Chin People In Burma: An Overview
Human Rights :
•New Township Development Project Left 100 People Forced To Work Daily: 180 Houses To Be Relocated
•Arbitrary Agricultural Policy Results in Forced Labor
•Persecution of Christians Renewed, Junta Coerces Chin Christians to Pull Down Cross
•Denial of Religious Freedom; Christian cross at risk of destructionin Chin State, western Burma
•Police Officer Killed by Own Bodyguad
•Burmese Baptist convention banned on orders of Junta
Facts and Arguments :
THE NEWIN DOCTRINE: A systematic Campaign of Hatred
By Vum Son
Chin People In Burma: An Overview
Before the advent of British colonization of Chinland in 1890s, the Chins were living as an independent nation located within the distinct border demarcations of Chinland. A hilly region, Chinland crossed the borders of what was later to became British India and Burma. Even after it came under colonial rule, however, Chinland remained relatively autonomous of British control until the early 20th century.
In 1935, the British decided to divide Chinland into two parts by making Burma – previously a province of British-India – a separate colony. The western part of Chinland remained under British-Indian control while the eastern section came under the rule of colonial Burma.
As Burma’s independence movement grew under the leadership of Aung San, the Chin decided to participate with him and other ethnic representatives in a constitutional process towards the development of a federal union. However upon Burma’s independence from Britain in 1948, the Chin and other Burma ethnic groups became increasingly concerned that their rights of autonomy and equality as enshrined in the constitution were not being fully respected. Civil war erupted throughout the country over the next decade until the Burma Army’s Chief Commander, General Ne Win, taking advantage of the chaos, staged a military coup in 1962.
Once in power, Ne Win nullified previous efforts to establish a genuine federation. In claiming to safeguard the possible disintegration of the Union, Ne Win isolated Burma from the rest of the world, eradicated all freedoms of expression and association, and instituted draconian economic and human rights policies. After three decades of Ne Win’s rule, Burma became one of the world’s least developed countries in 1988.
During his rule, Ne Win reserved some of his regime’s most brutal repression against Burma’s ethnic minorities such as the Chin who were struggling for autonomy and equal rights. As Ne Win continued his campaign to fully control Chinland, abuses as forced relocations, rape, and forced labour reached massive proportions. At the same time, systematic efforts were made to eliminate the literature, culture, and traditions of the Chin and other ethnic minorities in order to assimilate them into a homogeneous Burman culture. Efforts were also made to impose the Buddhist religion by restricting the practice of other religions, which in Chin State was mostly Christianity.
Chin students participated along with country’s broad student-led uprising in 1988 to topple the country’s dictatorship. Millions of people demonstrated non-violently demanding an end totalitarian rule. The military regime brutally crushed these demonstrations and thousands were killed. A military committee, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), replaced, on September 18, 1988, General Ne Win who had resigned in July, just prior to the peak of the uprising. The SLORC junta renamed the country Myanmar and set out to quell their opponents, by announcing that they would soon hold multi-party elections.
Leaders of the democracy movement continued to be arrested and jailed, and many were killed. Aung San Suu Kyi, who joined with colleagues to form the National League for Democracy (NLD) was placed under house arrest in 1989 in the midst of campaigning for elections.
By 1990, the junta was so confident that the political opposition had been eliminated that they allowed the election to take place. To their surprise, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won an overwhelming victory. The junta annulled the results of the election and intensified repression against its opponents.
Today, Burma continues to be ruled by the military (the junta renamed itself the State Peace and Development Committee or SPDC in 1997) and the Chin along with other opponents of the regime, continue to face a multitude of human rights violations. Under Burma’s military regime, the Chin are not only facing gross human rights violations, but they are also losing their culture, literature, customs, and traditions.
This situation has resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis, both inside and outside the country. Current estimates are that there are over one million internal refugees and over two million refugees residing neighbouring countries. Of those numbers, at least 50,000 are Chin refugees residing in Burma’s neighbouring countries.
Over the past year in Burma, there have been some positive developments towards political change – most recently the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in May 2002. Nevertheless, the military junta’s human rights abuses continue throughout the country unabated. Although many Burma observers are cautiously optimistic about the recent political developments, international condemnation of the regime by the United Nations and other institutions remains strong.
New Township Development Project Left 100 People Forced To Work Daily: 180 Houses To Be Relocated
Chin Human Rights Organization
June 9, 2002
The State Peace and Development Council SPDC in Chin State is using forced labor to build a new high school in Ruazua town of central Chinland as part of state-sponsored development program for the new township headquarters, according to CHRO source. About 100 people are compelled to provide unpaid labor on a daily basis to dig an area of one square mile ground where the foundation for the new high school will be laid. The forced labor began in mid May 2002.
In a related incident, about 180 houses are to be relocated to give way for a new army camp to be set up in the area. The SPDC authority issued an order affecting the relocation of the houses.
