CHIN PEOPLE HAVE TO SUPPLY ARMY PATION
Commander of Burma Army North Western Command Brig-Gen Sein Win issued an order to the battalions commanders in Chin State- Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 538, LIB 309, Infantry Battalion (IB) 274, IB 266, IB 268, IB 269 to collect ration from the Chin people whenever they need. A troop of a hundred soldiers from BI 307 (Katha battallion based) and BI 274 are stationed at Lungler army camp in Thantlang township. They have collected as much meat, rice and vegetables as they want from the villagers because the government could not provide them with any food. According to the troop, they were given permission to collect the food by higher authorities.
Major Myint Aung from BI 307 and Lungler army camp commander from 274 issued the order to the nearby 29 villages to deliver 4- big chickens, 2-viss of fish or pork, 2 legs of deer or any other wild animal and vegetables. The villagers have to deliver the orders to the army camp or where the patrolling troop is posted by fixed time. Sometimes the soldiers impose a fine of Kyats 1,000 to 1,500 for late delivery or if they claim the food is not fresh. They also demand the villagers buy alcohol from Thantlang which is a 3 day walk from the village. The villagers do not have time to work in their farms because the are busy hunting, fishing and buying alcohol for the soldiers. While they are struggling for their daily lives, they have to feed the army camp. Consequently, the villagers are extremely disappointed and are waiting for the opportunity to flee to Mizoram in India.
An ordinary soldier’s wages is Kyat 500 per month. However, these soldiers are getting Kyats 3,000 per month and therefore, are enjoying their lives with added food deliveries from the villagers. Because they are able to use the villagers as their slaves, they are happy with the SPDC government are extremely loyal to it. They are also given power to oppress the civilians by higher authorities to maintain a stable power base.
INTERVIEW WITH VPDC CHAIRMAN
(CHRO had interviewed a village chairman who is under Lungler army command in Thantlang township.)
Pu Lianthang (name changed) is 36-years old and has two children. He is a respected person in the village. Although he does not want to serve as the village chairman under the SPDC, upon requests by the villagers, he is serving as chairman of (ommitted) Village Peace and Development Council in Thantlang township.
Q. How is your relationship with the SPDC army? Could you tell us about it?
A. SPDC’s army and government give us the orders. And I, the chairman, and the villagers have to follow accordingly.Q. Could you tell us what kind of orders are given?
A. The most amoral man we ever met is Major Myint Aung from IB 372. One of his orders was that 15-villagers had to do sentry duty every day. Counting the number of the villagers, each person has to do sentry duty 3-days per week and so have no time to do our own work.
Q. Could you not explain these problems or make requests to the Major?
A. To make a request to military personnel, I need at least Kyats 20,000 and a pig. We have nothing right now. If I go without money, I will be accused of acting the army and be beaten. Therefore, at this time,I cannot make any request.
Q. Why do you think they give these kind of orders?
A. He knows that we can not carry out his order. He purposely gives us orders which we cannot carry out. Then, he expects us to bring him money, pigs, and /or liquor for his reconsideration. I think that’s why he gives us these kind of orders.
Q. Any other kind of orders?
A. There are a lot more. They order us to bring them 4- big chicken, 2- viss of fish or pork, 2-thighs of deer or wild pig ( or any wild animal) and fresh vegetable to the army camp ( Lungler village) every week, not later than the time they fixed.
Q. What do you think why they order like this?
A. I think, because the government could not provide them . That’s why we are being suffered.
Q. What will happen if you do not give them?
A. Do not mention the word ‘not giving’. If we bring them the orders an hour later than the time they fixed, we would be imposed a fine. Sometimes they even fine us, complaining the food we bring them were not fresh.
Q. How much you pay for a fine and to whom you pay it? And what they use it for?
A. It depends on how big the village and financial standing of the villages. They know the financial standing of the villages around this area. They frequently impose a fine the villages with a good financial standing. They put a fine on the poor villages when they do not have money to buy alcohol drinks. Usually they impose a fine from Kyats 1,000 upto 5,000. We have to pay it to Major Myint Aung. When his absence, we pay it to in charge of camp commander. When they get the money, they send two or tree villagers to Thantlang which is 3 days walk far from our village to buy alcohol drinks. They never pay anything for it . They have to incur travel expenses by themselves.
