VOL.IV No.II MARCH-APRIL 2001
Burmese Soldiers Arrested A Female Pastor in Chin State
February 28, 2001 ,Ottawa
Chin Human Rights Organization received a report that pastor Grace from Rinpi Baptist Church, Haka township was arrested by the Burmese soldiers from Haka, the capital of Chin State on February 13, 2001. She ( the pastor ) is now detain in Haka army camp.
Pastor Gracy was accused of supporting the Chin National Front CNF by giving accommodation. Last year, Pu Hoi Mang the eldest brother of pastor Grace was arrested by the Burmese soldiers and sentenced him to a two years jail term with hard labour. Pu Hoi Mang was accused of supporting the Chin National Front. Pu Hoi Mang is now serving his jail term at the Kalaywa concentration camp.
Under increasing military rule, the Chins are currently suffering many of the same abuses as other ethnic groups living along the border region of Burma. However, a specific characteristic of the human rights abuses suffered in Chin State is religious persecution.
Ethnic Leader Arrested In Burma
New Delhi, March 26, 2001
A prominent ethnic leader closed to Burma’s pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested recently in Burma, despite the talks between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta had been going on since October last year for the possible return of “political stability” in this military-run country. Reports reaching here said that Mr. Gin Kam Lian, Secretary General of the Zomi National Congress (ZNC) was arrested on 19th March at Mawlamyine, Mon State in southern Burma by the junta’s security forces.
Dr. Kenneth who worked as financial secretary of the ZNC disclosed this in an interview with Mizzima News Group today. “He was very closed to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We don’t know why he was arrested and his whereabouts now”, said Dr. Kenneth.
“It is absolutely unjust to arrest Mr. Gin Kam Lian. He is a known ethnic leader working closely with Amaji (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi)”, commented Dr. Kenneth.
Mr. Gin Kam Lian had been actively working in the Committee for Representing People’s Parliament (CRPP), which was formed in September 1998 with the representatives of political parties that had won in the 1990 elections in Burma.
The Zomi National Congress (ZNC) won two parliamentary seats in the elections but the junta cancelled the party registration in 1992.
Burmese junta has not made any announcement on the arrest of Mr. Gin Kam Lian. The junta has also arrested the president of ZNC Mr. Cin Sian Thang in 1999.
[Source: Mizzima News Group (http://www.mizzima.com) ]
Being An Elected MP In Burma
March 4, 2001
He was one of the rich persons in the town a decade ago. But things have changed dramatically since the multi-party elections were allowed to be held by the ruling military junta in 1990. Now, he is struggling hard to survive with his tiny tea shop, facing daily harassment of the military authorities. The guilt is nothing but being an elected Member of Parliament from the National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The NLD party led by the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won in a landslide victory, securing more than 80% of the parliamentary seats in the May 1990 election. He was one of the winning MPs, elected with overwhelming votes against the military-backed National Unity Party (NUP).
His name is U Maung Kyun Aung, above 60, an NLD MP from the Rathae Taung Township Constituency No. 1 in Rakhaing State.
There were two members of parliament in the township, one U Thar Noe was elected from Rathae Taung (2) from the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) and the other was U Maung Kyun Aung from Rathae Taung (1) from the National League for Democracy (NLD). U Thar Noe fled the country in 1995 and now takes shelter in India as an exiled MP.
The ruling junta, known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), refuses to honour the verdict of the people and never allows to convene the people’s parliament even though it is already more than ten years after the elections were held.
U Maung Kyun Aung has faced and continues to face the regular harassment, intimidation and threat by the military intelligence (MI) personnel in the town. He was initially offered bribe by the junta’s agents but later detained when he turned down their offer.
After the release, since 1998, the MI Unit 18 has been forcing him with various methods to resign both from the MPship and from the NLD party.
But, he consistently refuses to bow to these pressure. The consequences are that the military intelligence personnel have been disturbing whatever business he does, the government-sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) members threatening the local people not to do any business with U Maung Kyun Aung. They had, indeed, troubled the local people who did business with the NLD-MP.
As a result, once-a-rich U Maung Kyun Aung lost his wealth and has reached to a point where he has to open a small teashop in his hometown for survival. But, that still doesn’t make him free from the troubles. Recently, his son was sentenced to six-month prison for “destabilising the security of township.” One or two members of the local intelligence unit and the USDA everyday come and sit at his tea shop not because they like his tea very much but to put the words around that the customers would be troubled if they continue to come to the teashop. The customers are threatened they would be even charged. And now, many dare not to come. But, U Maung Kyun Aung continues to stand on as a NLD-MP in this town of South-western Burma.
[ Source: Mizzima News Group ]
Night Watch Duty By Civilian Persists In Town In Chin State
Since mid 1997, civilians in northern Chin State’s Thantlang town have been regularly forced by the Burmese Army to do night watch duty. The duty does not spare even lone widows, according to information received from Thantlang.
The civilian sentry duty was enforced in 1997 by the Army in the wake of the National Student Sport Festival in Hakha to ensure security in the urban areas. Thantlang town is divided into seven blocks in which one sentry post is built in each block where four civilians from each block have to do the sentry duty every night. This duty goes on a rotating basis and lone widows who can not perform the duty by themselves have to hire one able person for Kyats 80 per night. A mandatory fine of money is imposed on those who fail to do the duty, said ( name omitted for security reason ) who is a student in Thantlang. The duty starts as soon as it is dark and lasts until dawn. The soldiers are conducting a regular and surprise check during the night to ensure people are doing their duty carefully. If they found out that someone is dozing off while on duty, the soldiers severely beat and punish that person.