Located between two major towns, Matupi and Thantlang in central Chin state, Ruazua village became the tenth township headquarters in Chin State in 2002. The application for the township status was made since 1988 so that Ruazua could enjoy government facilities such as high school, hospital etc. “The village had put enormous efforts to meet the criteria for township status and tried very hard to convince the authority by constructing road, water supply, self-support high school etc., all without State support.” According to the local people, they spent about 2 million Kyats to convince the authority and to acquire the status.
However, as soon as Ruazua was awarded township status in 2002, about 100 houses from Old Village Block were ordered to relocate at areas designated by the army so that the Burmese army could build a new army battalion headquarters on the sites. 80 more houses have to vacate their house to allow road extension between the would-be army headquarters and the town.
The SPDC is unlikely, as in all other similar circumstances, to compensate those who are subject to forced labor and relocation, and as a result the affected people may face serious crises.
Arbitrary Agricultural Policy Results in Forced Labor
Chin Human Rights Organization
June 10, 2002
New agriculture policy being implemented in Chinland is adversely affecting the local population. In many parts of Chinland, government servants and ordinary villagers are being required to participate in tea plantation program under the order of the ruling military junta. “Seven villages in Falam township were ordered to participate in tea plantation in the designated areas of about 20 to 30 acres this monsoon season,” according to a local source.
On 12 May 2002, during a visit to Falam town, the SPDC’s Agriculture Minister encouraged the local people to participate in the government’s tea plantation program. The minister said that both the government servants and the civilians must cooperate for the success of tea plantation.
According to the orders of the junta, people must provide free labor for the tea plantation, and any government servants who question or are opposed to the “new policy” will be fired from their jobs.
The authorities designated the surrounding areas of Falam town stretching as far down as the west bank of Manipur River as tea plantation farm.
Ordinary civilians from Cawngte, Tlaisun, Cawngheng, Zamual, Sunthla, Lungpi, and Mangkheng villages were forced to provide free labor for tea planting. Households that could not afford to provide forced labor had to hire laborers at the rate of 300 Kyats per day for male, and 250 Kyats for a female out of their own expenses. However, members of Union Solidarity and Development Association USDA, a state-sponsored youth organization, and other government officials are exempted from the forced labor.
In 2001, similar tea plantation programs were implemented in Matupi and Thanlang townships forcing civilians to participate in unpaid labor.
Burma’s ruling junta officially outlawed the practice of forced labor in 2000 in response to international outcry for its systematic and widespread use of forced labor. Under close scrutiny by the International Labor Organization, the junta maintains that it has “eradicated” the practice of forced labor in the country. However, government’s “development programs” and other counter-insurgency are perpetuating and reinforcing the practice of forced labor in Burma.
Persecution of Christians Renewed, Junta Coerces Chin Christians to Pull Down Cross
Chin Human Rights Organization
June 29, 2002
Christian residents of Matupi, a major town in southern Chinland, are facing mounting pressure from Burma’s ruling regime, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to pull down a symbolic Christian cross they erected 1 mile South of the town.
The pressure came following a visit to the town in March 2002 by Chief of Bureau of Special Operation Major-General Ye Myint who, offended by the visible sight of the 30-foot tall cross, instructed local authorities in Matupi and nearby town of Mindat to pressurize local Christian leaders to dismantle the cross, according to reliable information obtained by Chin Human Rights Organization.
The spectacular 30 foot tall cross was erected by Chin Christian in 1984 and renovated in 2001. Residents of Matupi town had spent about 3 million Kyats to construct the cross.
In a bid to have the cross removed, SPDC closed down the operation of development and humanitarian projects being conducted by Matupi Baptist Association MBA, saying “unless the Association dismantled the cross the authorities would not authorize further operation of the projects.”
The projects include improvement of the town’s water supply system to make available sufficient water supply for residents. The MBA obtained assistance from Japanese Embassy in Rangoon and the project was started in 2001. The MBA bought water pipes from Mandalay. However, the SPDC authority in Mindat town had warned that they would not give permission for the shipment of the water pipes if the MBA continues to refuse to pull down the cross.
In a related incident, local SPDC authority in Mapupi has turned down the application made by 200 households to connect telephone lines to their homes. The authorities said that permission is conditioned by the dismantling of the cross, although every household had already paid to the authorities 85000 Kyats for the telephone connection fees.
To the local Chin community Christian cross represents a symbolic monument of their Christian identity and crosses are erected on higher locations such as hilltops where they can be easily seen by commuters. Available estimates show that over 90 per cent of the Chin populations are Christians.
Since the early 1990’s, security forces have torn down or forced villagers to tear down crosses that had been erected outside Chin Christian villages. These crosses often have been replaced with pagodas, sometimes built with forced labor. Some of these crosses had been erected in remembrance of former missionaries from the United States, while others merely are symbols of faith, according to the United States State Department.
