 7 households have completely abandoned farming.

“The entire village is running out of food, but Burmese soldiers are still taking what little is left of the villagers’ food supplies,” explained the villager.

 

Students Regularly Forced to Perform Forced Labor Duty

 

24 November 2008: Students studying at a Government High School of Rih sub-town are regularly forced to fence an army camp or work at government-run Jatropha plantations. The forced labor practice using the students started since September of 2008 and happens on every weekend since, a local person testified to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

 

Students are threatened with failing their exams for failure to show up at work, and are caned by the headmaster of the school at the school assembly on every Monday.

 

“If we continuously fail to show up for work, they would really fail us. Anyone who participates regularly is promised to pass even if they do not perform well in the examinations,” explains one female student.

 

“The forced labor duty is not only negatively affecting students’ academic performance, but it also interferes with the students’ ability to help out their parents during weekends and holidays as the community is already struggling with food shortages,” explains one unnamed Chin teacher working at the school.

 

Forced Labor to Repair Army Camp

 

17 November 2008: A Burmese army column commander and his troops from Light Infantry Battalion (89) stationed at Lungler army camp are reported to use forced labor by compelling civilians in the area to construct and repair his camp.

Newly transferred to the camp from Kalay Myo, the camp commander forced civilians to repair his camp for 14 consecutive days. Laborers had had to bring their own tools and rations for the duration of the work.

“Some were compelled to cut woods from the forests, while others work to dismantle the old fences around the camp,” said an unnamed villager who participated in the work.

“The food crisis is already more than enough for us to deal with, and many of us are contemplating about moving to India’s Mizoram to escape this kind of hardship,” he told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

Parents of Students Struggling to Pay Compulsory Fees for Extra Classes

 

20 November 2008: A new order by the headmaster of state high school in Rih sub-town of northern Chin state is putting extra burdens on parents who must now pay compulsory fees for a new after-school program for their children.

The order took effect in September for the 2008-2009 academic sessions. The extra class program runs from 4 to 6 p.m. every week days. Each student is to pay 2000 Kyats for the program.

“Parents are really left with no choice since teachers often deliberately give important lessons only during these extra classes. So missing these classes means students miss out on important lessons,” one parent told Chin Human Rights Organization.

“It is a big extra burden for the parents if they have multiple children attending school,” the parent added. The state high school in Rih sub-town has about 700 students and 25 teachers.

“This program has little to do with academic,” said the parent, “It is because the teachers need a side income since they cannot survive with their meagre salaries,” he said.

 

According to a teacher working at the school, not only the teachers but other government servants have been forced to find a side income through various means to supplement their grossly inadequate monthly salaries.

In Chin State, a headmaster of government high schools earn 100, 000 Kyats per month, high school teachers 70, 000 Kyats per month and 50, 000 Kyats per month for middle school teachers. On the other hand, the average price of one bag of rice, which is enough for half a month for a typical family, is about 30, 000 Kyats.

 

Corrupt Immigration Officers Extort from Travelers

 

20 November 2008: Three immigration officers on duty at a check-point at Mansawng bridge over Zung river in Tiddim Township of northern Chin State, during the last week of October 2008 extorted thousands of Kyats from travelers passing through the route, a victim testified to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

 

“Initially, they asked for 5000 Kyats from each traveler. But we tried arguing with them, telling them that we did not have such money. At last they settled for 3000 Kyats,” said the traveler. According to him, the officers also seized twelve packs of cigarettes from one of the travelers.

 

“It is unfair that they would simply divide up the money among themselves our hard earned money,” he complained.

 

Illegal Tolls Collected from Travelers

 

21 November 2008: Travelers and motor cycle owners plying their vehicles between Kalay and Tamu Town are being asked to pay a toll for passing through a bridge over Kyan Set Kung river, an unnamed source told Chin Human Rights Organization.

 

A 500 Kyat per head is collected by the Township Peace and Development Council in cooperation with the local village authorities.