Households who can afford to pay Kyats 10,000 to the Block Peace and Development Council are exempted from the duty for one year. Block PDC members themselves are required to do separate duty every night at each Block PDC Office. Though the citizens of Thantlang are greatly disappointed over the forcible duty imposed on them, they are left with no choice but to continue to perform the duty as they are afraid of the army authorities.
How Polio Vaccines Are Given In Chin State
Nurses who give Polio vaccination to children across Chin State are surprised at the abrupt termination since January 2001 of a customary practice of paying Kyats 50 to every child receiving the vaccination. Under the auspices of UNICEF, polio vaccine has been given to children in Chin State once every year accompanied by cash award of Kyats 50 to the vaccinated child. Nurses have told the parents that they are wondering how the payments have been stopped-whether the money have been embezzled by persons in charge of the program or whether the UNICEF itself has terminated it, said one person coming from inside Chin State.
In the past years, doctors used to allocate the polio vaccine along with the cash money to be given to the vaccinated children, to nurses who are giving the vaccination. However, to every ones surprise, the practice of paying cash award was stopped this year. The program is being undertaken under the supervision of Deputy Health Assistant Director of Chin State and at township levels, Township Medical Officers are responsible to manage the program. The TMO is responsible for holding a meeting with nurses in the second week of December every year where he allocates the vaccine to the nurses for distribution. It is learned that the nurses did not dare to question the issue of cash award during the meeting with the TMO last December. More than 15 nurses are operating under the program in the township of Thantlang alone. On 14 January 2001, one nurses told the villagers of ( village name omitted ) about the termination of cash award while giving over 30 children! the vaccination along with one other nurse, said one person coming from Chin State.
Army Authorities In Chin State Imposed Levy On Farmers
Name Laipa ( Name change )
Occupation: LPDC chairman and farmer
Marital Status: Married with 4 children
Address: ++++village, Falam Township, Chin State
Date of Interview: 14/01/2001
Some months ago, Township Peace and Development Council chairman in Falam summoned a meeting where he invited all Village PDC chairmen in the township and informed us that the government would no longer allow shifting cultivation in the area with immediate effect. He told us that anyone continuing the shifting cultivation would be arrested and imprisoned and that the shifting cultivation would be replaced by wet cultivation. We all pleaded to him that since most people do not have fields to do the wet cultivation without the current shifting form of cultivation, we would have nothing to eat and would all die. He said that he would allow us to continue the shifting cultivation under one condition-that everyone doing it would pay Kyats 60 to the authorities.
Therefore, for the year 1999-2000 every household pays kyat 60 each to the authorities in return for their permission. There are 10 villages in the Zahau village tract all of which have to pay the same amount to the authorities. They are Haimual, Thipcang, Hnathial (a), Hnathial (b), Zawngte, Ngailan, Seilawn, Sih Ngai, Tlang Kawi, Leilet village.
There are 40 households in our village and we paid Kayts 2,400 altogether regardless of the household is a widow. For the year 2000-2001, we were told that we have to pay another Kyats 60 per household. We have already cleared the site for cultivation, but if we do not pay the money then we would not be allowed to proceed. We are also fearful of arrest and imprisonment.
Burmese Refugees In India To Go Hungry
Fear of possible starvation looms among Burmese refugees in India after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in New Delhi announced in mid January that it will stop assisting them with monthly subsistence allowance of Rs.1400 per person, about US$30.
The announcement, which the refugees responded with great disappointment, came with the cited reason of ” the low availability of UNHCR budget allocation for its mission office in New Delhi for the year 2001 resulting from scaling down of financial contributions by potential donor countries”.
Although the refugees are informed that the termination of Subsistence Allowance payment will come into effect in April 2001, there are some refugees such as Salai Aung Cin Thang who had already been terminated his allowance. The UNHCR will, however, continue to assist those extremely vulnerable individuals such as single women and children.
More than 800 Burmese nationals are registered refugees under the mandate of UNHCR in New Delhi. The number constitutes only a few in an estimated 40,000-50,000 Burmese refugees in India who could manage to come to the capital city to claim UNHCR’s person of concern status. Most refugees are ethnic Chin from western Burma who fled serious human rights abuses including forced labor, rape, summary killing and religious persecution by the military regime in their home country. They are mostly Christians and have been subject to religious and racial persecution by the military junta, which came to power in a bloody coup in 1988.
Concentrated mainly in the western suburban area of New Delhi, the refugees live in cheap-rented accommodations from the local landlords. They have no other means of supporting themselves and are largely dependent on humanitarian assistance provided by UNHCR to cover their basic needs such as food and shelter. The Government of India does not recognize them as refugees, though it has issued residential permit to those already recognized by UNHCR, which is to be extended every 6 months.
Locked between persecution at home and poverty in their country of asylum, the refugees have been over the years, faced with extreme social problems including health, education and above all, integrating into the local community. In July 2000, many refugee families were evicted from their houses by their landlords when the UNHCR delayed payment of monthly subsistence allowance to them for about 2 months. Already impoverished, it is predictable that once the UNHCR stops paying them allowance in April, they will face an even more serious problem such as homelessness and starvation.
According to UNHCR, it has three available options in finding solution to refugee problems, voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement to a third country. The refugees are now asking that they be resettled to a third country such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as it is the only solution left to address their plights. However, UNHCR is insisting that resettlement is the least preferred solution and is contingent entirely on those countries to accept the refugees.
Burmese Refugees Write To Kofi Annan For Help
New Delhi, March 17, 2001
Burmese refugees have appealed to United Nations Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan to intervene in the difficulties they are facing in India. The All Burmese Refugees Committee (ABRC), in a letter today, states that the Burmese refugees living in Delhi have been facing problems and difficulties in their stay in India and the local police has failed to provide necessary protection for their security and lives.
