By: Lian Uk
Congratulations to the Chin people every where the world over for the admission of the Chin National Front (CNF) to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)!. The admission is not only to the Chin National Front as an organization, but it is the admission of the Chinland and its people which is for all the Chin people as a whole, the synonymous names of which in some of their native dialects are also Laimi, Zomi etc. Our exceeding thanks for this is also to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization General Assembly and their Steering Committee.
The territory known today as Chin State was an independent territory outside the Burmese kingdom till the British annexed it in the 1890s. It was directly ruled by the British governor from Rangoon through the chieftains of the territory outside the provincial government of British Burma even after its annexation until Burma independence in 1948.
When the British government was to give independence to the Burmese kingdom, the Chin territory annexed to the British empire had also a full right to become an independent sovereign state as it was not annexed as a part of the Burmese kingdom and as the Chin people are a distinct people much different from the Burmese or Burman in language, custom, culture and in their way of life.
The Chin Chieftains who ruled the Chin territory under the British Governor signed the historic Panglong Agreement with other nationalities on February 12, 1947 to achieve speedy freedom from any colonialism including British colonialism. February 12, the day on which the Panglong Agreement was signed, has been since then, observed as the Union day every year up to this day in the whole Union of Burma.
February 20th, the day which marked the change of despotic and aristocratic ruling system to elected system in democratic process in the Chin State since 1948, has also been recognized by the successive governments of the Union of Burma as ‘the Chin National Day’ recognizing their distinct national identity as a people .
But the Constitution of the Union of Burma 1947 after the assassination of the founding fathers of the Union made the Burmese people of the previous Burmese kingdom replacing the British colonialism. Thus the rest of the Panglong Agreement signatory nationalities have been made colony territories of the Burmans betraying the vision of the founding fathers of the Union led by General Aung San whom with his cabinet ministers were assassinated on July 19, 1947 before completing the Union constitution.
So the constitutional government of the Union in the Union Parliament had agreed to amend the 1947 Union Constitution in federal form in early 1962 according to the vision of the founding fathers of the Union. But a group of the armed forces led by General Ne Win overthrew the constitutional government and abolished parliamentary system with the Constitution of Union of Burma 1947 in the night of March 2, 1962. Ever since General Ne Win ruled the country as a despot dictator directly or indirectly leading to all these violation of human rights causing to all sort of sufferings and misery to the population of the whole country.
The Chin people every where in the Chin State joined the pro-democracy uprising against the military regime in 1988 to end the military dictatorship and to restore democracy and justice in the whole country. The military regime therefore occupied the Chin State with military force against the will of the people in the Chin State.
It was because of the American Baptist missions since 1899 that the Chin State today with its overwhelming Christian population in it becomes the only Christian State in the 14 provinces of the Union. The Chin people therefore in their Christian organizations and institutions are practicing democracy system as their way of life. The Burmese military regime therefore accusing the Chin people being a Christian State to be pro western or pro American has made the Chin State as a military occupied territory making the situation in the Chin state to be an uninhabitable place for the Chin people by giving them all sort of troubles by killing people for no good reasons at random extra judicially, raping, looting, robing and ransacking their properties and homes; by conscripting all men and women to forced labor with out giving them enough food a! nd drinks giving no time to work for them. Conscript Chin women to force labor are raped by the armed forces of the ruling military regime. They were arrested and tortured for no good reasons at random in many ways and treat them like animals.
These are all the persecution launched by the Burmese military regime to drive all the Chin people from their homeland to wipe them out to their extinction as a people. So those who could find ways fled the country in tens of thousands by all means to neighboring countries and there are now thousands of Chin refugees in the neighboring countries and around the world in Europe and in North America.
They are all stateless people and their life in neighboring countries is very miserable with no safety to be arrested by the authority concerned at random to be sent back to Burma in the hands of the Burmese military regime where they are tortured and imprisoned even to their death.
Since this persecution launched on the Chin people combine the general persecution of racial, religious and political, the individual Chin people are all the persecuted people not because any faults of their own. But they are persecuted just because they are Chin ethnic people and are Christians and believe and practice democracy in their religious organizations and institutions.
The instability of the Burmese leadership mentality in this way can not assure the other fellow union constituent ethnic nationalities for the security of each existence as a people that the Burmese or Burman are overwhelmingly majority constituent nationalities of the union to the rest of the union nationalities which make them aggressive on the nationalities of lesser number in population.
The insistence of the military regime State Peace and Development Council ( SPDC) up to now to have power in the Union legislature and civil administration and the constitution to be in unitary form is a sign which is greatly dangerous for the union constituent minority nationalities to continue on to be in the same sovereign independent state with them( the Burmese) in any form.
It has been a long history now that the Burmese like this SPDC cannot trust the minority nationalities. The reason could be no other than cowardliness. As a matter of fact, several nationalities can truly be more developed than the Burmese if they are free to develop their respective own territories.
So if this Burmese majority people are ever trying to annihilate the lesser number nationalities in population to their extinction as distinct peoples like what is going on under this military dictatorship, it will be a great loss to the minorities people themselves and to the world as their distinct nationalities in their languages, culture and literature and the great contribution they could made to the world will be totally wiped out with them.
It will only be safe for all the minority union nationalities to re join the Union with the Burmese or Burman nationality only if the ethnic Burmese majority, as a guarantee to equality to all, are willing retaining secession clause for them and for other union constituencies according to the 1947 Union constitution in the future constitution of the Union of Burma to be in true federal form.