Q. Did you write a complaint to the higher authorities?
A. Major Myint Aung told us that he has the instruction from the higher authorities to get anything they want from remote villages where there is difficulty of transportation. That’s why I don’t want to make any complaint. I think that they are real beggars, they have no a shame to beg from others.
Q. Do you have anything more to say?
A. On 15 July, 1998, the Department of Land Taxation issued an order prohibiting us from doing our traditional cultivation. The order stated that every household has to complete 3 acres of terrace cultivation and give a Kyats 1,500 deposit to the Land Taxation Department. Whoever fails to pay a deposit will be faced with severe action.
Q. Is there anyone who has knowledge of how to do terrace cultivation and how did you start it?
A. No one know how to do it. According to the order each household had to complete 3-acres but we had no money for a deposit. For that reason, on 24 April, 1998, I went to Thantlnag Township Land Taxation Office and made a request to U Hoi Ling that we did not have the sufficient funds. This request meant paying them Kyats 30,000 which I collected from the villagers. Afterwards, we were allowed to continue with our traditional cultivation practices.
Q. Could you please share with us your feelings and thoughts?
A. I think, the soldiers have been begging in an unfair manner from the people because the government cannot provide them with sufficient resources. The more they can make begging, the more excess materials they can get, and therefore, the more the honor the government. I think the authorities are trying to build up their own power and maintain stability through these soldiers. I believe, if every country person selflessly acts against a group of authorities, this government will definitely be demolished. However we can not give up our ‘self’ easily because we must struggle for our daily lives. That is why people are being made to suffer.
MONEY FOR PAGODA FESTIVAL
In order to hold Utalin pagoda festival in1998, SPDC army battalion 538 commander Lt.Col. Saw Thun ordered Chin Christian villages such as Pathiantlang (A), Pathiantlang (B), Ramri, Arakan, Pinte, Hemate, Hemapi, Sia Oo, Para to pay Kyats 5000/- and 3- mats per each village before November 10, 1998.
Pastors and evangelists went to the area commander Maj. Zaw Tun Tin and beg him to reconsider the order because it is unusual for Christian to pay money for others’ religion activities. The Major replied them that the money is to hire a play for the festival and the Christians will also watch the play. If you don’t pay the money, action will be taken seriously upon the the villagers and will suffer. The villagers can’t do anything but to obey the army and pay the money.
Regime blocked centennial celebration of christianity in Chin State. Cross destroyed, pastors interrogated in acts of continuing Chistian persecution.
Burma’s military regime has stepped up its persecution of the Chin Christian community which is celebrating the Centennial of Christianity in Chin areas of Burma. Chin pastors are being interrogated and Centennial celebration in Haka, the capital of Chin State have been postponed by the regime at least until April. Chin Christian sought to celebrate their Christianity Centennial from January 1-3,1999 at Thantlang, another city in the Chin State of Burma. The Centennial marks the arrival of American missionaries Rev. Carson and his wife Laura Carson in 1899. On January 5,1999 when the celebration in Thantlang was over, citizen of the town posted a Centennial memorial cross at the top of Vuichip Hill near Thantlang. The Burmese military from Thantlang ordered the citizens of Thantlang to remove the cross they had erected atop the hill. After the citizen refused to removed the cross, soldiers pulled it down and destroyed it. Six Christian pastors from Thantlang, Rev. Thawng Kam, Rev. Biak Kam, Rev. Thantu, Rev. Tha Ceu, Rev. Cung Bik and Rev. Beauty Lily were then taken away from the town and interrogated.
In protest, the whole of Thantlang’s citizenry stage a general strike prayer service and fast at local churches or in their homes the following day (January 6,1999). In retaliation, the military cut all telephone lines to Thantlang and summoned 20 pastors and church leaders from various denominations for interrogation.
On January 9, 1999 churches around Haka joined the protest by holding prayer services. Military officers from Haka told church leaders that if they wanted to put the memorial cross again, they have to apply to the Home Minister in Rangoon. The Military has also ordered the postponement of Centenial celebrations in Haka until april.
The Burmese military is systematically persecuting Christians in Burma and seems intent on “cleansing” the country of its Chin population. Well over 90% of the Chin population in Burma is Christian.