The letter has narrated details of recent events where some local people beat the refugees in Delhi for wrongly accused acts and the police failed to give protection to the Burmese refugees.
According to the refugee committee, on 13th March, a group of local people in Mehrauli, south Delhi, beat some Burmese refugees living in the area, accusing the refugees of “kidnapping” an Indian child.
The local police, instead of giving protection, beat the refugees again both on the spot and in the police station. At least two Burmese refugees were badly beaten, said the refugees committee. Later, the police filed a FIR against Mr. David Ral Bik, 18, for allegedly kidnapping the Indian child. The police sent him to Tihar Jail in Delhi the next day.
The Burmese refugees committee denied the accusation. “The (Indian) child was just playing with one of our children that morning. There was no such kidnapping”, said Mr. Mang Lian, General Secretary of the refugees committee.
The refugees committee has allegedly that the local police force has failed to give necessary protection to the Burmese refugees in Delhi whenever such situation arises.
At present, there are nearly one thousand refugees from Burma living in Delhi. Most of them are Chin nationals from Burma. The All Burmese Refugees Committee (India), one of the refugees’ groupings, has appealed to the UN Secretary General to intervene in the matters relating to the Burmese refugees in India to ease their hardship and problems.
[ Source: Mizzima News Group ]
FACTS & ARGUMENTS
Secret Negotiations – The Myanmar Mentality
If it is “Government for the people of the people by the people,” then why on earth be secretive seems to be the logical hypothesis of the secret negotiations going on between the Burmese military Junta and the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi followers of the pro democracy forces. Is there something to hide? Or is it Myanmar is negotiating with a Myanmar and leaving out the ethnic groups? These are just some of the soul searching questions with which the people of Burma have been racking their brains with little or no answer. The people listen to the news reports, rumors, speculation and jokes. It is already nearly half a year that the so-called secret negotiations had been going on between the two sides and up to day nothing substantive has emerged. Are we expected to have blind faith in the negotiations?
Even though we visualize that the talks between the two antagonists are serious and significant, no one knows the substance of the talks except Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Generals. There have been no official announcements and even the Burmese media controlled by the Generals has not reflected their views and are tight lipped. Why?
The major concern is that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy nymph, is the only person involved from the pro democracy group while her Executive Committee including U Tin Oo, U Aung Shwe, U Nyunt Wai and so on, are barred from participation. Why? Is it because the Generals construe that their bullying tactics will pay off? We are afraid that there are more questions than answers regarding these so-called secret negotiations. On the other hand if Gen. Khin Nyunt reports to China and General Maung Aye to India about the progress of the reports why are we left in dark for after all this is an internal Burmese affair, as according to the logic of the Junta.
The only thing with regard to this is that there is no substantive political agreement has been reached up to this time. Nothing has been announced. Then what is all this secret negotiating all about? No laws have been repealed and this explicitly means that a handful of those who were already released can be re-arrested and tortured again. This does not includes the fate of thousands of political prisoners like Min Ko Naing, Daw San San Nwe and the likes who are rotting in Burmese jails. Neither do we see any law enacted to ensure basic human rights and democratic principles. If it is genuinely a step by step approach negotiations must at least show some progress as time goes on.
In the meantime, forced labour has been going on unabated. According to an ILO document there are over 800,000 Burmese subjected to forced labour at any given time. Many children are forced to work in infrastructure projects under the banner of voluntary labour while others have to eke out their living in sweatshops. There has been forced relocation of people from their native homes. These people were forced out to make way for government projects and sent to unhealthy places with no running water or sanitary system. Ethnic cleansing has been going on with might and main in the ethnic inhabited area while religious persecution and religious riots are very much encouraged and initiated. Moreover there is not the slightest attempt on the part of the military government to curb the gross human rights violations committed by the Burmese soldiers against the civilians.
What more proof is wanted than the Junta was not at all serious about these negotiation when it launched a major offensive against the dissidents, both to the pro-democracy forces of the border area and the ethnic freedom fighters. Their goal is complete annihilation and in their zeal to implement it the Junta forces have crossed the border into Thailand in hot pursuit resulting in the clashes with the Thai armed forces. Like in any military operations fleeing refugees and forced portering were common. The porter to walk in front of the soldiers so that they will be the first to be blown up in case of land mines. Lack of mechanized division and manpower has compelled the Burmese army to recruit women porters who become slave labour during the day and sex slaves at night. The more military operations there are the more forced labour, portering, rape, pillaging of villages and other gross human rights violations will occur.
The Junta has to be judged by its actions and not by its words and these actions clearly spell out that it is just stalling for time with these secret negotiations in order to strengthen their grip on the country and preventing any international action against them.
The only solace from this “Hush Hush Negotiation” is that the Junta, after a dozen years has realized that the pro democracy forces led by Daw Suu and the NLD could not be annihilated as they have previously boasted and vowed to do. Now they are being forced to find alternatives if they are indeed serious about solving the problems, which they are now facing. The moral authority of Daw Suu over the entire Burmese people coupled with international backing is too much to handle for the Junta. Hence, they have embarked on this dialogue which everybody hopes will eventually lead to national reconciliation and solve the Burmese problem. With this end in view, the regime has taken a few minor steps to relax the political atmosphere and possibly explore the potential for further international development assistance. But hopes spring eternal in human breast. Still, it is important for the people to be pragmatic and must be able to see the situation correctly, to wei! gh the pros and the cons.
Unlike the leading Asian nations of China, India and Japan that want the status quo or the Association of Southeast Nation’s Constructive Engagement Policy which clearly encourage the Burmese Military Junta, the West and the United Nations and its related agencies the ILO have spoken a language which the Junta clearly understands and it has borne fruit in terms of these secret negotiations. Now we would like to advice the international community to continue to speak in the same language to compel the Junta to bow to the people’s will. We would like to see both the European Union and the US take the necessary steps as well, to broaden the substance of the talk by including the ethnic representatives. At the same time they must be ready to administer more punitive actions and further sanctions if the Junta endeavours to trick the people of Burma and the international community. We must bear in mind that the Generals, like their mentor U Ne Win are very wicket ! crafty, evil and tyrannical.
On the other hand the Junta is not completely monolithic. There are several well-known hard-liners that are opposed to the talks and still harbour the idea that they alone are patriotic and that they should be the monarchs of all they survey. The latest episode of the helicopter crash in the Salween river of the Junta’s No.4 man, General Tin Oo and the cabinet ministers, including the supreme commander of the Southeastern division, Thura Sit Maung demonstrates the power struggle going on among them. In military Burma, almost every major accident has been orchestrated to make and appear that the liquidation of that particular person were an unfortunate incident. Those power maniacs will stop at nothing. Nor will they hesitate at killing their own lieutenant in such a way as to appear as if it is an accident when ever their position is threaten.
We would like to echo the session of International Confederation of Free Trade Union’s (ICFTU) which has over 120 million workers for solidarity, and ensure that the ILO continues to take action against the Burmese Junta. The ILO should follow up with the Ministry of Labour of every member country inquiring of what responses has been given to the ILO resolution and what measures they have taken to implement it. This is because we understand that thorough research by the ILO throughout these years has come up with the conclusion that it is virtually impossible for any foreign firm, company, government or other institution, to conduct any trade or other economic activity with Burma without providing direct financial support to the military Junta. Both the ILO and the ICFTU have confirmed that any commercial or economic links with Burma perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labour.
All this indicates that the Junta is not sincere in its negotiations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The very nature of “Secret Negotiations” means they have something to hide from the public. How can a Myanmar power negotiating with another Myanmar can speak about the Non Myanmar (ethnic groups) when xenophobia and chauvinism runs deep into the Myanmar veins? This is the type of stereotyping perhaps as their cult, history and traditions reinforced such attitudes but to suggest the ideas are inherent I think is a mistake. Experience for nearly half a century even prior to the Burmese military take over has made the non-Myanmar groups wary of these under-table negotiations. Maybe it is high time for the ethnic groups and the international community to acknowledge that the only way to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, gross human rights violations and narco producing is to let the ethnic groups go their own way, if the spirit of the Union is absent in the Myanmar! group. This will be going against the very grain of the “Panglong Spirit” and the vision of the architects and the founding members of modern Burma. But this disintegration of the Union, like former Yugoslavia, is far better to be than one group over-lording it over and bullying the other group in perpetuity. At least the Burmese generals contributed to this situation and the day will sadly come eventually when there is no other choice.
Burma’s basic problem is rooted in ethnic conflict among the people who don’t want to share the same national identity; and if in this secret negotiations ethnic representatives are not included nothing will improve because Myanmar and Buddhist chauvinism is dominant. Conventional human rights have at times worsened discrimination in Burma by inadvertently validating stereotypes of the aggressive intruders and the meek, innocent victims. A chance must be given to the people to confront their own prejudices about the races inhabiting Burma and the history of their interaction. The people of Burma must confront their feelings about their neighbours with a view of reconciling the wrongs of the past and coexisting peacefully in the future. Ethnic nationalism must be distinctly distinguished from beneficial patriotism. Racial, religious, and linguistic discrimination must be replaced at all level by a willingness to understand and accommodate each other.
What authentic proof is there that this “Secret Negotiations” when all can witness so far is a ploy to stall for time to prevent the ILO resolutions from being implemented. We fear that this may be just a fanciful juggling act to entertain the Burmese people and the rest of the world.
(The author is a visiting Professor at the Faculty of International Development Studies, University of Winnipeg Cum Research Fellow at the University of Manitoba at the Institute of Humanities, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
Burma Army And Forced Recruiting Of Child Soldiers Salai Kipp Kho Lian Burma gained independence from the British in 1948. In 1962 the Army took over the state power and abolished the then existing parliament democracy system. In 1988 there was a nation-wide democracy uprising against the military dictatorship led by the university students. The uprising was brutally crushed by the military (about 10,000 peaceful demonstrators were massacred nation-wide) and many students joined the ethnic rebels that have been fighting against the central government since Burma’s independence. The students set up an armed movement called All Burma Students Democracy Front at Manerplaw, the Headquarters of the Karen National Union. Even though many ethnic rebels have striked cease -fire agreements with the military regime the KNU, ABSDF and some other ethnic rebels continue their armed struggle.
Since the said 1988 uprisings was crushed the military junta planned to expand the army from the 200,000 up to 400,000. But the post-1988 generations of young people are so disillusioned with the military regime that they instead have sympathy with the students and ethnic armed groups.
Moreover, the masses are dissatisfied with the military’s failure to hand over the state power to the 1990 election-winning party, the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner. (The said election was initiated by the military regime itself, which promised to honour the results of the elections. But it refused to hand the political power to the above-mentioned party which had won more than 80 % of the votes.
As the army could not get enough volunteers willing to join the army they started to demand quota from each town and village tracts to recruit young people to join the army. Since no one wants to join the army the township and village tracts authorities have to bribe young people by offering K 20,000 to K 30,000 if they would join the army. Because of dire poverty people have no other choices, so some accept the army’s officer just to run away after the military training. As such the army also started to kidnap young people and children – many of them are still ten years old – and force them to join the army. Soldiers who could trick more children into joining the army are rewarded with money or other privileges. ( The soldiers who could trick or kidnap children to join the army are given Kyats 1000 for each child while the monthly salary of an infantry soldier was merely Ks 750,- (that was before 1999). [The military regime has now raised the junior soldier! s’ salary to K 5500.- since 1998/99]
Below are some of the privileges of the trainees and soldiers:-
– Criminals or juvenile delinquents who have committed any crime (except murder and rape) will be freed from any punishment once a contract – to stay in the army for at least ten years – has been signed. Murderers who joined the army are freed from punishment after the four-month military training. (Usually new recruits are forced to sign the contract the moment they enter the training camps);
– Deserters who want to avoid punishment can re-join the Army as new recruits under a new name. They only need to provide their previous serial numbers so that the officers could delete them from the list.
Children of ten years old, or who are still too young to go through the military training are stationed to work at the kitchen at the army barracks to make sure they are well-fed and become strong enough and ready for military training. Children who complain about their being kidnapped or who strongly expose their unwillingness to remain in the army are locked up in a kind of jail they call “special rooms” day and night except during the training courses. Some children who speak out aggressively against their conditions are locked up with iron chains at their feet.
If anyone runs away during the training the parents are arrested and locked up in the Army until their children return to the training camps.
The Army also drafts juvenile delinquents from juvenile prisons in Rangoon. The child soldiers are not well-fed during the training and a lot of restrictions are imposed on them. Moreover, most of the time they are forced to do hard labour jobs inside the army compounds. The military trainings are mere parade and a few days of lectures on arms and ammunition. As a result the child soldiers are ill-trained in military skills and faced a lot of difficulties in the front-line. Once these children in the front-line they are free from all restrictions imposed on them during the training and feel free to break any law. Especially those from the juvenile prisons are notorious for their indiscipline and cruel behaviours towards civilians at the front line as they are now well- equipped with arms and have the army’s protection from punishment by the police.
Once they are in the front-line these young soldiers are not given their full monthly wages. As they do not have enough money they start looting the fouls and properties of villagers. The army officers are offered portions of anything looted and the more they could offer their officers the more privileges they get. However, in due course these young soldiers become unhappy with their own situation and are always looking for chances to run away.
During the training (after the salary raise in 1998/99) the trainees are officially paid K 3000.- monthly salary. But they could draw only K 1000.- The rest of their salaries are deducted by officers for expenses like uniform, or for the wooden boxes they got from the army, life insurance, fund savings for celebration to be held when the training is over (which never take place), etc., etc. Moreover, every now and then the soldiers are ordered to torture or kill villagers whom the officers may accuse them of rebel sympathizers, most often without any hard evidence. So the young soldiers are very unhappy with the army. They have more sympathy for the rebels and civilians, especially since the 1988 mass-uprisings.
[This report is compiled for the Rhododendron News by Salai Kipp Kho Lian of the CHIN FORUM INFORMATION SERVICE based on personal account of a Burmese ex-child soldier, who wish to remain anonymous.]
The Most Common Causes Of The Chin People’s Exodus
Hre Mang, Hartwick College, New York
As the implementation of the Independence Agreement was impeded, the Chin people’s inherited land was divided into three parts. Apart from the Chin State, the other parts were annexed to Sagaing division and Magwe division. The Chin people are approximately 2.5 million in number. There are many sub-groups among the Chins – Zo, Lai, Kuki, Lushai, Matu, Khumi, Asho, etc. There are nine district centres – Tidim, Tawnzang, Falam, Haka, Thlantlang, Matupi, Kanpalet, Paletwah and Mindat. The people who called themselves “Zomi” occupied Falam, Haka and Thantlang Districts; the Matu people occupied Matupi District, Asho and Khumi people occupied Mindat, Kanpalet and Pletwa Districts; and in Magwe and Sagaing divisions different sub-tribes of Chin people occupied the land. There are many different dialects that the Chin people speak. There is no common official Chin language, but Falam (Laizo) is used for broadcasting radio programmes. 80% of the total population are! Christians, the rest are animist, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. The Chin State is mostly hilly area. Only in Magwe and Sagaing division are there plains which can be used for cultivation.
There are no national highways connecting the important places in Chin State. It is connected to the central part of Burma by small roads. Therefore, there is no common place for the Chin people to meet. Moreover, there has been no daily or periodical newspaper circulating within the State. There is also no radio station within the State. There is only the Chin program, which is broadcast from Rangoon, the capital city of Burma. This program is 30 minutes everyday – and is the official mouthpiece – 15 minutes are for the news, and the other 15 minutes for songs. Burmese is the official language, and there is no Chin common language that all the Chin people can understand. The literacy rate is very low. While Burma is among the poorest countries of the world, the Chin State is the poorest state in Burma.
1) Political turmoil and bad administration
For several decades, against the will of the Chin people, the Burmese military regime has been controlling the Chins and their inherited land. In 1988, there was a public demonstration by Chin students, workers and the general public against the military regime. But when the military regime brutally oppressed the pro-democratic movement, thousands of Chins left their motherland to escape from the hands of the oppressors. Though the Chin revolutionary movement had started before 1988, the 1988 country-wide pro-democracy demonstration was the most significant event in recent decades in which the Chin people strongly protested against the military regime. This demonstration led to many people being killed, and to thousands leaving their country and seeking refuge in other countries.
Under the military regime, all the important administrative posts are controlled by army officers, even at the district and village level, where only the Chin people live on their inherited land. Any army officer has more authority, and is superior to any village president, or the head of the community. These army officers directly controlled the public administration. As a result, all protesters and supporters of democracy were wiped out under martial law. The armed forces, who are not bound by any laws, treat the local people brutally. Thus, the Chins live in constant fear of the armed forces and without any political freedom within their own country.
Especially in rural areas, under fear of the armed forces, people do not want to be involved in any aspect of public administration where they have to deal with the armed forces. Any community leader or administrator has to cater to the demands of both the Burmese army and of the underground insurgency group. Many village heads have been condemned with imprisonment, without having undergone the proper legal procedure for helping the underground group.
At the same time, the head of the community is the agent of the insurgents for collecting taxes and whatever else they demand from the public. The people actually pay tax twice, once to the Burmese army, and once to the insurgents. When the Burmese army comes to know about it, the head of the village is usually put into jail. Hence, the local people do not want to get involved in any administrative capacity, and the army forces somebody whom they can use as their administrative agent to become the head of the community.
The army violates the Chin people’s rights and dignity by their actions. The people are obliged to do anything that the armed forces demand, like portering, forced labour and material contribution etc. Especially in the villages, the army also oppresses the people; murders, rapes, tortures and persecutions are common. Not only does the government not initiate any development projects for the people, it does not even allow them to do any development work for themselves. In such a situation, the society becomes disorganised and the people fear the armed forces. They are unable to work towards their progress. This has caused many of them to leave their country and seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Though they are homeless and live as illegal immigrants, they prefer their exiled lives, as they have escaped fear and hunger in their hometown.
Throughout the political and economic crisis in Burma, the bad administration has affected public education. Since 1988, there has been no proper educational programme. Schools, colleges and universities have been closed from time to time. Due to the sharp political contentions between the military regime and the public, the schools could not be run efficiently. Due to poverty, teachers could not concentrate on their duties. The teachers and lecturers earn meagre salaries, which are below their minimum basic expenditure. There are many private tuition classes started by the lecturers. For students to pass their examinations, it is necessary for them to attend these classes, but the poorer class students cannot afford the fees. As a result, many people could not let their children continue their education, and many of the children are demoralised. Even the students who can meet the higher costs cannot hope to work for the military regime, because the employme! nt opportunities are very limited and the wages are meagre. This situation crushes all expectations of the young people. As a result, the people have remained without adequate education, and most of the Chin refugees are not highly educated.
2) Forced labour
Forced labour has caused thousands of people to leave their country. It consumed the energy, money, materials and time of the Chin people, and was detrimental to their dignity and welfare. Forced labour is used for road construction, army camp construction, hydroelectric project, pottering….? and trench-digging. Not only men and women, but also animals (horse, buffalo etc.) and vehicles are also demanded by the army for their service.
Whenever the construction of roads or railways, or maintenance work was undertaken, the people are asked to give their services without being given any wages. People have to go and stay at the location of the work, and carry their own supplies for the duration of the work. At the location, the army guards them with guns.
As the strength of the army has been increased, many new army camps are opened and some old camps are expanded in the Chin state. The surrounding villagers have to bring materials for construction, and give as much labour as demanded. They also have to dig trenches within and around the army camps. The Burmese army called forced labour “Luk Aa Pi”, which means “offering service by free will”. Actually, the villagers offered their service against their own free will and due to force, which is in Burmese “Atin Luk Aa Pi”, meaning “forced labour”.
In many places, people don’t get time to work for their own livelihood because of the forced labour. Moreover, they still have to pay taxes and give materials and goods to both the military regime and the ethnic insurgents. They have no social security or medical aid. If anybody refuses to obey the orders of the army, or demands his or her rights, he or she is put in jail. Though many are not actually shot down, most of the people are oppressed and suffer economic ruin. As a result, many of them leave their country.
3) Democratic Movement
Since 1988 Chin students, workers and public have agitated for the Burmese pro-democratic movement, which has cost thousands of lives, and caused the exodus of thousands. Since the tumultuous public demonstration of 1988, many Chins left their home town and fought for the promotion of democratic rule in Burma. Some have joined the violent division, while others have joined the non-violent course for the promotion of democratic rule. Thousands of refugees are in India and other countries.
Within and outside Chin State, many have been agitating and fighting for self-determination of Chin people and for the promotion of democratic rule in Burma. Whoever supported the Chin national political movement, the Burmese army crushed them and punished them with endless imprisonment. The Burmese army has been trying to uproot all political activists working against them. There are many who have been in jail for the political movement, and even Chin pastors and religious leaders are also imprisoned on suspicion, without being allowed to undergo the proper judicial procedure in court. Among the Chin political parties and organisations, the prominent ones are the Chin National Front, Chin National Council, Chin National League for Democracy. The Chin political parties and organisations join hands with other democratic fronts of all ethnic groups for the promotion of democratic rule in Burma. Politically, Chins stand for self-determination and for re-establi! shment and reunification within the Federal Union Country, which is possible only with the resurrection of the Panglong agreement.
4) Human rights violations
As mentioned above, though the natural resources are more than enough for the Chin people to manage and survive within their inherited land, thousands of Chins have left their motherland and sought refuge in India and other neighbouring countries. This is due to the political turmoil and bad administration of the military regime, forced labour and human rights violations by the armed forces, ethnic and religious discrimination, and economic ruin under the military regime. Naturally, Mizoram state of India, where Chin people have sought refuge, has no better resources or means of cultivation, or any additional development project, but the governing system made it different from their inherited land. Some people escaped from the point of the gun and imprisonment, while some others from economic ruin and moral depression. Whatever the exiled Chins may claim about themselves, or however they are treated in their exile lives, the reason for their leaving Burma is! not merely for a better living standard, but to escape from life-threatening situations. Others who do not know how to or cannot move to other parts of the world have stayed within their motherland, where the darkness of moral depression covers the land. In fact, the Chin people leave their own country not because it is naturally bad, or the place of their exile is good, but because they want to escape the brutal oppression of the ruling military regime. And according to the survey, almost all the Chins in Mizoram state will go back to their motherland when the military regime steps down, or is replaced by a democratic federal government, where the people rule.
Chin state is located in the western part of Burma, along the international boundary between Burma and India. Besides the present Chin State, some parts of the Chin people’s inherited land are annexed to Magwe and Sagaing divisions. The Chin people’s land was cut in the west by Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram states of India, in the north and east by the Sagaing division, in the south-east by the Magwe division, and in the south by Arakhan state. Almost all areas of Chin state are covered with hills; in Magwe and Sagaing division and in southern Chin there are plains. The mountain peaks are high, the average height being 8700 feet. Arterawtlang (Victoria) is the highest peak at 10,400 feet. In the southern and some lower areas, the high peaks are between 2000 and 4000 feet high. The climate is not extreme, except at the top of the hills. The monsoon lasts from May to October. Average rainfall for the year is between 70 inches and 170 inches. In summer, the temper! ature ranges between 17 to 29 degrees centigrade and in winter temperatures are between 3 to 24 degrees centigrade. Due to the difficult geographical terrain and lack of development, no national highway crosses the Chin state. Only in Sagaing division the national highway crosses the Chin people’s inherited land, connecting the state with Mindat. Mindat has better connections with the central part of the country, and other towns can be reached by a path which can be traversed only by foot, and which is difficult for vehicles to go on. There is no means of air or sea travel within Chin state. Due to the difficult geographical terrain, the rivers of Chin state cannot be used for transportation.
There are various sub-tribes of the Chin people, occupying different regions. In the northern part of the Chin people’s inherited land, which is presently included within Sagaing division, Naga-Chin and Kuki-Chin occupied the land. The Naga tribe lives in Naga Hills, which connects with Nagaland state of India. And to the south of Naga Hills, the place called Kabaw valley is occupied by Kuki and some other tribes. This connects to Manipur state of India. The national highway crosses into India through the Kabaw valley, through Moreh town to Imphal, the capital of Manipur state. Below Kabaw valley is the Kale valley where mixed Chin sub-tribes live. The Kale-Kabaw valleys are mostly plains and are rich in agricultural products.
In the south of Kale-Kabaw valley is located the Kankaw valley which is occupied by Yaw Chin and some other Chin sub-tribes. From the Kankaw valley to the southern area of Asho, other Chin sub-tribes inhabit the land.
Within the present Chin state, starting from the north, specific tribes inhabit the respective districts. The people who call themselves ‘Zomi’ i.e. Paite, Sihzin etc, live in Tidim and Tawnzang districts. And in Falam district live the people who call themselves ‘Laimi’, such as Laizo, Tlaisun, Zaniat, Sim, Jahau, Hualngo etc. And in Thlantlang and Halka districts Zotung, Zophei, Lakher, Cinzah etc. call themselves ‘laimi’. In these three districts, Falam, Haka and Thlantlang, the people call themselves ‘Laimi’. Though there are different dialects, the people are able to communicate well with one another using their own dialects. Coming to the southern part of Chin State, Matupi district is occupied by Matu and other sub-tribes of Chins. And in Mindat, Kanpalet and Paletwa districts, Asho, Cho, Khumi and other sub-tribes of the Chins live. Compared to northern Chin state, the southern part of the state lacks roadways for transport. Between southern and nort! hern Chin state there is no road fit for vehicular traffic, but only foot-paths; to this day people go by foot to the southern or northern part of the State. Therefore, there has been no socio-cultural exchange between the south and north. This has caused a lack of understanding between the Chin people.
Each of the Chin sub-tribes has its own region. Since times of unwritten history, each of the Chin sub-tribes has lived by itself with its own tribal chief within its own independent territory. Before the British colonisation, historically there were constant wars between the tribes and sub-tribes. S such, they did not have an opportunity to develop a common language with which all Chins could communicate with each other.
The most common ways
Naga-Chins, who originated in Naga Hills of northern Sagaing division, which extends into Nagaland state of India, Kukis and some other tribes go to Manipur state of India through the border trade road, which crosses from Tamu of Sagaing division to Moreh, and then to Imphal, the capital city of Manipur state. This border trade is an important road by which smugglers, business men and women cross the country. In Manipur state, there are some tribes of the Chin people : Kukis, Paite, Zomi, Hmar, Kom etc., who welcome the Chin refugees and immigrants. The refugees from Tawnzang and Tidim districts of Chin state go to Manipur state where the same sub-tribes live, who were annexed to India in the time of the British.
There are foot-paths which cross the border from Twanzing and Tidim districts of northern Chin state to Manipur state and Mizoram state : Phaisat-Hengtam, Aisih-Sialsih, Vanglai-Sialsi, Khuavum-Beheng, Haichi-Beheng, Pangmual-Kangkap, Suangbem-Sinjol; and these are foot-paths to Mizoram state : Haichin-Minbung, Selbung-Vaikhawtlang, Tuimang-Khuangphah, Bapi-Hnahlan, Dankhan-Hnahlan, Khawzimte-Tlangsam. Moreover, there is a small vehicle road from Tawnzang of Chin state to Bualkot village of Manipur, and one from Tidim of Chin state to Champhai of Mizoram. This road crosses the border to Tio village in Falam district of Chin state and then Zokhawthar of Champhai district, which are located by the side of Tio river, along the boundary.
From Falam of Chin state, there is one motorable road which passes through the above-mentioned border villages – Rihkhawdar in Chin state and Zokhawthar in Champhai district – and then reaches Champhai of Mizoram state. There are some foot-paths which connect Falam district of Chin state and Mizoram state (naming Chin state villages first and Mizoram state villages second) : Khawthlir-Bulfek, Surbung-Lianpui, Satawn-Vaphai, Leilet-Vaphai, and Farkawn Ngailan-Khankawn.
The following are some footpaths from Thlantlang district of Chin state to Mizoram state : Tlanglo-Farkawn, Zangtlang-Thakte, Dawn-Thakte, and Lungreng, Ralpel-Nagarchip, Lungler-Thingsai, Bungtlang-Bualpui, and Mullianpui, Siallam-Thaltlang, Belbar-Niawhtlang, Tluangram-Lungbun, Zephai-Ainak, Ngalang-Ainik, Lungchawi-Chakang. And some footpaths from southern part of Chin state are : Darling-Chapui, Hlungmang-Chapui, and Khopai. There are also some footpaths, which are not maintained properly, but are used for travelling to Mizoram.
There are two entrances to Chin state from the central part of Burma – The first one is from Kalemyo to Chin state crossing Tidim in one way and Falam in another way, both of which meet at Tio villages of Falam district at the border, to Champhai district of Mizoram. The second entrance way to Chin state from the central part of Burma is Mungzua-Kankaw-Haka, which reaches Thlantlang. There is only one motorable road that properly reaches Mizoram and touches the Mizoram vehicle road at the border; which is both from Falam and Tidim to Tio river. This is the main way by which the Chin people travel to Mizoram. Besides this, in Chin state, there is one border trade road from Sagaing division, which crosses the Chin people’s inherited land, and goes to Manipur state of India. This is the biggest and most important road for Indo-Burma border trade and most of the smugglers and business people use this.
Most of the refugees from Sagaing division, and northern Chin state Tidim, Tawnzang and Falam districts go to northern part of Mizoram. And those of Haka, Thlantlang, and southern part of Chin state Matupi, Mindat, Kanpalet, Paletwa go to southern part of Mizoram state. Though there is no motorable road crossing the border in the southern part, people go to Mizoram by foot.
The distances from the district centres of northern Chin state to the Indo-Burma border are below 100 miles; from Tawnzang and Tidim around 40 miles, from Falam 60 miles, from Haka around 70 miles and from Thlantlang around 40 miles. In the southern part, Matupi is the nearest to Mizoram state. While Mindat and Kanpalet are located close to the central part of Burma, they are far from the Indian border compared to the northern district centres. Paletwa, located at the Southwest of Chin state, has poor ways and means of transportation. Therefore, there are only a few refugees and immigrants from southern people of Chins in Mizoram, compared to the northern peoples. Most of the Chin refugees are from northern and central part of Chin state and from Sagaing division.
For entering India, there are several check gates in the border area, but foreigners’ entry is not totally restricted as India is a democratic country. Moreover, due to the facial similarity between Chins and Mizos, it is very difficult to identify foreigners. In the police stations, there are cases registered against the foreigners for being in Mizoram without legal documents. There is no legal document issued to the Chins, such as temporary visiting permit or residential permit. But the Chins don’t have much difficulty in entering Mizoram state. According to the State Home Minister’s report, 901 Burmese were deported to Burma during 1999. Moreover, hundreds of Chins are stopped and pushed back everyday from Champhai, which is the main entrance to Mizoram for Chins.
From 1988 to 1994, there had been a refugee camp in Champhai, which is 20 kms from the Burma border. But that is no more. Thereafter, there have been no refugee camps or registration offices in Mizoram state. Hence, refugees seek their own shelter using their own means.
According to the Chin tradition, begging is a shameful act. As such, even as refugees, the Chins do not beg or ask for help from the Mizoram people, but try to survive by their own means.
As mentioned above, most Chin refugees from Sagaing division, Kukis and some other Chin tribes go to Manipur state of India, especially to Lamka district of Manipur state. Lamka district was originally owned by the Chin people. And from Tidim and Tawnzang districts of Chin state, people also go to Manipur, which is geographically and ethnically close to the land and the people.
People of various sub-tribes from Kale Valley of Sagaing division, Tidim, Tawnzang and Falam districts of northern Chin state go to places in northern Mizoram such as Champhai and Aizawl districts. The people from Tidim and Tawnzang who call themselves ‘Zomi’, speak the same language as that of the Zomi language in Mizoram and Manipur. There are some tribes in Mizoram state that are the same as Zomi tribes of Chin state. Falam people easily speak Mizo language because Falam language is close to Mizo language. Moreover, Hualngo tribe of Falam speaks the same Mizo language of Mizoram state. Falam people call themselves ‘Laimi’, but there are several sub-tribes such as Laizo, Tlaisun, Zangiat, Sim, Zahau, Hualngo etc. Likewise, there are sub-tribes among the Zomi – Paite, Sihzin etc.
Most of the people from Haka, Thlantlang and Matupi districts go to middle and southern part of Mizoram i.e. Saiha, Lunglei, Lawngtlai districts. In the villages of the border area, there is a concentration of Chin refugees, since most of the refugee families settle there so that they can easily get the kind of work (farming and cultivation) they are already familiar with. According to a council member of a border village in Champhai district, there are 60 Chin refugee families in one particular village. In some places, the local people share their land with the refugees for cultivation. As there is no refugee resettlement programme, nor a registration office that restricts the movement of the refugees in Mizoram state, many people move around the state wherever they can get jobs for their survival. The refugees and the local Mizo people do not use the term ‘refugee’, since they find it strange. Also, for the sake of their own security, the refugees try to b! e assimilated by the local Mizo people as soon as they settle within Mizoram.