Denial of Religious Freedom; Christian cross at risk of destructionin Chin State, western Burma
Chin Human Rights Organization
Date: July 12, 2002
Facts of the Case:
In March 2002, after a visit to Matupi town by Major-General Ye Myint, Chief of Bureau of Special Operation, and one of the highest-ranking member of Burma’s ruling State Peace and Development Council SPDC, Chin Christians in Matupi of central Chin state were pressured to destroy a symbolic Christian cross, which has been standing near the town since 1984.
Local Christians have said that the authorities have attempted to destroy the cross since 1997 but a renewed pressure came after recent visit of high-ranking junta’s official. According to the locals, a section of Burmese soldiers under direction from higher authorities attempted to destroy the cross in 1997 but the attempt failed when one Burmese soldier was shot and killed by a fellow member in a fight resulting from drunkenness. Destruction was delayed.
Originally erected as a wooden cross, the cross was replaced as 30-foot tall concrete structure in 2001 by Christians. The refurbished structure was officially inaugurated in 2002. Local Christians say the Burmese soldiers later attempted to pull down the cross again but the 5-foot deep solid foundation of the cross had prevented them from dismantling it when they tried to dig it out.
The cross stands on hilltop one mile south of Matupi where it can be easily seen from most parts of the town. The Burmese army had established an army camp by the site and local people have said that the removal of the cross would give the army a better location for building an army camp.
According to a local Christian leader, the authorities gathered all Christian leaders and ministers at the township SPDC office early this year and were pressured through the day to destroy the cross. The Christian leaders refused by insisting on the authorities to destroy it themselves. “It was then that the authorities decided to apply another pressure tactic”, he said, “because they knew that Matupi Baptist Association MBA was planning to ship water pipes from Mandalay for its water supply improvement project and so the authorities wanted to use it as a bargaining tool”.
The Matupi Baptist Association is the largest religious institution in the area. The association has initiated a development project to improve the town’s water supply system with the assistance from Japanese Embassy in Rangoon. They have purchased water pipes for the project in Mandalay in central Burma. The SPDC authorities had now warned that the shipment of water pipes would not be authorized until the Association had pulled down the cross. Authorities also refused to connect telephone lines for 200 households who have made applications and have already paid required fees, for the same reason.
According to United States State Department, since the early 1990’s, [Burmese] security forces have torn down or forced villagers to tear down crosses that had been erected outside Chin Christian villages. These crosses often have been replaced with pagodas, sometimes built with forced labor. The State Department, since 1999 had designated Burma country of particular concern violating religious freedom.
Relevant Human Rights Standards
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Please send faxes, letters, or emails:
Expressing your serious concern about Burmese authorities’ continued effort to destroy one of the last remaining Christian crosses in Chin State
Expressing your concern about persecution of Chin Christians in Burma
Urging the government to respect the human rights of all citizens including the right to freedom of religion
APPEAL AND INQUIRY MESSAGES SHOULD BE SENT TO:
Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt
State Peace and Development Council
Ministry of Defence
Signal Pagoda Rd Yangon, MYANMAR
Fax: 011 (951) 22950
Salutation: Dear General
U Win Aung
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Salutation: The Honorable U Win Aung
COPIES SENT TO:
Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix,
CH 1211 Geneve, SWITZERLAND
Fax: 011 41 22 9170213
Salutation: Dear Mr. PinheiroFor more information on religious persecution in Chin State please visit
http://www.chro.org For information about religious freedom in Burma please visit
Police Officer Killed by Own Bodyguad
Chin Human Rights Organization
August 15, 2002 A police outpost commander stationed at Hnaring village of Thantlang township, Chin State, was shot
and killed by his bodyguard on the night of 26 June, 2002. The killer is now absconding, and the Burmese army patrol from Light Infantry Battalions (268) and (50) are on the hunt for him along Burma-India border, a local man who just arrived to Mizoram from Chin State said.
On the night of the incident, the outpost commander Hteey Aung and his men were on duty looking for illegal liquors to be seized from villagers when it started raining heavily. His men suggested they wait for the rain to die down and resume their duty thereafter. Outraged by their suggestion, the commander beat his men severely. Unable to witness his comrades being ruthlessly beaten, the bodyguard shot and killed their commander. He immediately fled the scene leaving his weapon behind. Burmese army on patrol are conducting a rigorous hunt for the absconding killer along Chin State-Mizoram border.
The body of the victim officer was sent to Thantlang Civil Hospital, about 30 miles away, for postmortem and burial on June 30.
According to the source, Hteey Aung had been commander of Hnaring police outpost for about two years. During his two-year posting in the village, Hteey Aung made a fortune from extorting travelers and villagers, confiscating cattle and goods from cross-border traders. He was reportedly saving the goods and money he confiscated for his family. He was reported to have frequently beaten his inferiors, which made his inferiors dissatisfy with him.
Burmese Baptist convention banned on orders of Junta
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide
A three-day Baptist convention for 100,000 people, which was due to be held in Burma, has been cancelled on the orders of the junta.General Maung Aye, Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese army, ordered the Kachin Baptist Church (KBC) to cancel its 34th convention during which they would have elected their leaders. This is the third time the regime has cancelled the event since seizing power in 1962.
