VOL.I No. IV OCTOBER 1998
INTERVIEW WITH VILLAGE HEADMAN
Mr. Mang Cung (not his real name) was a village tract secretary in Tili village Falam Township, Chin State. He was tortured by the Burmese army in October 1997 because he had contact with the CNF (Chin National Front). The Burmese Army commits the most brutal abuses against civilians in areas where ethnic insurgent group like the CNF operates. The military employs its decade-old “Four Cuts” policy as a counter-insurgency program. The aim is to cut off food, finances, intelligence, and recruits from the opposition in order to undermine their ability to operate effectively. In these areas the CNF is collecting donations and the villagers have to pay. The SLORC, now SPDC, carries out harsh reprisals against anyone suspected of sympathizing or having contact with the CNF and village leaders like Mr. Mang Cung are particularly at risk of abuses. After being beaten, he feared to be arrested and fled to India in November 1997. He has now been granted refugee status under U.N.H.C.R . He was interviewed on 2.7.1998. His face still bears the scars of the gun beatings and he cannot hear properly.
Name : Mr. Mang Cung (name changed)
Age : 60
Religion : Christian
Marital Status : Married, 5 children
From : Tili village, Falam Township
Occupation : Village Tract Secretary
[Note:The village tract includes 2 villages : Tili village with 35 houses and Tlangkhan village with 25 houses.]
Q. How and why were you tortured by the Burmese Army?
A. On 25 October 1997, a representative of CNF came and collected donation from our village. I gave him the money for the two villages in my tract and CNF gave me receipts in my own name. Shortly after, SLORC came to know about this. I don’t know how. Probably because of the receipts. When the troops arrived in my village, they have already known that I had handed over money to CNF. They said: “Why did you give them this money?” I replied : “We all are afraid of them, because they have arms!” They said : “What about us? Aren’t you afraid of us?” I said: “No, because you are protecting us.” They found the receipts in the Council office with my name on them. There were 8 soldiers. They were drunk. They slapped me on my ears and cheeks. I felt deaf and fell down. Till now my right ear is hurting a lot. They pulled my hair and they hit me between the eyes with a gun barrel. I thought they were going to shoot me but they didn’t. I felt the skin torn out and the blood running down all over my face. I felt unconscious and relatives carried me back to my house. The midwife [the only health worker in the village] came and gave me medicine as well as an injection twice a day. I lied in my bed for four days. On 29 October, I received an order signed by the Township LORC chairman which summoned me to go to the Falam headquarters. I knew they will arrest me and put me in jail. So I fled to India and arrived in Aizawl on 6 November. I came alone. My family fled to another town in Burma.
Q. Did they beat anyone else?
A. Yes, they also beat the headman of Tlangkhan village [the other village from the village tract]. They called him and tied him on a chair and accused him of the same thing but I said :”The money was given by me to CNF.” So, they released him and started beating me.
Q. Do the SLORC troops come often to your village?
A. Tili village is located 10 miles from Falam. The troops often come patrolling in my village. Five to ten soldiers come once or twice a month, inquiring about the movements of CNF. Whenever they come they demand chickens and eggs from the villagers. Sometime they even demand honey which is not available in our village. They never carry ration along with them. They take whatever they want from the villagers. Whenever they come they force villagers as porters. Their belongings are always carried by the villagers. The porters have to served one or two days long journey to the next village. They never get paid for it.
Q. Any forced labor in your village tract?
A. Yes, in January 1996, one person per family from Tlangkhan and Tili villages were ordered to build a fish pond, 25 x 70 feet and 3 feet deep. The location was 4 miles away from our village. Women and children had to go too. Sixty people had to work there for two days. They didn’t give us any food. We had to bring along everything, even water to drink. Then, in February 1997, they ordered the villagers to build trenches and bunkers on the top of a mountain about 3 miles from our village. They called village by village. The village headman was forced to lead his laborers there for 3 days until their assignment was completed.
Q. What are you planning to do now?
A. I would like to get treatment for my right ear.
TWO ACTIVISTS ARRESTED
Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO ) has receive a report of the arrest of two members of the Chin National Front (CNF) by the Burmese military personnel. The report came from a field worker of Chin Human Rights Organization who was informed of the incident by a man who ferried the two arrested across the Tio river which flow a long the border line of India and Burma.