 

Constructed to facilitate India-Burma trade route, the bridge collapsed on October 10, 2008 due to frequent use by large lorry trucks belonging to the Myanmar Logging Company.

 

According to the local authorities, the toll was meant to finance the reconstruction of the bridge, but local villagers believe the funds will eventually end up in the pockets of township officials.

 

At least 100 vehicles pass through the bridge each day.

 

Refugee Situations

Chin Refugee Died at UNHCR Gate

 

31 December 2008: A Chin refugee reportedly died after collasping at the gate of UNHCR where he was waiting to see an officer of the UN refugee agency in Malaysia on December 22, 2008.

 

According to a news report by the Voice of Chin Refugee, a community newsletter in Kuala Lumpur, Ye Thew, 34, was a recognized refugee and had apparently been suffering from mental illness.

 

His room mates reported that prior to his death Ye Thew had been without food for a week and had vomitted blood and bled rectally. His attempt to get treatment at a local hospital was met with failure when the hospital refused to register him because he did not have his UNHCR refugee card with him. He apparently lost his UNHCR card a week earlier when he was mugged by local thugs, the newsletter said.

 

He collasped at the gate of UNHCR while waiting to have a new refugee card issued. Like many other Burmese refugees in Malaysia, Ye Thew had been arrested and detained four times on immigration charges, despite being a UN recognized refugees.

 

 

Chin Refugee Committed Suicide Due To Depression In Malaysia

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

 

05 November, 2008: A Chin refugee, Mr. Van Peng Lian, last Monday hung himself using an electric wire due to depression, reportedly resulting from facing difficulties in getting registered as a recognised refugee from Burma after going through a series of detentions and deportation in Malaysia and Thailand.

 

The 23-year-old was arrested last May in their rented house with 15 other Chins in a night raid by Malaysian RELA after coming to Malaysia as an unrecognised refugee since February 2008. Mr. Lian, along with other Chins, was deported to the Thai-Malaysian border after being detained at different locations including 5 days at KLIA Immigration camp, 3 months at Kajang Jail and 3 weeks at Semanyih Immigration Camp.

 

A Physics graduate from Kalay College, together with other Chin refugees, managed to get back to Malaysia after spending 3 nights reportedly under the agents’ control on the Thai-Malaysian border. He was said to have given once an anti-depression counselling at ACTS clinic in Malaysia.

 

He took his own life about a month after he got back to Malaysia from Thailand.

 

Van Peng Lian of Cin village, Hakha township, said he got deeply devastated and feeling despondent as he could not get registered with UNHCR even though he was a refugee from Burma, according to his friends. UNHCR did not make any visits to him during his four-month detention at Kajang Jail, sources claimed.

 

He is survived by his only sister Esther in Malaysia who is said to be ‘lonely and grief-stricken’.

 

In Malaysia, there have been four suicides committed by the Chin refugees only in 2008 due to depression after the UNHCR closed its refugee registration.

 

 

Whereabouts of Detained Chin Children Refugees Not Known In Thailand

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

 

06 November, 2008: Fears have mounted over the ‘mental and physical’ safety of 6 Chin children refugees who have been reportedly detained in Thailand since late September as no information is known as to where and how they have been, their families in Malaysia said.

 

Thiang Bik, 5, Philip, 7, Ngun Za Thin, 9, Roland, 11, Chan Duh Thang, 10, and Kap Cung Lian, 9, of Thau and Vomkua villages, Thantlang township were arrested by the Thai Police while they were on their way to Malaysia to join their parents.

 

“We don’t know what happens to them and where they are now. Even alive or dead, we are not sure. We, the parents, are so much worried every single second. They don’t speak Burmese, Thai, Malaysian, English and won’t be able to even tell about themselves,” Pu Zai Awi, 47, told Chinland Guardian.