The Christian community of the north eastern Kachin State had planned to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the first Christian missionary to the Kachin, Ola Hansen, and the 75th anniversary of the translation of the Bible into the Kachin language.
The convention, held every three years, was due to start on April 4 in the Muse township in Shan State, in the north east of Burma. Christians from all over the country were expected to attend.
Permission to hold the event had been granted by both the northern Shan State regional commander and the head of the Military Intelligence Service, First Secretary Lt. General Khin Nyunt.
Local sources suspect that the sudden change in policy is part of an ongoing power struggle between the junta’s top leaders, General Maung Aye and Lt. General Khin Nyunt.
At least 80 percent of the population in the Kachin state in north eastern Burma are Christians. They suffer religious persecution and oppression from the military regime.
The authorities monitor all Christian activities, ban the construction of new churches and prohibit the printing of Christian materials. Christians are also periodically forced to ‘donate’ money to Buddhist festivals.
For the past two years, the United States’ Department of State has designated Burma as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for violating religious freedom.
The 1974 Constitution of Burma stipulates that the ‘national race shall enjoy the freedom to profess their religion provided that the enjoyment of any such freedom does not offend the laws or the public interest’.
In practice, however, the Burmese junta closely monitors and restricts the organisation and expression of all religions, including Buddhism.
This is partly because Buddhist clergy and religious minorities have in the past been politically active and partly because the regime views religious freedom in the context of threats to national unity.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: “The ban on the Kachin Baptist convention highlights the ongoing restrictions on religious freedom.
“The junta, in order to hold onto power, cracks down on different religious groups in its bid to enforce its own single Burmese culture. By restricting the freedom of worship and making its citizens conform to the predominantly Buddhist Burmese culture, the regime is systematically destroying the cultural identity of many ethnic groups, most of them Christians or Muslims.”
THE NEWIN DOCTRINE: A systematic Campaign of Hatred
By Vum Son
Chin National Day Golden Jubilee Journal, Publicity & Information Department, Chin National Front, February 1998, Pp. 191 – 200
The Union of Burma is the amalgamation of formerly independent kingdoms of Arakan, Burma, and Mon; princely states of the Shan and Karennis; chiefdoms of the Chin and Kachin; and independent communities of the Karen. The Union of Burma was formed by the Panglong agreement of the Chin, Kachin, Shan, and the Burman. However, the agreement encompasses the Arakanese, Mon, Karenni and Karen, who were proud nations and communities and who had distinct and unique identities different from the Burman, Chin, Kachin, or Shan.
In the constitution drafted in 1947, Bogyoke Aung San promised the non-Burman equality and autonomy. After the Death of Aung San, however, U Nu and the AFPFL amended the draft constitution, betraying both the letter and spirit of the Panglong agreement. The amendments invalidated the recognition of the formerly proud nations of Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon and the Shan. Therefore, serious trouble was looming for Burma at independence.
Shortly after Burma’s independence in 1948, the Karen, followed by several other non-Burman nationalities, rose up in arms to fight for independence. At the height of the Karen rebellion and underground movement of the communists, soldiers defected en masse from the Burma Rifles and other army units (e.g., the Karen Rifles). Out of the five battalions of Burma Rifles, only about two thousand soldiers were loyal to the union government. Because of the Karen rebellion, the government forced numerous non-Burman holding key positions in the army to retire. Among those forced to retire were General Smith Dun, the commanding officer of the Burma Army, Saw Shi Sho, the chief of the air force, Brigadier Saw Kya Doe, chief of operation, and all Karen nationals, to name a few. These positions were then assigned only ethnic Burman. General Ne Win, a Sino-Burman, and a member of the ” Thirty Comrades” became the Commanding Officer of the Burma Army. He was also made the Defence Minister of the Union government.
General Ne Win became ambitious and requested to be made the Prime Minister. The civilian government dismissed him back to the barracks. Ne Win realized that to become the Prime Minister of Burma or to be able to run the country, he needed to be the commanding officer of a large army, and from that day on he worked on a scheme that eventually made him the oppressor of the peoples of Burma for forty years. That scheme might be called the “Ne Win Doctrine”.
Premise of the Ne Win Doctrine:
To become the ruler of the country as the commanding officer of the Burma Army, the army must be large and strong. The requisite for having a strong army is that the army must have a strong and sizeable enemy.
How could the Burma Army have a strong enemy? The answer lies in the history of Burma and the history of the members of the Union of Burma.
History of Ethnic Conflict
There are no known facts about the ethnic conflicts prior to the Burmese King Anawrahta, who became king in the eleventh century. Long before the Burman descended from the high regions of Tibet and northwestern China to the present Burma in the seventh or eight century AD the Mon had established their kingdom in lower Burma, and the Arakanese in Arakan. Our knowledge of Burman history started with the king Anawrahta because of the aggressiveness of the Burman, who in the course of time attacked and were attacked by Arakan, Mon and Shan. The history of the Thai, Assamese, and Meitei
(Manipuris) describes the immense cruelty of the Burman forces. Because of their notoriety, historians concentrated on the Burman history and unjustly gave little attention to the history of the other groups in the region. This one-sided view of history has had a catastrophic effect on the modern relationships between the ethnic groups because the Burmese military can convince outsider that there is only the history of the Burman and the other people are anonymous.