The arrest took place on September 6 1998. According to the ferry man, as their ferry boat embark on the side of Burma, some 20 Burmese military personnel suddenly came out of bushes and took them away without saying any thing to him. He immediately row back to the other side of the river bank and reported it to a CHRO field worker stationed near by village.
Further inquiry by the CHRO has confirmed that those Burmese military personnel are of Battalion no 266 stationed at Lungler village which is a bout 10 miles from the border, and that the two arrested are Mr. That Ci and Mr. Uk Lian Thang, two very active members of Chin National Front which is committed to the fight to end military rule and to the restoration of democracy in Burma.
CHRO has also confirm that Mr. That Ci and Mr. Uk Lian Thang ages 37 and 33 have been taken on the same day to Hakha, the capital city of Chin state. Now concern a bout their safety has been spurred in the populace not only by the fact that their where about is unknown, but also by the fact that they may be so severely tortured that they would become like many others have mentally disable.
The Burmese military dictatorship is known for its inhuman treatment of those who are oppose to the military rule in Burma. In Chin state, members of the CNF are especially the target of the Burmese military dictatorship due to the fact that CNF is the only political organization left in Chin state, which has firmly stood and fought along with other democratic forces for the end of military rule and the restoration of democracy in Burma.
EXTORTION AND ARREST
On 23.3.98 two villagers from Sabawngpi in Matupi township were carrying (20) chickens to sell to Mizoram to pay for their children’s school fees. On the way between Sabawngpi and Sabawngte, they met soldiers from IB 274 mobile column. All of their chickens were taken by the soldiers. Then, the troops sent two villagers from Sabawngte village to sell these chickens in Mizoram and ordered them to bring the money back to Lailenpi camp by 25.3.98. They did not reach the army camp in time and they were arrested on 10.4.98.
CUTTING TIMBER FOR THE BURMESE ARMY
Ma Rai Pai (name changed), a female Chin student from Cangbong Block in Matupi town was interviewed in June 1998 and related the following incident: “SPDC troops led by a Major from IB 274 based in Mindat arrived at Phaneng village on 5.6.1998 ( Saturday )at 8 a.m. they arrested 8 villagers from Phaneng as well as 10 villagers from Ngaleng village. All these villagers were sent to Lunghlaw village and were forced to cut timber. The army did not provide neither tools nor food. Even on Sunday they had to work [they were not allowed to attend church service.
EXTORTIONS IN MATUPI TOWNSHIP
Mei Paw (name changed) is 68 years old and has retired from government service. He is now a farmer in Darling village. He was summoned by Lieutenant Myo Swe to meet him at Lailenpi post on 5.6.1998. “I am quite old and I could not reach Lailenpi within one day. I arrived there the next day because of my late arrival, they ordered the Darling villagers to bring them (8) bottles of lard [pig fat used traditionally as cooking oil in Chin villages] by 8.6.98.” The villagers had to kill one pig worth 20,000 Kyats to get the lard and sent to the camp. The Lieutenant only gave one pyi of rice [= 3 kg] to compensate the villagers. The villagers have to collect 20,000 Kyats among themselves to pay back the pig owner.
Religious persecutions is a problem of major concern in Chin State. Almost 100% of Chins are Christians. Over the past few years, the Burmese military has been forcing Chin Christians villagers to build Buddhist pagodas in their own villages. The Burmese soldiers have been descrating churches and graveyards by turning them into army camps, disturbing religious services and preventing evangelists from preaching.
The Burman regime practiced their egregious policy of Burmanization and Buddhitization among the minority racial groups. The Chins live on mountains. There are certain mountains where the Chins Christians erected wooden crosses to show that the devil have been defeated by the dead and resurrection of Christ. The erections of crosses in Chinland began since ending part of 1980s. There have been crosses around towns and villages.
The military regime began to destroy those crosses in 1995. For example, the crosses erected on Rung mountain by Baptist Christians in Hakha town, capital town of Chin State, was destroyed by unknown persons. It was not burned by fire. It was systematically torn down. The believers tried to re-erect the cross on the same place. The ruler did not allow them on the ground that the Christian cross should only be erected in the compound of their churches. Likewise, there are many crosses destroy by the unknown persons for the unknown reason in many villages and towns.