 

The children were reportedly kept in police lock-up in Thailand for two weeks and moved to another detention camp. It is believed that they might also be transferred to an orphanage in Bangkok according to unconfirmed sources.

 

“We keep trying to reach out as far as we can. The agents told us that there is nothing they can do to get them out of the Thai police. Out of my desperation, I have queued up for three days to contact UNHCR in Malaysia. The UNHCR said that they will keep trying to find them but can’t guarantee,” said Kap Cung Lian’s father, a UNHCR refugee card holder in Malaysia.

 

The six Chin children of three families, who were arrested in Thailand with more than 50 other refugees, managed with the help of agents to get out from Burma to join their refugee parents in Malaysia. It is said that the agents could get the others out of detention camps after bribing the Thai police.

 

CRC, a Chin community-based volunteer organisation in Malaysia, and other individuals have been since September making efforts but no confirmed information about the detained children has been obtained.

 

“We have tried so much in this case and it has gone into 6 weeks now. The situation has become beyond what we can actually do. The only hope we have got is what UNHCR in Malaysia and Thailand can do,” a member of Chin Refugee Committee (CRC) told Chinland Guardian.

 

 

Czech Republic Welcomed For Opening Its Door To Chin Refugees

 

Van Biak Thang

Chinland Guardian

 

09 November, 2008:A message of thanks and gratitude to Czech Republic for welcoming Chin refugees from Malaysia has been sent and exchanged across Chin communities and online forums across the world in recent weeks.

 

Czech Republic, a country that has been actively supporting the democratization process in Burma, opened its door for a total of 23 Chin refugees including 5 families from Malaysia under the UNHCR resettlement programme on 30 October 2008.

 

Sui Zi, one of the Chin refugees, said: “We were warmly greeted and well looked after much more than we expected. We were so touched when we received from a foreign country such a kind of love and care that we can not get in our own country. It is very important that we, the refugees, accept and understand aptly what they have done for us.”

 

The move came in June this year when the Czech cabinet approved ‘The Pilot Resettlement Program’ as part of the Czech Republic’s foreign policy to provide humanitarian assistance where a positive impact can be made, according to Katerina Stehlikova of the Czech Interior Ministry.

 

In his email of thanks and appreciation, Pu Lian Uk, a prominent Chin MP in exile, also highlighted the need of forming Chin community and Christian fellowship where religious and cultural activities can be done as a means to protect and promote unity among the Chin people.

 

“We are in a season when trees shed their leaves. We are told that it is not winter yet even though it is so cold,” said one of the Chin refugees who expressed joy and happiness in their new country, the Czech Republic.

 

Some refugees are said to have spent nearly 10 years in Malaysia before the resettlement programme. The UNHCR resettlement programme is seen as the only way to getting ‘safe and secure’ from Burma and Malaysia as the Chin refugees can still be arrested and deported at any time.

 

Due to SPDC’s ruthless brutalities and oppression, the Chin people have for decades fled their native place in search of safety and refuge in neighbouring countries including India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Malaysia. It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 Chin refugees stranded in Malaysia.

 

 

New Focus on Refugee Protection in Asia-Pacific Region

 

Chinland Guardian

 

27 November, 2008: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A regional consultation among civil society groups and intergovernmental agencies on how to better protect refugees and forced migrants in the Asia-Pacific region concluded in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week, even as more governments in the region were voting against a draft United Nations General Assembly resolution on human rights situations in Burma in New York on the very same day.

 

India, Malaysia and Bangladesh, hosts to the largest number of Burmese refugees after Thailand, last Friday voted against a draft UN resolution on human rights situations in Burma. Thailand abstained from voting. Among those voting against the draft resolution were North Korea, China, Russia, Zimbabwe and Belarus.

 

The conference on refugee rights brought together civil society groups and regional and international actors from across the Asia-Pacific region, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

 

“Problems of forced migration and refugee situations exist due to disrespect of human rights. The fact that Burma has the largest number of refugees coming out of its borders into neighbouring countries alone is testament that concerned countries in the region need to adopt a more forward-looking and realistic policy,” said Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organization who participated as a panelist in the conference.