In fact, there were many ethnic conflicts among the peoples that constitute Burma today. Most notably, the Burman and the Mon engaged in a great contest of power against each other. To a lesser extent, extended wars we fought between Arakan, Burma, and Shan against the Burman. The Karen apparently did not establish a powerful enough system to challenge the Burmese leadership, but they were subjected to high taxation and forced to work for the Burman. The Burman had no interest, authority, or influence on the outlying areas, such as the Chin, Naga and Kachin. In all their wars, the opponents of the Burman know them as most brutal, and most cruel. The brutality and cruelty of the Burmese Army in post-colonial Burma has only carried on the tradition of Burman behavior.
Development of the Doctrine
With the mistrust and turbulent history between the Burman and the non-Burman, Ne Win had the means by which to create a powerful enemy that would justify a large army for him to command. Thus, he created the Ne Win doctrine.
Ne Win Doctrine
Create an enemy of the non-Burman by driving them to military resistance. Drive them to military resistance by exploiting the political unrest in Burma.
The political situation facilitated Ne Win’s plan to exacerbate the non-Burman and Burman mistrust. As soon as the Union of Burma was formed, the AFPFL, who dominated the politics of Burma, initiated ethnic conflict. The AFPFL betrayed the Panglong agreement by adopting a quasi-federal constitution. Although the constitution allowed some non-Burman nationalities the status of national states, the constitution gave the power of the state to the central government, which was the government of proper Burma or the government of the Burman. The states were governed by the central government, with no possible self-determination. They were practically the colonies of the Burman. The constitution refused to recognize the Mon and the Arakanese statehood, denying them recognitions as a distinct ethnic group. The constitution also declared the Burman language as the common language, marginalizing the non-Burman nationalities.
Furthermore, when Ne Win assumed the post of Commanding officer, U Nu, the prime minister of Burma, proclaimed martial law in some regions of the Shan state in response to the formidable Karen forces scattered in many parts of Burma including the Shan State. However, the Karen were severely beaten at Insein and were no longer a threat to the government of Burma by the mid-fifties. General Ne Win needed the continuation of the Karen rebellion and other existing civil wars to maintain the strength of the Burma Army. Therefore, the Burma Army units created renewed hatred for the Burman by roaming Karen villages to create victims. Thus began the implementation of the Ne Win Doctrine, making the Non-Burman fear and hate the Burman and leading them to armed resistance.
Implementation of the Doctrine
The main feature of the doctrine was to make the Burma Army above the law wherever there was insurgency or rebellion. The army could do whatever they wanted in the countryside where there were disturbances. But its purpose was never to quell rebellion. The people had no right whatsoever. As soon as the Burma Army came to an area, the people lost their rights to their land, property, and even their own children. Worst of all, they lost the right to their own lives. On the other hand, the officers and men of the army could do whatever they wanted. From stealing the property of the people, beating the people, raping the women, and killing people singularly or en masse, they do not have to report to any other authority. They were not accountable to any law and there was no authority the people to complain to. The Burma Army was an independent entity. The people, if they dared, could complain to the army authorities who had laid out the policies and had drawn up the guidelines for these atrocities. Their policies were to make the people hate them. If there were complaints by the people that meant the people had not learned their lesson. It meant more brutality towards the community.
The army came mainly to dehumanize the people regardless whether they belong to the rebels or not. They were treated as if they were animals. The army was the law. These brutalities produced endless atrocities. And these brutalities and atrocities brought incalculable damage to the army’s credibility and to national unity. The soldiers were seduced by the power of their guns and the tacit encouragement from their superiors. They adhered to the philosophy of being invincible and they created wars where there were none before. The result was racial hatred.
The army usually came to villages fully informed about the people. The Burma Army units usually came after a battle was fought between the rebel group and the Burma Army. They had knowledge about the men from the village who were in the rebellion. Usually the army called all the villagers to a meeting ground usually a football field and executed a popular leader of the community. The person was executed not because he was an enemy of the Burma Army but because the Burma Army had learned that by doing so, they forced the recruitment of youngsters to the rebel army, thereby creating a large enemy for the Burma Army. If Burma Army soldiers had died in the battle with the rebel group, the army unit came to the villages to punish the people of the villages. The army than killed civilians from these villages at least double in number of the soldiers killed at the battle.