On the contrary, the military regime, through the Buddhist societies, constructed many pagodas on top of village and towns in Chin State. This is interpreted as the invasion of Buddhist among The Chin Christians who do not hold political power. The Chin Christians are forced to construct the pagodas. Moreover, they are forced to donate money for the constructions.
Many pastors, evangelists, and young volunteer missionaries have been arrested while they actively worked. In May 1993, 30 young volunteer evangelists, sent by Zomi (Chin) Baptist Convention, were arrested in the town of Paletwa, Southern Chin State. The Chairman of Paletwa Township SLORC was so brutal to the young people. He didn’t give them food. They were starved for five days. After that he released them on bond that they should not preach in the township. The young evangelist left the town.
CHURCH LEADERS TORTURED IN LAUTU TRACT
The Lautu Baptist Churches Conference [under the Zomi(Chin) Baptist Convention] was scheduled to be held on 22.2.1998 in Thantlang township. The church leaders went to Hakha to get permission from SPDC office. They got no reply. Shortly after, Burmese Army troops from IB 266 and IB 50 came with 100 soldiers to Lautu Village Tract. In every village of Lautu tract, they arrested all the Church leaders. The soldiers accused Churches leaders of supporting CNF insurgents. Church leaders were forced to lie down under the sun at noon and ordered to look at the sun by the soldiers. Those who closed their eyes were beaten. The army ordered them not to hold that conference. All the villagers felt so upset because the Army had prevented them from holding the Church Conference.
TRADER ROBED BY LIB-50 IN TIDDIM TOWNSHIP
On 1.7.98, Dal Lian, a Chin trader from Lailo village, Tiddim township, was traveling between Tonzang and Tiddim townships. He told CHRO: “Troops from IB 50, Company 1, from Cikha camp, led by a Sergeant were patrolling in that area. My friend and I met them between Bapi village and Vanzau village. The soldiers stopped us and checked our belongings thoroughly. They found Ks. 23,000 and Rs. 2,500. they confiscated all the money from us.”
DEMANDING PORTERS AND A PIG
Pau No is a Chin village headman in XXX village, Tonzang Township(name changed and village name omitted for security reason). He complains that the troops very often come in his village and always demand porters and money. He said : “On 3.6.1998, 30 soldiers led by Major Thein Zaw Win, came into our village and spent one night there. On the next day, they ordered me to collect 28 porters. They threatened that if I fail to meet their demand, my village will have to provide them one pig. I managed to arrange 28 porters for them. However, they still demanded one pig.
LOOTING OF JAGGERY
On 14.2.98, Capt. Zaw Win and his troops came to a sugar cane plantation, 3 miles away from Hmunhalh village in Thantlang township. They confiscated (37) viss of jaggery from the owners. Then they collected (8) men from the plantation and forced them to carry the jaggery to Hmunhlalh village. There they forced Hmunhalh villagers to carry the jaggery to Thantlang market where it is sold for the army profit.
FORCED LABOR BUILDING A FOOTBALL GROUND
In April 1998, the Battalion Commander from Infantry Battalion IB 266 based in Hakha came to Lailenpi village and ordered the Lailenpi company commander Myo Swe to dig a footfall ground in Lailenpi. All the villages in the Lailenpi area were ordered to contribute their labor. The football ground must be completed in 1998. According to that order, Myo Sew demanded every village to send one person per household to dig the ground in Lailenpi. The villagers came to Lailenpi and stayed in relatives’ houses. Since June 1998 each villages came by rotation and worked for 3 to 5 days. Most of the laborers were old men and children, because the young men went to Mizoram, India to work during the summer vacation. This was reported to CHRO by a member of the Pintio village Council in Matupi township. Another villager from Lailenpi also confirmed that: “The working time was fixed by the army commander, from 9 Am. to 12 noon and from 1p.m to 4 p.m. The villagers were guarded by soldiers while working. Some villagers didn’t bring enough food to stay at the work side for 5days. They didn’t receive anything from the army and were not allowed to go back to their village. They had to share and could only eat ricesoup.”