UNCERTAINTY TO CELEBRATE CENTENRY
The uncertainty of celebrating the Chin Christian Centenary to be held in Haka, the capital of Chin State, is reported from inside Burma to CHRO as follows:
“It is likely that we are not going to have the Centenary Celebration” Rev. Tialkap said. The military personnel in Haka said, as Tialkap quoted, ” Your celebrating seems like it is going to be very elaborate. We cannot give you permission to have the celebration because some foreign guests are also invited. You have to seek the permission from the Ministry of Home and Internal Affairs”. Rev. Tialkap told CHRO yesterday (3rd of Feb’99) that a request is being made to the Ministry of Home and Internal Affairs. If the application is turned down, they will proceed by approaching the General Secretary-1(Khin Ngunt). If the General secrectary-1 persists in refusing them, there’s no prospect of celebrating the Centenary.
Although the Centennial Celebration Committee tried to negotiate with military personnel in Haka before approaching the Ministry of Home and Internal Affairs, to see if they would consider not inviting the foreign guests, their attempts were in vain.
VILLAGERS TREATENED WITH LAND MINES
CHRO has received a report that Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) from IB 274 Lungler camp, Thantlang town ship are roaming around villages, threatening to plant land mines on the main roads and surrounding areas. When the villagers plead against this, the army demands money from them. Soldiers from IB 274 are using this tactic to get money from the villagers.
ARMY OR BANDIT?
In Thantlang township,villagers from Bungkhua and surrounding villages used to go to Mizoram, India, which is a days walk, to sell their goods (domestic animals etc,.). On their return, they would buy their daily basic necessities instead of going to Thantlang town, which is 4-day walk from the area. In the rainy season, however the villagers have a diffculty to cross over the Tiao river. Therefore, for the travellers’convenience, the villagers requested Ngunding from Bungkhua village to provide the service of his paddle row-boat. Ngunding agreed to the arrangement and built a hut near the river which sold snacks and tea. The travellers used to rest at the hut. On 16 July 1998, a military troop led by Serg. Tun Lin from IB 307, came to the place and threatened the people by firing off their guns. When the hut dwellers ran away, the following items were stolen by the troops.
Rice 5- full baskets @ kyats 1,500 = kyats7,500
Blanket 2- pieces @ kyats 1,200 = kyats1,200
Pots 1- piece @ kyats 1,000 = kyats1,000
A knife 1- piece @ kyats 1,200 = kyats1,200
Chickens 2- birds @ kyats 700 = kyats 400
Seasoning 1- packet @ kyats 450 = kyats 450
Cooking oil 1/2-bottle @ kyats 175 = kyats 175
Milk 3- packet @ kyats 420 = kyats1,260
Sugar 3-kg @ kyats 210 = kyats 420
They forced a villager to buy some of the stolen rice for kyats 1,000. To date, the rest of the stolen items have not yet been sold.
MONKS AND SPDC’S SOLDIERS UNITE FOR ONE PURPOSE
Rev. Biakthang (name changed) is a missionary who was sent by the Lautu Christian Association of Thantlang township to Ann town in Arakan State. Rev. Biakthang’s wife unfortunately passed away in October 1996. In November,1998, he left the mission center for Thantlang to attend the Lautu association mass meeting. While he was away, his house was burgled jointly by monks and soldiers. They even dug out his wife’s gravestone and destroyed the stone inscription. In his letter to a friend in December, he wrote “Though I was called by the military office, after interrogations I was released without harm”. He also mentioned in his letter that some evangelists sent by Church of Jesus Christ who work in the area were beaten badly by Buddhist monks together with soldiers.
KYATS 20,000 PER VILLAGE TRACK FOR ARMY HQR SCHOOLS
In June 1998 SPDC issued the order to close down all self supported private schools in Chin State. While ordering to close down self supported private school in Chin State, the SPDC army forced Chin villagers to pay for construction of army Headquarters School. Lt. Col Saw Thun, the commander of LIB 538 ordered 18 villages that under the command of Sinletwa army camp in Paletwa township has to contribute 18-ft. long 400 poles of bambo and 100 cubic feet wood to construct Battalion 538 Headquarters School before November 15 1998. The army warned and threatened the villagers that they had to pay three times if they could not meet the requirement before the dead line. It was harvesting period and the villagers were busy with their farm works. When they pleaded to the army for forgiveness, the battalion commander told them to pay Kyat 20,000/- per each village tract. There are 6-village tracts.