The doctrine was to deepen the suspicion and hatred that existed between the non-Burman and the Burman in pre-colonial and British Burma. It was to create hatred among the non-Burman against the Burman because the Burma Army was run by the Burman. Officers and men of the Burma Army treated the population with cruel, humiliating, and degrading inhuman practices. When the army units come to villages they went from house to house and took anything they wanted. They killed domestic animals to substantiate their eager rations. The army encouraged Burman soldiers to marry the non-Burman women. The soldiers were made to understand that to molest and rape women in the “disturbed” areas was no crime. There was no punishment for such misdeeds. The army burned villages and were instructed to destroy and burn Christian Churches and Muslim mosques. During the communist rebellion non-Burman class battalions were sent to areas controlled by the communist. These class battalions destroyed Buddhist temples and killed the people including women and children. The point was to make the Burman hate the non-Burman. The army employed forced labor in disturbed areas, which were created by the Army itself. The army demanded porters from the villages who were not paid. It was forced porter conscription. One of the main reasons for all of this cruel treatment was the forever prolongation of the civil war. Without the civil war a strong Burma army was not necessary. Only cruel treatment of the people guaranteed the continuation of armed rebellion.
Results of the Doctrine on the non-Burman
In all of the civil conflicts in Burma, even during parliamentary democracy, the Burma Army sought military solutions to their problems. Putting an end to the rebellion would have been easy if a political solution had been sought. Instead, the Burma Army was systematically campaigning for hate. The hatred of the military by the people guaranteed the increase of volunteers for the non-Burman ethnic rebellion. After the campaign of hate for 10 years, there was a strong rebellion in Burman that a strong enough army was created to contain the rebellion. Ne Win fostered this strong rebellion by applying the doctrine to each of the ethic groups in Burma.
The Karen lived side-by-side with the Burman in the delta region and had suffered atrocities under Burman kings. During the rule of Burmese kings, the relationship between Karen and Burman was not friendly. Karens suffered under high taxation and racial discrimination. There was always animosity between the two communities. Although living side-by-side, the Karen and Burman seldom intermarried because of the hate existing between them. There had always been a racially motivated segregation between the Burman and the Karen. They stood on opposite sides of the firing line when the Japanese invaded Burma during WW II. They committed atrocities against each other and the animosity between them further deepened. The Karen did not want to be a part of independent Burma. However, they lived intermingled with the Burman and a solution to their problems was difficult to sole. Britain refused to listen to the Karen’s demand for separation from the Burman.
Because the Karen wee honest and trustworthy, the British hired them into their armed forces and civil administration. At the end of WW II, the Karen dominated both of these parts of government. When independence was eminent for Burma after the end of the war, the Karen sought all avenues available to them to separate themselves from the Burman, but they failed. In 1949, the Karen formed the Karen National Defence Organization to protect Karen villages from the Burman. The formation of this organization started the Karen rebellion in 1949.
The Karen and communist defections in the army left only a small army contingent loyal to the government. In other words, the Karen at one time were close to taking the capital Rangoon. The few remaining Chin and Kachin rifles battalions stood their ground and saved the Rangoon government from falling. The Karen were driven out of Insein, a satellite Karen town of Rangoon.
Thus, the Karen situation could explode any time unless they could agree with the Burman terms to build a state together.
General Ne Win and his officers never wanted peace. The Karens could have easily been beaten if a political solution had been sought. The Burmese government refused to discuss the Karen problems with Karen leaders. It was left to the military to solve the Karen problem. The Burma Army could have beaten the Karen rebellion if they had fought with good intentions. Often times Chin or Kachin, forces of the Burman Army had beaten Karen units. When the Chin units thought that they could eliminate the Karen unit, the Chin Rifles were ordered to withdraw and the Karen units were allowed to regroup. The Karen survived with mounting losses in life and material, and Ne Win continued to build his army with the excuse of the Karen threat.
The last stronghold of the Karen at Manaplaw was not attacked for over twenty years because the Burma Army wanted to show that they had a strong enemy. Only when Manaplaw became the second capital of Burma, where all democracy-loving people assembled, and the international media was informed of the brutality of the Burma did the Burma Army feel the need to attack. Manaplaw was not easily taken, but for a two-hundred-thousand strong army to beat a fifteen thousand men army should not be that difficult a task.
Arakan and Mon
Arakan and Mon were independent nations before they were overrun by Burman kings. Because these people were colonies of the Burman for a long period of time, and because they were Buddhists and Intermarried with the Burman. The Burman leadership believed that they were already absorbed into Burman society. The Burman leadership therefore found no reason to negotiate with the people of Arakan and Mon. On the other side, the Arakanese and Mon felt that they had been freed from Burman colonialization when the British gave independence to the Union of Burma. In independent Burma, they wanted the recognition of their unique ethnic national identity and their rights as a nation. But the Burman leadership completely miscalculated the nationality feelings and endeavor of the Arakan and Mon.
Like the Karen, the Mon and the Arakanese had been at war with the Burman before the British came. During those wars, the Burman treated both the Mon and Arakanese brutally. The people of Mon and Arakan regarded the British occupation of their land as the end of Burman colonialization. Ironically, the British introduction of schools and the teaching of Burmese in the schools was instrumental in transforming of the Arakan and Mon society into one much closer to the Burmese society. Although animosity and hatred existed between the Burman and Arakanese, and Mon, they share the same religion and intermarry. The Arakanese and the Mon could have easily been content if the Burman leadership had given them their rightful position in the society of the independent Union of Burman. Luckily for Ne Win, the Burman leadership, beginning with General Aung San, completely miscalculated the nationality feelings of the Arakanese and the Mon. They believed that the Arakan and Mon had fully and completely integrated into Burman society. The Burman leadership did not recognize their unique national identity. Therefore, an insurgency started at the end of 1946, even before independence was attained.
General Ne Win only needed a little push for the Arakanese and Mon to rise up in arms and mobilize their national feelings. Cases of atrocities committed against them as punishment for disturbances quickly intensified the hate of the Burman that already existed from the past. The Burma Army used small uprisings as an excuse to send a large contingent to terrorize villages that were situated in the nearby areas. The Burma Army simply applied the Ne Win doctrine. In response, the Arakan and Mon created an independence movement. General San Yu was the commander of the Burma Army contingent in Arakan for fifteen years before he became the president of Burma under Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Program Party.
The Karenni were independent when Burma was under colonialism, but when Burma became independent, the Karenni became a part of Burma (viz. A colony of Burma). Thus, without proper agreement for equality in the new independent state of Burma, the Karenni would always demand their rights and independence.
Like the Arakanese and Mon, the Karennis fought to regain their independence just after Burma’s independence. Instead of realizing their goal of independence, they were drawn into the Ne Win doctrine. As the Karenni rebellion grew, so did the army stationed in the Karenni State. The AFPFL authorities in Rangoon resorted to a military solution to the Karenni conflict, putting the fate of the people of the Karenni in the hands of the brutal Burma Army under Ne Win. He, of course, immediately applied his doctrine of making the people hate the Burman. Where the Burma Army set foot into any territory was to terrorize the inhabitants. The Karenni were no exception. The government of the AFPFL had created a new front for the Burma Army.
Unlike the Arakan, Mon, and Karen, the Shan had never been completely subjugated by the Burman in historic times. On the contrary, the Shan had at one time ruled to Burman. Historically, Burman and the Shan dealt with each other as equals and there was mutual respect for each other.
The ruling Saophas were mostly well-educated and versed in politics and world affairs.
General Ne Win was able to extend his doctrine to the Federated Shan States when the Karen rebellion spilled over to Taungyi, the Shan capital, in 1950. Then the remnants of the Chinese Koumintang (KMT) forces infiltrated the Shan State from China and gave the government even more reason to send troops there. The placing of most of the regions of the Shan State under martial law by the U Nu government delivered the Shans into the evil claws of Ne Win and his Burma Army, the Tatmadaw. The Burma Army saw the martial law as their god-sent opportunity to terrorize the Shan population. Among the Burma men, the fair-skinned Shan women were a prized commodity to exploit. When the General encouraged his soldiers to marry Shan women, it was like a dream-come-true to the soldiers. The Burma Army gave promotions to those who married ordinary Shan women. Those who married Shan princess were made officers (if the soldier was an NCO). If the soldier was an officer, the officer received a double promotion. The purpose of the marriage policy was not purely the Burmanization of the Shan, but it was rather to reap hatred. The soldier thus hunted Shan women for marriage or for other purposes. They ambushed Shan women on their way to their fields, and if the women tied to run, the soldiers would shoot at them. They killed some women and raped many. Shan women were so afraid of the Burma Army that they hid on seeing army vehicles. A Shan elderly said, “I could bear it when they took away my chicken, pigs, and property. I could bear it when they burned down my house. But I cannot bear it when they abuse my wife and daughter in front of me.” The soldiers commonly looted Shan property and hunted their domestic animals to supplement their meager rations. Prominent and well-loved Shans disappeared without a trace. After ten years of the army presence, the Shan youth could not bear the oppression and degradation. The Shan youth, led by university students, rose up in arms in the late fifties. By then, many non-Burman ethnic groups had stood in arms against the Burma Army. Ne Win had once again driven the Shan to rebel against his army. The Ne Win doctrine was successfully inplemented and was working in the Shan State.
The destruction of Shan society through opium was also mainly the work of Ne Win and the military. The growing of opium and the opium trade may have been started by the KMT and international drug smugglers, but the Burma Army was the authority in the Shan state. Without the tacit approval of the military, the opium production could not have continued. The Burma Army used the excuse that the military could not control opium production in the Shan State because of the Shan rebellion. This excuse was extremely misleading because, as explained above, the military was the cause of the rebellion. The military and Ne Win benefited by the drug trade because they were the main transports of the drug inside Burma. A major aim of the Ne Win Doctrine was to destroy the Shan social establishment. The production of opium and heroin enhanced the implementation of the Doctrine, and Ne Win would apply that part of the doctrine elsewhere.