Then only will the nationalities whose populations are lesser in number than the Burmese or Burman will be safe to reform the Union with the Burmese or Burman in federal or confederate form of the union.
But the Burmese people like the SPDC who now believe getting the upper hand to the minorities will be far from this concession. It is now also the best chance for the minorities as they are now free to establish their own sovereign independent state in their respective definite territories to be internationally recognized as there is nothing that bind them together with the Burman in the absence of the Panglong Agreement itself and the Constitution of Union of Burma 1947 which reflected the chore of the Panglong Agreement.
So it is the last resort for all the nationalities other than the Burmese at present to seek the most possible shelter to the fellow Un represented Nations and Peoples in the UNPO to which the Chin State and its people has been admitted.
Thus the admission is being most welcome and the Chin people deserves being congratulated for it.
Ethnic Groups In Burma
A peaceful and democratic Burma requires a flexible accommodation among the country’s diverse ethnic groups. Without lasting resolution to questions of local autonomy and national power-sharing, rebellions that have flared and simmered in Burma’s borderlands for over five decades cannot be resolved. And without peace, there is little chance for grassroots economic development that could help reduce the currently massive illicit dug production and trafficking in many impoverished ethnic minority areas.
The lack of a reliable census makes it impossible to more than roughly estimate the composition of Burma’s ethnic mosaic or it total population. Some experts suggest existing population data is skewed, exaggerating the number of Burman, who are the largest single ethnic group. According to available statistics, they comprise about two-thirds of Burma’s approximately 50 million people and dominate the army and government. Most of Burma’s ethnic minorities inhabit areas along the country’s mountainous frontiers. Karen and Shan groups comprise about 10% each of the total population, while Akha, Chin, Chinese, Danu, Indian, Kachin, Karenni, Kayan, Kokang, Lahu, Mon, Naga, Palaung, Pao, Rakhine, Rohingya, Tavoyan, and Wa peoples each constitute 5% or less of the population.
Burma has experienced a long history of migration and conflict among various ethnic groups along fluid frontiers, which were finally fixed only during British imperial rule from the 1820s to 1948. Under British control, diverse peoples far from Rangoon were brought under at least nominal central administration. Yet many areas remained effectively self-ruled, with only a thin veneer of imperial oversight. During World War II, while many Burman joined Japan’s fight against British forces, many minority ethnic groups remained loyal to Britain. This reflected a genuine desire for independence on the part of both groups: Burmans struggling to be free of the British colonial yoke, and ethnic minorities wishing to escape Burman domination.
The Union of Burma became independent in 1948 only after extensive negotiations led by General Aung San, who convinced most ethnic minority groups to join the new union. The Panglong Agreement of 1947 outlined minority rights and specifically gave the Shan and Karenni peoples the option to secede from the union a decade after independence. Yet these constitutional guarantees were never fully respected. Almost immediately upon independence, Burma was wracked by a series of brutal ethnic wars that continue in varying intensity to this day.
The principal demands of Burma’s ethnic minorities are to gain genuine autonomy for their home areas and to achieve a significant voice in the affairs of the country as a whole. Few demand total independence as their ultimate goal. Since its 1988 coup, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (or SLORC, renamed the State Peace and Development Council in November 1997), has negotiated cease-fires with most armed ethnic opposition groups and waged fierce assaults against others. Muslim Rohingya people in southwestern Burma were targeted in 1991, and over 250,000 fled to neighboring Bangladesh. A new wave of attacks was reported in late 2000.
At least 140,000 more Karen, Karenni, and Mon people from eastern Burma are refugees in Thailand following intense Burmese army offensives since 1984. Many Shan people have been forced to flee army assaults as well. In several areas, there are massive numbers of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), mostly villagers who have fled their homes to escape conscription as military porters or other abuses. The suffering of Burma’s estimated 600,000 IDPs is often far worse than refugees in neighboring countries, who receive at least some outside aid.
In many areas, uneasy truces prevail. Among the earlier cease-fires concluded were with ethnic Wa and Kokang armies, which until 1987 served under the Burmese Communist Party. The Burmese army’s agreements with these groups permit opium cultivation and the right to trade without interference. The result has been a sharp increase in heroin production and smuggling from Burma and a concurrent worldwide rise in heroin use and addiction. These groups are now also engaged in large-scale illicit manufacture of methamphetamines. Some other ethnic opposition organizations, particularly the Kachin Independence Organization and the Karen National Union, have taken strong stands against drug production and trafficking. The present junta has exploited divisions within and among ethnic groups to bolster its rule. In 2000, the relocation of thousands of Wa farmers into traditional Shan areas has raised tensions an! d sparked fighting between those groups. The United Nationalities League for Democracy, an umbrella group for non-Burman political parties formed after the 1988 democracy movement, was revived in January 2001 by exiled politicians. A draft constitution was ratified and executive members were elected. These parties won a combined 65 seats in the 1990 elections and have a strong claim to political legitimacy. The National Democratic Front (NDF), another coalition of ethnic groups, is also striving to promote common positions among ethnic minorities. Prospects for a democratic, prosperous, and peaceful Burma are dim without a just and amicable settlement of the country’s ethnic conflicts. The junta’s proposed new constitution does little to acknowledge ethnic groups’ grievances. Burma’s democratic opposition has urged serious efforts to address these issues, as ethnic reconciliation and cooperation will be a major challenge for any future Burmese government. !