 

Victor Biak Lian, a Board Member of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) spoke as a panelist at the conference on the topic “Ethics in Working with Refugees: Community Perspectives and Principles of Partnership.” Proposing a more ethical and rights-based approach to dealing with refugee issues, Victor Biak Lian invited more non-governmental organizations in the region to engage in the protection of refugees in the region.

 

In an unrelated incident, a leader of Chin Refugee Committee (CRC), a refugee community group which won the Suaram Human Rights Award, died after suffering from stomach cancer at a Kuala Lumpur hospital. Those who knew Mr. Tin Hmung describe him as a dedicated and committed activist, who put the need and welfare of the community ahead of his own welfare and that of his family.

 

According to the conference papers, only 17 out of 55 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have only acceded to the international instrument governing the rights of refugees, an added challenge standing in the way of civil society groups in the region engaged in refugee protection advocacy.

 

Participants of the conference included civil society organizations from South Asia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, Central Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

 

The first regional consultation of its kind, the conference is seen as a collective civil society initiative that will help to advance refugee rights across the Asia-Pacific region.

 

New Uncertainty for Burmese Refugees over India’s Provincial Election

 

Chinland Guardian

 

9 December 2008 – Aizawl: The State legislative election in Mizoram finished yesterday with a sweeping victory for the Indian National Congress (INC) after having been out of power for a decade in the northeastern Indian State.

 

The Mizo National Front, the ruling nationalist party suffered an embarrassing upset after securing only three of the 40 available State legislative seats. Mr. Zoramthanga, the incumbent Chief Minister and leader of the MNF party lost both of the two constituencies he contested. The surprising defeat came amidst a severe food crisis plaguing the State due to massive rat infestations following a mass flowering and fruiting of bamboo.

 

Mizoram shares a long international border with Burma’s Chin State, which is now struggling with a similar food crisis.

 

The sweeping electoral victory by the INC brought back to power the former Chief Minister Lalthanhawla, who had served as head of the State government for two terms from 1989 to 1998.

 

The election of a new government in Mizoram is causing renewed uncertainty about the future of the tens of thousands of Burmese Chin refugees in the State who have been the target of scapegoats and massive immigration crackdown during previous legislative elections. An estimated 60, 000 thousands Chins are currently living in Mizoram.

 

“Generally speaking, public sympathy for Chin refugees in Mizoram has steadily risen over the last few years, but we really don’t know what the future will hold for us,” says a Chin refugee and long term resident of the State.

 

In the past, Mizoram authorities and youth groups had regularly rounded up and deported thousands of Chin refugees to Burma, often in close correlation with the election cycle of the State Legislative Assembly.

 

“The fact that the Central Government is led by the Congress Party, which is traditionally on the side of the Burmese pro-democracy movement, might probably deter the new State government from taking any drastic actions against Burmese refugees” observes a Burmese activist in New Delhi.

 

CHRO’s Highlights of Activities – 2008

 

(1) INTERNATIONAL ADVOCACY

(a) Advocacy Activities in the United States

January 2008

From 5 January to 16 January, CHRO conducted an advocacy trip to the United States to update agencies of the U.S. government and advocacy agencies on the situation of the Chin people and to meet with the resettled Chin communities in the U.S. During the meetings with U.S. government and advocacy agencies, CHRO highlighted developing issues of concern for the Chin people and provided recommendations for action. In meeting with the U.S. resettled communities, CHRO provided an overview of the situation in Malaysia, India, and Burma, an account of our activities during 2007, and our plans for activities in 2008. During the trip, CHRO had also prepared and distributed the report, “Action, Words, and Prayers: Chin Solidarity for the Protests in Burma.”

