Courier News Service: July 20, 2001
THE HAGUE – Chin people throughout the world have warmly welcomed their admission to membership in the Unrepresented Nations’ and People’s Organization.
The decision to admit the Chins, as well as the Khmer-Krom people of Cambodia, was announced by the steering committee of the UNPO on July 15.The Chin application, under consideration for more than five years, wasmade by the Chin National Front, a political group based on the Chin-Mizoram border.
The UNPO, headquartered in the Netherlands, now has 52 members representing over a 100 million people worldwide. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, itclaims 17 member nations including the Chins, the Karennis, the Mons, the Nagas and the Shan state peoples who live within the borders of the Union of Burma.
It is estimated that there are more than a million and a half Chins living in western Burma and scattered in exile in other parts of the world. The Chin National Front, headed by Thomas Thangno will be represented in meetings of the UNPO by (entrusted representative), Zo Tum Hmung, who said he looked forward to working closely with the international body.
The Chin people have long jealously guarded their claim to autonomy and self-rule in the area of Burma in which they live. But in 1948 their leaders joined with those of the Kachin, Shan, Karenni and the peoples of central Burma in signing the Panglong Agreement that cleared the way for the formation of the Union of Burma and independence from British rule.
Successive military regimes in Burma have since stamped out any overt sign of Chin political nationalism, locked up hundreds in prison and driven thousands more to seek exile or to join in armed revolt against Rangoon domination.
Pu Lian Uk, exiled Member of Parliament for Haka constituency, welcomed the news of UNPO membership, saying that it reached beyond the CNF to all of the Chin people. He warned that any attempt to annihilate the distinctiveness of the Chins and other minority peoples of Burma would be met with continuing resistance. Any future constitution of the Union of Burma could only succeed if it was based on genuine federalism and adherence to the articles of the Panglong Accord, he said.
The stated political objectives of the Chin National Front include the attainment of self-determination and democracy within a genuine federal republic of the Union of Burma.
Sai Wansai of the steering committee of the UNPO told the Burma Courier that the organization does not involve itself in the goal setting of national member organizations. He said the UNPO has members with political programs ranging from cultural autonomy to outright independence.