The Kachin State is rich in natural resources. Many Kachin profited from the large jade deposits, which are found in Kachin land. The Kachin served loyally in the British Burma Army and in post-independence Burma. There had never been problems with the Kachin until 1960. But soon U Nu came to the aid of Ne Win. During the election campaign in 1960, U Nu made an election promise to make Buddhism the state religion if he was given the mandate to govern Burma. He won the election and Buddhism did become the state religion. Because of these events, the Kachin formed the Kachin Independence Organization, initiating a rebellion against the ruling government of Burma. The Burma Army immediately applied the Ne Win doctrine in the Kachin State. By the time the Kachin Independent Army signed a cease-fire agreement after thirty years of civil war, Kachin villages had lost much of their previous relative wealth. Total destruction of the Kachin society and Kachin properties resulted and the Burma Army is in every corner of the Kachin land. The Kachin have traded their rights as human beings and their right to be treated as an equal by the Burman for a cease fire.
Communists and Wa
The Burman communists met the same fate as the non-Burma ethnic insurgency. Chin, Karen, Burman, and Kachin battalions were deployed to fight the communists. As with the Karen, the communists were attacked, allowed to regroup, and attacked again. Within a few years after independence, the communists were no longer a formidable force because, unlike the non-Burma ethnic groups, the Ne Win doctrine could not make the Burman hate the Burmam, perhaps because they understood what the Burma Army was doing. Whenever the communists had a stronghold, the Burma Army terrorized the local people. When the villagers were tired of the harassment from the Burma Army and the taxation of the communists, they simply moved away. Unlike the non-Burman, they did not have elaborate housing and they could easily farm somewhere else. The communist regained their momentum only when they moved to the Chinese border and persuaded the Wa to fight for them. When the Ne Win doctrine was applied to the Wa, the Wa started to hate the Burman of the Burma Army. The racial hatred transferred to hatred of their Burmese communists’ masters. They eventually overthrew the Burman communists and started an ethnic war against the Burman. Because of the huge assistance given by China to the Burma communist party, there were incentives for the Wa young men to join the communists. The price tag was high for the Wa. Almost every Wa household lost a son or a family member in the conflict. After the Wa signed the cease-fire agreement with the Burma Army, the Wa ran drug production and trade under more peaceful circumstances. Due to the Wa rebellion, a powerful contingent of the Burma Army was needed and the Burma Army fulfilled its purpose controlling the drug trade.
Historically, the Chin and the Burman did not have much contact. Their interaction was mostly limited to mutual raiding, including taking war prisoners as slaves. Being in the remote areas of the hills, the Chins were isolated from the valley-dwelling Burman. Consequently, they never dominated one another, or had any other diplomatic relations.
For forty years since joining the Burman, the Chin Hills continued on relatively quietly because there was no reason for the Ne Win army to go there. General Ne Win and most Burman had never been to the chin Hills themselves, and perceived it to be a very primitive areas whose simple inhabitants had neither the ability nor the will to develop their country. However, when Ne Win visited the Chin Hills in 1955 as the commanding officer of the Burma Army, he saw that the Chins were not as primitive as he had thought. Moreover, he realized that the Chins lived in bigger houses than the general Burman. Whereas most Burman lived in bamboo thatch houses, the Chin used wooden planks as walls with wooden floors and corrugated iron or slate as their roofs. Ne Win would wait and find a way to apply his doctrine.
In the late 1970s, the BSPP under Ne Win began to grow opium in the Chin Hills. They had found this strategy successful in the Shan State, where the army had been stationed since 1950. Army officers profited by transporting the drug and were able to addict many of the people by making the drug easily accessible. The Burman then could easily acquire their property.
The growing of opium in the Chin Hills in 1997(???) means nothing less than the ruin of the future of the Chin people. It was reported that heroin is being refined in Tahan, Tedim, and Tamu under the military supervision. This is clearly an attempt to destroy the Chin people in order to be able to control them. Until now, Ne Win was incapable of making the Chin hate the Burman. Soon he will destroy the Chin people as more and more people become addicted to heroin.
The Chins were drawn to the same fate as other ethnic groups in only after the 1988 general uprising against the practice of the Ne Win doctrine in the whole of Burma. Three Chin men formed the Chin National Front (CNF) in 1988 in India. The CNF was formed as an armed independence movement and grew to about fifty members, mostly Chin students who fled to Mizoram in India. The CNF had no money, arms, or supporters in 1988, but its existence was enough to serve as an excuse for the Burma army to destroy the Chin social establishment. In 1980, there was only a Burma Army company in the Chin Hills. By 1995 ten thousand Burma Army soldiers were stationed in the Chin Hills not necessarily to fight the CNF but to instill hatred and fear for the Burman consistent with applying the doctrine.
Results of the Doctrine on the Union
In 1958, after leading the Burma army for almost ten years, General Ne Win felt that his army was strong enough to overthrow the government of the Union of Burma under U Nu. Ne Win’s subordinates gave U Nu the ultimatum that the Burma Army was going to take over power either peacefully or by force.