 

Meetings: United States State Department

 Office of International Religious Freedom

 Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration

 Burma Desk Office, Office of Mainland Southeast Asia

 The National Endowment for Democracy

 

International Agencies and NGOs

 Refugees International

 Refugee Council of USA

 Southeast Asia Resource Center

 US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Migration & Refugee Services

 Church World Service

 US Committee for Refugees & Immigrants

 Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Services

 Foundation for the People of Burma

 

In addition, the CHRO team also met with resettled Chin communities from five US cities; Dallas, Texas, Maryland & Washington D.C, Battle Creek, Michigan, Indianapolis, Indiana and San Francisco, California.

 

(b) Advocacy Activities in CANADA

July 2008

 

From July 22 to 25, in collaboration with the Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB), CHRO Director Salai bawi Lian and two CHRO board members Victor Biak Lian and Salai Sang Chin conducted an advocacy trip to Canada in order to update the Canadian government on the post-referendum/Nirgis political and human rights conditions in Burma and to draw attention to the food crisis faced by the Chin people in western Burma.

 

Meetings: Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade Canada

 Deputy Director for South East Asia & Pacific Division

 Director for South East Asia (Mainland) – Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

 Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Canada

 Paul Dewar MP (New Democratic Party)

 Primate World Relief & Development Fund

 Burma Buddhist Association of Ontario

 

(c)Advocacy Activities in the United Kingdom and Czech Republic

June 2008

 

In June, CHRO board member Victor Biak Lian together with Cheery Zahau of the Women League of Chinland an advocacy tour to Europe to highlight an ongoing humanitarian crisis in western Burma and to update European governments on the political and human rights situations in Burma.

 

Meetings: UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office

 Meg Munn MP, Foreign Office Minister

 Department for International Development (DFID)

 William Hague MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary

 John Bercow MP

 All Party Parliamentary Group on Burma

 World Vision

 Tearfund

 Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

 Humanitarian Aid and Relief Trust (HART)

Czech Republic

Meetings: Department of Foreign Affairs

 Director, Asia-Pacific Division

 Human Rights and Transition Policy Department

 Burma Desk Office

 

(d) Advocacy Activities at the United Nations

 

As in the previous years, in 2008 the CHRO continue to focus on utilizing available international mechanisms by attending relevant United Nations conferences, and meeting with relevant agencies and staff at the United Nations. The CHRO maintains communication with UN agencies and participation at various UN forums: They included;

 

 The Human Rights Council

 The Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights

 Office of the Special Human Rights Rapportuer on Burma

 The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

 The World Food Programme

 The World Council of Churches etc.

 

(f) Advocacy Activities in Asia

 

In order to more effectively raise awareness about the Chin issues in Asia and coordinate advocacy activities with national and regional actors, in 2008 the CHRO opened a Regional Advocacy and Campaign Office in Thailand. Through this new initiative, the CHRO continues to focus on coalition-building activities and maintains communication with various government institutions, non-governmental organizations and international agencies. They included, among others:

 

 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) based in Thailand, Malaysia and India

 United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (Malaysia & Thailand)

 International rights groups and humanitarian agencies based in Asia

 Regional and international indigenous groups

 Chin civil society and political organizations

 Burma advocacy and humanitarian organizations

 

(2) INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES/SEMINARS

 

7 March 2008; Salai Bawi Lian, Director of CHRO attended a conference on “How the International Community can Support United Nations Efforts in Burma” organized by Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and University of Laval at Quebec City. The conference was attended by some Burma activists, scholars, Diplomats including United Nations Special Envoy on Burma Mr. Ibrahim Gambari.

 

3 -14 June Victor Biak Lian, CHRO Board Member attended the Global Youth Conference held in Liverpool, United Kingdom

 

20-22 June CHRO representative attended the Europe Burma Ethnic Seminar held at Frankfurt, Germany

 

26 Sept – 3 Oct: Victor Biak Lian, CHRO Board Member attended a meeting of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples held in Geneva, Switzerland

 

4-5 Oct Victor Biak Lian, CHRO Board Member spoke as a panelist at a conference organized by the Burma Centrum Netherlands in Amsterdam

 

10 – 16 Oct CHRO team attended the Chin Historical Seminar held at Mizoram University in Aizawl, jointly organized by the Mizoram University and the Chin Forum

 

20-21 Nov Victor Biak Lian, CHRO Board Member spoke as a panelist at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on the Protection of Refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

(3) REFERENDUM AND PUBLIC MOBILIZATION CAMPAIGN

 

To oppose the passage of the military-backed constitution in the May 10 referendum, the CHRO, as part of a larger “Vote No” campaign of the Burma pro-democracy movement, conducted a variety of activities inside Chin State and surrounding areas of western Burma. Some of the activities carried out included; printing and distribution of ‘vote no” campaign materials in 13 major locations inside Burma, telephone campaign, monitoring of polling stations and documenting of voting outcomes from nearly 200 polling stations in Chin State, and working in coordination with other Chin opposition parties and civil society organizations inside and outside of the country.

 

(4) AWARENESS AND FUND RAISING ACTIVITIES

 

During the months of August and September 2008, in cooperation with Chin communities from various countries in Asia and groups such as the Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee, the Chin Human Rights Organization organized a series of Live Aid Concerts in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, to raise awareness on the humanitarian crisis in Chin State and to benefit thousands of famine victims in western Burma.

 

The CHRO also engaged in fund-raising and relief provision for victims of Cyclone Nirgis during this period.

 

(5) REPORTS, PUBLICATION AND MEDIA COVERAGE

 

January Published “Action, Words & Prayer: Chin Solidarity for the Protests in Burma”

July Published “Critical Point: Food Scarcity and Hunger in Burma’s Chin State”

Jan-Dec: Published six issues of Rhododendron Human Rights Newsletter

 

Contributed Article “Without Refuge: Chin Refugees in India and Malaysia” for The Oxford University Refugee Studies Center’s publication FORCED MIGRATION April 2008 Issue.

 

The CHRO team in New Delhi conducted comprehensive survey on the situations of Chin refugees in New Delhi and produced a draft report.

 

CHRO’s reports and the food shortages in Chin State were covered by a number of international media including BBC News, the Guardian, the Telegraph, ABC News, the Epoch Times, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Democratic Voice of Burma etc.

 

(6) FIELD COORDINATION

 

• CHRO assisted the delegation of humanitarian aid group from Britain including British parliamentarian Baroness Cox and BBC News crew to India Burma border. This trip is a result of CHRO advocacy trip in Europe in June 2008

 

• CHRO and Burma Relief Center (BRC) organized a meeting of border based humanitarian groups Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC), Chin Humanitarian Relief Committee (CHRC), Public Affairs Committee of Chinland (PAC) and Women League of Chinland (WLC), to cooperate in combating hunger and famine in Chinland. The four groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which they agreed to work together.

 

• The MoU assigned the CHRO to act as an oversight body and to conduct international advocacy, fundraising and management of the relief efforts on the groups’ behalf

 

(7) HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION/CAPACITY BUILDING

 

March – Chin Human Rights Organization conducted “Capacity Building for Human Rights Defenders: Basic Human Rights Training” in Aizawl, Mizoram

 

August – CHRO team in New Delhi collaborated in a three-day “Human Rights Workshop” organized by the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB)

 

December CHRO conducted “Basic Human Rights Training” in New Delhi, India

 

Throughout the year, the CHRO Regional Advocacy Office in Thailand was involved in capacity-building programs for the Burma Ethnic Assistance Program (BEAP), a joint community initiative involving ethnic refugee groups in Malaysia

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) thanks our funders and partners for their continued supports, and the Chin communities, churches and individuals around the world for their financial contributions, advice and prayers, and for continuing to make CHRO the leading voice for the Chin people in 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles