Volume Volume VII.No.II. March-April 2004



Volume Volume VII.No.II. March-April 2004




Human Rights:


Chin Women forced to Join Myanmar Women Organization Chaired By Gen. Khin Ngunt’s Wife

Forced Labor in Thantlang Town

Forced Labor In Matupi Township

11 Villages Forced to Work at the Army Tea-Plantation Farm

The SPDC soldiers Collect Illegal Tax from Chin Villagers

Burmese Soldiers on Extortion Rampage

Report Yourself to the Authority or Go to Lockup

Eviction order served to residents of Tamu-Kalay Highway




Let the illegal people leave!

How to treat the Burmese in Mizoram


Religious Persecutions:


State-Sponsored Expansion Of Buddhism In Chin State

Interview With Rev. Dr Chum Awi

How And Why The Burmese Army Murdered Four Chin Christians

By Vum Son Suantak


Facts & Arguments:


The Non-Burman Ethnic People of Burma

By Harn Yawnghwe


Human Rights:


Chin Women forced to Join Myanmar Women Organization Chaired By Gen. Khin Ngunt’s Wife


Aizawl-March 22, 2004: Chin Human Rights Organization received a report that women from northern Chin state of Falam, Haka, Thantlang, Tidim and Tonzang townships are compelled to join a the National Working Committee for Women’s Affairs (NWCWA) chaired by Dr. Khin Win Shwe, the wife of SPDC’s Prime Minister and Burmese military intelligent chief Gen. Khin Ngunt.


According to CHRO source, Dr. Khin Win Shwe, chairperson of NWCWA ordered that every woman of age between 10 and 60 in northern Chin state register themselves with their respective township peace and development office to be members of the organization.


Every woman of eligible age is to pick up the application form at the Township Peace and Development Council offices or at Village Peace and Development Council Offices at the rate of 5 kyats. In addition to application form fee, 300/- Kyats is charged as a membership fee.


A few days after Aung San Suu Kyi visited Chin state last year, Dr. Khin Win Shwe visited Chin state in March 2003. The authority has forced the local residents to welcome Dr. Khin Win Shwe.


Forced Labor in Thantlang Town


March 22, 2004: CHRO received a report that starting from the first week of March, Thantlang town resident in northern Chin state are forced to construct the sidewalks for the town’s main street.


Thantlang Township Peace and Development Council Chairman U Luu Tin ordered the town residents to finish the sidewalk of the main street before the end of March 2004. According to the order, any household that does not complete their quota before the end of March will be punished by the authority. Additionally, the residents are to face punishment if their work does not meet the standard set by the township landscaping office.


The authority does not provide any necessary material to construct the sidewalks and the local residents have to purchase brick, stone and cements etc out of their own pocket. Thus, some residents have to spend as much as 100,000/- Kyats to 200,000/-Kyat, in addition to their labor, to construct the sidewalks.


Forced Labor In Matupi Township


March 25, 2004: Over two hundred villagers are being forced to work at road construction between Sabawngte army camp and Darling village. Major Thant Zin Oo, deputy battalion commander of Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 268, ordered civilians to repair the road connecting Sabawngte army camp and Darling village in central Chin state. The forced labor started on March 8, 2004 and continued till the day this report is made.


The villages that are engaged in the forced labor are; 40 people from Sabawngpi village, 19 people from Malang village, 15 people from Lungcawi village, 30 people from La-Oo village, 57 people from Darling village, 43 people from Sabawngte village, and 10 people from Hlungmang village. There are 27 women among over two hundred forced laborers. The villagers have to bring their own tools and food to the work site.


The Major ordered the villagers to complete the works before the end of March. However, according to CHRO source, it is likely that the work will not be completed before the end of March as the road between Sabawngte army camp and Darling village is 37 miles in distance and only about half of the works have been completed on the day (March last week) of this report.


This road was first constructed in the year 2000 with forced labor to connect Rezua, Sabawngte and Darling.


11 Villages Forced to Work at the Army Tea-Plantation Farm


March 2004: According to information received from the local villager, eleven villages in southern Chin state near India-Burma are being forced to work in the army tea-plantation farm. The order was issue by Major Thant Zin Oo, deputy battalion commander of Burma army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 268 on January 23, 2004. The order mentioned that any village that fails to obey the order will face the consequence.


No one dare to defy the order and the forced labor work started from the second week of February 2004.


The affected eleven villages who are; Ngaphaipi, Fartlang, Khuapilu, Lauo, Darling, Ruanmang, Sapaw, Tonglalung, Sabawngpi and Sabawngte. Every village has to provide 6 people per week to work at the tea plantation farm owned by the army. The villagers, except for villagers form the forced labor site, have to travel a week-long journey to Sabawngte to work at the farm. They have to bring all the necessary tools and food to the work site.


The forced laborers have to water the tea-plantation farm by carrying water from the stream which is about half a mile away from the plantation farm. Since the Major did not mention the duration of the works in his order, no one knows how long the forced labor is going to take place. It is likely that the forced labor will take place till the end of summer.


Starting from the year 2000, the SPDC started tea-plantation farm in Chin state by using excessive forced labor.


The SPDC soldiers Collect Illegal Tax from Chin Villagers


February 15, 2004: The Chin Human Rights Organization received a report that the SPDC soldiers have illegally collected cattle tax from villagers in southern Chin state.


On January 31, 2004 Pu He Thang of Tinam village in Matupi township was accused of trying to sell three pigs to India without permission and badly beaten up by 2nd Lieutenant Win Sein from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 268 and commander of Lailenpi army camp. Besides, the Lieutenant had extorted 6,000/-kyats from Pu He Thang charging 2,000/-Kyats per pig of the three pigs he was to sell to India.


The victim explained that because of poverty and economic hardship the villagers have to sell whatever they have to India in order to survive. Pu He Thang was on his way to sell the three pigs when he was intercepted by the Burmese soldiers near Lailenpi village.


On January 28, 2004, 2nd Lieutenant Win Sein and his troop also extorted 2,2500/-Kyats from U Maung Shwe and Daw Ni Sung. U Maung Shwe and Daw Ni Sung were on their way to sell some pigs and goats when they were intercepted by 2nd Lieutenant Win Sein and his troop. When the Lieutenant and his troops threatened to beat them up, the two villagers paid to the soldiers two goats and 2,2500/-kyats at the rate of 2,500/-Kyat per pigs for five pigs.


Burmese Soldiers on Extortion Rampage


March 25, 2004: According to Laise (name changed for security reason) of Satu village near India-Burma border, Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 268 Lailenpi army camp in charge Lt. Tin Soe and his troop extorted money and domestic animal from the local villagers who were on their way to sell their cattle to Mizoram state of India. In most of the following incident, the Burmese soldiers threatened to beaten up and seize all their cattle if they fail to pay.


On March 4, 2004, Lt. Tin Soe and his troop extorted 6,000/-kyats and two chickens from Vua Chawng and Bi Khe of Aru village. The incident occurred when the two villagers were on their way to sell chicken and pigs to Mizoram state of India.


On March 9, 2004, 20,000/-Kyats was extorted from Lay Maung and Laise by Lt. Tin Soe and his troops by threatening them that 7 buffalos from them will be seized if they refuse to pay the money.


On March 5, 2004, Lt. Tin Soe and his troops extorted 5,000/- Kyats from Cherry May and Zordan from Lailente village.


On March 1, 2004, 5,000/- Kyats was extorted from Khai Lawng of Ruanvan village by Lt. Tin Soe and his troop.


In another incident on February 27, 2004 Lt. Tin Soe and his troop extorted 15,000/- Kyats from a group of eight Thongbu villagers of Matupi Township.


Report Yourself to the Authority or Go to Lockup


March 11, 2004


In the first week of February 2004, a Chin young man named Za Herh Lian of Tahtlang village was arrested on the night he visited Thantlang town and put into lockup for a night and fined 7,500/-Kyat. His crime was failing to report himself to the authority about his presence in the town. Za Hre Lain’s host, Pu Lal Hngak was also fined 5,000/- Kyats for failing to report a guest to the authority.


In a similar incident, Pi Tin Cer, a 58-year-old woman fom Sopum village was fined 5,000 Kyats for not presenting and an Identity Card on February 24, 2004. Sopum village is just 8 miles away from Thantlang town, making their income by selling vegetables to the town. On her way to Thantlang town to sell her vegetables, Pi Tin Cer met with Burmese soldiers who demanded her identity card. The elderly woman told the soldiers she was only to sell vegetables in Thantlang and that she was never required to present her identity card for such purposes. The soldiers then strip-search the woman and took 5000 Kyats which she had kept under her sarong. The old woman then turned back to her village empty handed.


In October 2003, Thantlang township SPDC chairman U Luu Tin had issued an order requiring all residents to report their guest to the authority and that everyone carry their ID card wherever they go. Those who fail to obey the order are subjected to arrest and a penalty of up to 5,000/- to 10,000/- Kyats.


This order has caused many problems in the town. To enforce the township SPDC chairman’s order, the police and Burmese soldiers are conducting random check on every house at midnight for any unreported guest or visitors in Thantlang. Many innocent people have been arrested and fined.


Eviction order served to residents of Tamu-Kalay Highway


Tamu (Burma), March 14: In yet another unwelcome development in Tamu Township of Upper Sagaing Division in Burma (Myanmar), the local authority of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) issued an order to residents of Tamu-Kalay Highway to vacate their buildings within the month of March. The order was intimated in the first week of March on the pretext of extending the highway to an area of 100 feet on both sides. An extension of 50 feet was already implemented 3 years ago.


“It is planned intentionally to hurt the populace sentiments and is a direct encroachment to our legitimate land by the authority,” said a resident over the phone to Kukiforum News Service. The move is an attempt to evict us who have owned the plots for years, said another resident on condition of anonymity. The authority neither makes an alternative arrangement to rehabilitate the residents nor offer any kind of compensation in this regard. However, neither the informant nor the Kukiforum confirm whether the plan is initiated from Rangoon or is a discretionary order of the local authority.


If the order is carried out as served, millions worth of properties will be demolished without any compensation. Among others, it will include Seventh-Day Adventist Church building, Kuki Chin Baptist Association (KCBA) and Kabaw Valley Thadou Baptist Association (KVTBA) run Bible institution, and other highly priced buildings. It is an area dominated by the Kuki ethnic population and the authority is planning to wipe out the well-to-do families of the Kukis, lamented a resident.


It may be recalled that during the time of the Revolutionary Council government in 1967, the so-called infamous “Khadawmi Operation” was launched to evict thousands of Kukis from Kangmang Phaicham (Kabaw Valley). Tamu is a parliamentary constituency in which U Thong Kho Thang, a Kuki MP from United Nationalities League for Democracy (UNLD) and who is a spokesperson for the party, was elected during the 1990 general elections in Burma.




Let the illegal people leave!


March 9 – 2004


Editorial : VANGLAINI:The Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA) has warned foreigners and non Mizos to leave Mizoram before the 7th of April. As per its slogan “Protect the Land and the Land,” the YMA is poised to evict foreigners and non-Mizos residing in Mizoram State of India without the Inner Line Permit. The YMA also warns against any Mizos who co-operated with the illegal foreigners.


The increasing number of foreigners and non-Mizos living illegally in Mizoram cannot go unnoticed. There are two different groups living illegally in Mizoram: Indian nationals from other states who have no Inner Line Permit and non-Indian foreigners. Anyone found to be illegally residing in Mizoram must be punished. And we do know that there are many illegal people in Mizoram. They are never expelled from Mizoram, and this is the fault of both the authorities and the public. They are freely roaming our streets and no one is reporting their presence. Some Mizos have good relationships with them rather than reporting them to the authority. If we do not rent them the house they will not be here. Somehow, it is understandable that the illegal people found so much freedom because some Mizos rent them their house and some people cooperated with them for benefits. The Mizoram authority arrested a few of them occasionally but never takes action against these people.


The CYMA could no longer keep silence on the increasing presence of the illegal people in Mizoram. So the CYMA has notified these people to prepare to leave. As good an initiative as it is, the YMA’s measures will not succeed if the Mizo youths are acting out on these people out of hatred. Only the YMA will take action on the illegal people. We will again be bringing shame to ourselves before India and the international community if our street youths are acting out blindly.


The Saturday statement of Central YMA said “Mizoram is facing more and more hardships because of the illegal people in the State. The statement also warned Mizoram public to not rent their house and engage those illegal people in any business.


The Central YMA also worn to the Mizoram authority regarding giving the Inner Line Permit to the outside Mizoram people. And said: the people who have got the ILP should do/work only on it’s concern.


The statement said: the people who do not want action taken against them by the CYMA must complete their preparation for leaving Mizoram before the 7th of April.


[VANGLAINI is one of the biggest news paper in Mizoram state]




Central Executive Committee of YMA (Young Mizo Association) had a meeting on 632004 and made a decision on illegal migrants. According to the decision, those who have no legal status in the State would not be allowed to run shops, to sell goods and services in the state. Moreover, the goods sold by foreigners or illegal migrants should not be purchased and Inner Line Permit shall not be granted to foreigners.


Hailakandi district of Non-Mizo Trade Union condemned the collection of taxes from the non-Mizo residents. But LalRoKima, president of MZP(Mizo Zirlai Pawl) denied the collection of taxes from non-Mizo.


How to treat the Burmese in Mizoram


Opinion in a Mizoram Newspaper


The rape of the mizo girl in Vancy Hotel, Aizawl was not the root cause of chasing and deporting the Burmese to their country. It has been long enough for the Mizo to bear our brothers who came from Burma for filthy activities in the state. They came to the state to sell drugs, alcohols and engaged in the activities of killings and thefts.


All the Jails we have in Mizoram are mostly occupied by the Burmese. Some blocks of the capital of Mizoram wanted the Burmese to be deported or chased away from the state but some said the Burmese are our brothers and instead, we should give them protection. Nowadays, many more Burmese came to the state, and if we used violence to stop them from coming to Mizoram, it is not the best or the last solution. Therefore, the government of the state should take immediate action on them.


Lastly, those who came to the state to take temporary shelter for political reasons have to be provided protection by the government. Border security has to be established in border areas in order to stop illegal migration.


Religious Persecution:


Interview With Rev. Dr Chum Awi


Former Secretary-General of Zomi (Chin) Baptist Convention and Principal of Zomi Theological College



CHRO: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, what you did, and your work among the Chin people?


Rev. Dr Chum Awi: I was born in Tikir, a small village of Thantlang township. My mother told me I was born around the end of Japanese invasion of Burma during World War II. I have a Law degree from Rangoon University and had served as a Grade IV Township Law Officer in Hakha and Thangtlang for 4 years. I did my Theological training at the Burma Institute for Theology for two years. I earned my Doctorate degree in the Philippines in 1987.


I worked with the Zomi Theological College for 15 years, first as a teacher and later as its Principal. I left the ZTC in 1992 to receive my new appointment as General Secretary of the Zomi Baptist Convention, the largest religious institution of the Chin living in the Chin State, Sagaing and Magwe Divisions. During this tenure, among others, I was a member of Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC), its Mission Board, and Development Committee, a member of Myanmar Institute of Theology Board of Trustees, a member of Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC) Executive Committee, member of MCC Communication Department, and MCC Theological Association.


CHRO: Were the ZBC’s works or activities ever interfered with or hindered by the government?


Rev. Dr Chum Awi: Being a Baptist organization, the ZBC firmly believes in the principle of “Separation of Church and State.” From the era of the Socialist regime through the times of the SLORC and SPDC, the ZBC has always conducted itself by this principle. Unfortunately, however, the government has always used intelligence to eavesdrop and scrutinize our activities. There were times when we were reported to the authorities. But by God’s grace, such attempts by the government never resulted in the failure of our mission or activities. The SPDC, however, was very keen to use the ZBC for its own political ends. They wanted the ZBC to persuade the Chin National Front to surrender their arms to the government. We rejected the proposition to facilitate ‘Peace Talk’ between the CNF and the SPDC saying that the ZBC would not allow itself to be used for political purposes. This developed into a friction between ZBC and the government.


One of the major hindrances to the work of ZBC has always been the government’s policy to promote Buddhism at the expenses of other religions. This is known as “Amyo, Batha, Thathana” or ‘One Race, One Language, One Religion.’ This refers to the creation of a country based on three Bs “Burman, Burmese, Buddhism.” We as the ZBC do not have the freedom to freely conduct, attend and speak in all our religious conferences. Intelligence operatives are always present in all gathering to monitor our activities. The government favours Buddhists while Christians are discriminated against. As Christians, it is heart wrenching for us to see the destruction, one after another, of crosses on hilltops of Chin State by the authorities. Inside the church, we console ourselves “God will fix everything and change everything when the time comes.”


CHRO: The United States State Department branded Burma as ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for violating religious freedom of its citizens. The State Department’s report says religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims are discriminated against the country’s dominant Buddhist populations. What are your views on these?


Rev. Dr Chum Awi: Besides what I just told you about earlier, preachers and pastors are subject to close scrutiny. The authorities arbitrarily set rules for Christian preachers and pastors to follow. They are often accused of violating these rules even if such violation does not happen. Many preachers have been arrested and incarcerated even though they never violated these so-called rules set by the military. In some areas, pastors and preachers have been even killed. While the proliferation of Christianity is prevented in any possible way, the spread of Buddhism is officially and openly supported by the government. Orphans and other children from poor family backgrounds in rural areas often are targets for conversion into Buddhism. They are lured away from their parents under false pretences only to make them novice Buddhists. Chin Christians have for a long time endured these kinds of injustices. I believe that Burma being designated as ‘Country of Particular Concern’ by the United States is, in fact, a way of God showing us justice for what we the Chin people have suffered. This kind of acknowledgement and attention by the world to our suffering is because people from both inside and outside of the country are risking their lives to speak the truth and God is showing them the way to do it. I believe also that God is using the voice of CHRO to make that happen.


CHRO: What is your assessment of the result of discrimination and persecution against Chin Christians by the military regime?


Rev. Dr Chum Awi: I personally have no knowledge of any Chin Christians converting to Buddhism simply out of fear or being unable to endure persecution by the military. On the contrary, I think that there has been stronger unity, determination and cooperation among individuals and among different denomination and churches as a result of these kinds of persecutions. For instance, despite efforts by the SPDC to impede and obstruct the Centennial celebration of Christianity in 1999, the determination and cooperation of Christian churches had made it possible the event to be grander and more successful than the regime’s own National Student Sport Festival held in Chin State in 1997.



How And Why The Burmese Army Murdered Four Chin Christians


By Vum Son Suantak


A Burma Army battalion (Kha-lah-yah unit) Light Infantry Battalion 89, Commanded by Lt.Col. Thurah Sein Win was stationed in Phailen, a border village at the Burma-India border, in the Homalin district. In July 1993 a soldier from the Army unit disappeared with four rifles, leaving behind a letter saying that he was leaving because he was unhappy with life in the Burmese Army.


Subsequently, the Army unit accused the Christian community of Phailen of buying the arms from the soldier with church funds, to help the anti-Burmese State Law and Order Restoration Council SLORC resistance movement, the Kuki National Army. The Kuki are Chin, who live in the Indo-Burma border areas (in the Kale –Kabaw Valley extending to Tamu (Sagaing Division).


The army unit arrested several leaders of the community and kept them in the army camp lock-up. On August 2,1993 they interrogated one of the prisoners, Pastor Zang Kho Let. When the Pastor’s answers did not pleased the interrogators, the army personnel beat him with rifle butts or sticks that eventually broke almost all of his bones after two days of interrogation. They cut open his mouth to the neck and told him “We cut open your mouth so that you will no longer preach”. In the two days that they tortured him, Pastor Zang Kho Let never admitted to using the church fund to help the resistance movement or that he was involved in helping the armed resistance. The soldiers, Non Commissioner Officer NCO’s, and officers tortured the pastor with the intent to kill but he was still alive after two days of their inhuman brutality. When the torturers reported to their Commanding officer, Colonel Thura Sein Win, on the condition of the pastor, the colonel ordered them to tighten a plastic bag over his head. (Thura is an award given for bravery, like the torture of the preacher.)


After Pastor Zang Kho Let died, they dragged his lifeless body out of the school building and shot him. With a bullet wound in his body, the Burmese army unit claimed that they shot the pastor because he was trying to escape. The soldiers brought the dead body of Pastor Zang Kho Let back in the school building and placed together with the leaders of the village community, who were arrested to witness the gruesome state of the body. They were told to feel the bones, which were all broken. They were told, “If you do not tell us the truth and if you do not admit that you helped the KNA, you will face the same fate.”


The headman of the village, Zang Kho Ngam, farmers Ngam Khai, and Thawng Kho Lun

admitted to helping the resistance movement in order to escape torture and death. Nonetheless, they were tortured. It took seven days for the three of them to die; they died a slow death. The soldiers cut and burned their skin. They poured salt directly into their open sores. The soldiers zealously repeated the torture that they had just meted out to Pastor Zang Kho Let. When the two farmers died, the soldiers again dragged the bodies outside of the school building and shot. The Burmese Army buried the headman Zang Kho Ngam alive.


Burmese officers ordered seven ethnic Naga soldiers to carry out the torture of the villagers under their supervision. At that time, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the Chin (Kuki) community in the neighboring Manipur of India, were at war against each other. The NSCN was an insurgent group, fighting for the independence of the Naga in India. When the NSCN demanded taxes from the Kuki communities in Manipur to support their movement, the Chin refused to support the NSCN. The Chin and Naga were both Baptist Christians. Their quarrel escalated to mass killings during the early 1990s when they competed to control the drug road (Tamu-Imphal Highway). The Chin took control of Mohree, the town opposite Tamu on the Burma side, the main gate of the drug coming from Burma to India. It was a war in which Chin innocent children including babies, women and older people were slaughtered, whole villagers were shot and their throats slashed. Villages were burnt, and leaders of the Chin community were murdered. The Indian government could not control the killings because the Naga had the upper hand and by 1995 over 2000 Chin had been murdered.


The Burmese use Naga soldiers in Burma army to torture the Chin village leaders purposefully exploiting the ethnic conflict between the Chin and the Naga, and the Burmese Army achieved their goal of bringing hatred between the three Union citizens, Burman, Chin and Naga. This is the Burmese way to national unity. The soldiers placed the rest of the village men, whom they arrested, in jail for two years, during which they plundered the village, killing all the domestic animals they could find, including chickens, pigs, and cows. They robbed the church of its fund of over two hundred thousand Kyats.


The Burmese Army’s Project was to settle or force relocate ethnic Burman to the Tamu area because Tamu area had a Chin majority. With these kind of scary and brutal tactics they forced the Chin to leave the area. They created new Burmese villages such as Aungzeya and Bandoola. Chin villagers from the area were forced to build new houses for the Burman, who were relocated from the Monywa and Mandalay areas. They were allotted farmlands that previously belonged to the Chin. The Chin were then forced to leave the area.


The Reasons Behind the Killings


The force relocation and killings are a part of SLORC’s Secretary I General Khin Nyunt’s “ Border Area Development Project,” which is implemented by intimidation, forced labor, forced relocation, and murder. Khin Nyunt, who is Chinese by birth, seeks approval of his own Burmanization by promoting the cause of the Burman through cruel treatment of the non-burman nationalities in the border region. These methods were common practice by General Ne Win, a Sino-Burman, by mistreating the Karens and Arakanese during the Japanese occupation when he was a high ranking officer of the Burma Independence army.


The Burma Army’s brutality in the Shan State during the early days of independence (starting in 1950) was also Ne Win’s attempt to gain the approval of the Burman of his standing in the Burman society. The shan members of parliament protested in parliament but they were hopelessly outnumbered in parliament by Burman members of parliament and Ne Win could carry on his atrocities against the frontier people- the tradition is very well preserved until today.


Other officers of Chinese descent “prove” their loyalty to the Burman by oppressing the non-Burmans. Dr. Nyi Nyi, a Chinese, as minister for education under the BSPP, systematically discriminated against the students from the border regions. Knowing full well that access to education, facilities, and teachers were bad in the border areas, he raised qualification (matriculation) scores for university entrance exam. The higher standards effectively barred students with lower scores from the more prestigious professions such as medicine and engineering. Without making an effort to raise the quality of education in the border areas, the people from the border areas were left with

fewer doctors and engineers due to the education system introduced by Dr.Nyi Nyi.


Qualified teachers assigned in the remote areas resigned from their posts and moved to Burmese cities to open tuition schools to prepare students from the cities and towns for the matriculation examination. Less qualified teachers then replaced the teachers in the border regions. The students in Burman towns and cities therefore command even higher scores. Dr. Nyi Nti launched the education system in his search for approval by the ethnic Burman of his programs against the non-Burman, thereby successfully disadvantaging the people of the border regions, which are populated the no-Burman nationalities.


The Chin (Kuki) in the Tamu areas thought that the Border Region Development Project launched by General Khin Nyunt was a genuine project. Thus they sent an emissary to Rangoon, and approached the father-in-law of Khin Ntunt’s daughter. He was to give Khin Nyunt the message that his men (the Burmese Army had murdered their people and terrorized the Chin. Finding his Border Development Project implementing exactly what he had wished, Khin Nyunt quietly transferred Col. Thura Sein Win. There was no redress for the people killed. Khin Ntunt, of course, received the approval of his boss General Ne Win and his contemporaries, the generals who are all ethnic Burman.


The process to Burmanize the people at the border regions and Buddhistization of Christians is one of the main target of the Border Development Project. Such killing of village elders was the tradition of Burmese Army. They calculate that at least a few angry youth would join the armed resistance groups thereby making sure that resistance movement against the Burmese Army is continued and subsequently giving the Burmese Army a freehand to terrorize the people and thus prolong the military dictatorship. It must be added that the Burman power holders since independence had been instrumental in creating systematic force assimilation by forced Burmanization of the non-Burman nationalities.


The actions of General Ne Win, General Khin Nyunt, and Dr. Nyi Nyi against the non Burman nationalities to gain the approval of the Burman of their Burmanization, were extremely effective in creating suspicion, animosity, and hatred between Burman and other nationalities. This does not mean that the Chinese community is to be blamed for the destruction of national unity. The hard working Chinese and Sino-Burman are the backbone of Burmese economy and Burma needs their drive and energy for Burma’s future development. It is unfortunate that a few bad people could so effective in thoroughly destroying the unity of the whole country.


[Excerpt from the CHRO’s upcoming publication RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION: A Campaign of Ethnocide Against Chin Christian in Burma]


The Non-Burman Ethnic People of Burma


By Harn Yawnghwe



“Burman” or “Burmese”?


“Burman” and “Burmese” are often used interchangeably in the English language. I will use “Burman” to refer to the majority ethcin population, and “Burmese” refers to all the citizens of Burma.


“Burma” or “Myanmar”?


It has been argued by the military that “Burma” refers only to the majority Burman population, whereas “Myanmar” is more inclusive and therefore, more appropriate because it refers to all the peoples of Myanmar. Ironically, Burmese nationalist fighting British colonialism in 1936, argued the reverse. Therefore, as far as the non-Burmans are concerned, the real question is not what the country is called but what political system will include the non-Burmans.


“135 Races”


The military likes to say that there are 135 races or tribes in Burma implying that it is impossible to cater to everyone and therefore, it is necessary to have a strong military to hold the country together. In fact 65 of the so called 135 races are all from the Chin State, which makes up about 3% of the population and they live in an area that makes up about 5%of the whole nation. In other words, the military is exaggerating the problem.


According to the SPDC, people who speak different dialects are classified as being of a different race. It would be like saying that somebody from Oslo is of a different race from somebody from Bergen. We all have differences but both are of the same race.


In actual fact, all Burmese are from the same racial grouping and they can be roughly sub-divided into 3 major subgroups: Tibeto-Burman, Sino-Thai and Mon-Khmer.


In political terms Burma has only 8 constituent states, not 135: Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Karen, Mon and “Burma Proper or Ministerial Burma” in the center. At this point it should be pointed out that the Burmans are also one of the ethnic groups of Burma. So we cannot really talk about the ethnic people and the Burmans.


Ethnic Nationalities


In the past, the non-Burmans were referred to as the “Nationalities” as in Chamber of Nationalities or the Upper House of Parliament. Burm the word the “ethnic minorities” became used more frequently in international circles. So now, we use the term “ethnic nationalities” or the non-Burman ethnic nationalities to denote the non-Burman.



We do not like to use the term “Minorities”. This is because it gives the impression to outsiders that they are talking about only 1-2% of the population.


It is estimated that Burma today has a population of approximately 50 million people. Burmans are supposed to make up 60% of the population. Therefore, when we talk about the “minority” problem in Burma, we are in fact talking about a problem that affects the lives of at least 20 million people. I think this is more than the population of Norway.


In terms of geography, the non-Burmans occupy 55% of the land area or 371,000 sq kms-slightly larger than Germany (357,000 sq km). The non-Burman problem is Burma is definitely not a “minority” problem.


“Tribes” and “Hill Tribes”


Another favourite of the military is to describe the non-Burmans as “Tribe” or “Hill Tribes”. This implies that the Burmans are the only civilized people and that it is their burden to guide the “Tribes” to a better Burman way of life.


This is actually a gross abuse of historical facts. Arakan and Mon kingdoms prededed Burman kingdoms by at lease 500 years. The first Burman kongdom was not recorded before the 11th century. Then Shan kings ruled most of Burma from the 13th century until the 16th century when Burman kings ruled again. It is also well documented that the Burmans took their civilization and culture from the Arakanese and Mon peoples. Therefore, the non-burmans are not uncivilized tribes that need to be civilized by the Burmans.


Of course, the non-Burmans today are less developed than their neighbours but is this because they ae uncivilized or because they have been systematically deprived of their rights for the last 50 years? For example, a UNICEF study showed literacy in the non-Burman areas to be lower than the Burman areas. Why is this so? One reason is that literacy in Burma is measured in terms of knowledge of the Burman language. In the last 50 years to non-Burmans have not been allowed to teach their own languages. Another factor of course is the 50 year-old civil war in the non-Burman areas.


Burma-a Kingdom or a Union States?


Another major difference in perspective between the Burman nationalist and the non-Burmans is history.


At the time the British came into contact with Burma in 1824, the Burman king ruled over the Arakan, Mon and Karen areas and claimed the allegiance of the rulers of the Kayah and Shan states as well as Assam and Manipur in India. Aftet the Britiseh conquest in 1886, the Burman kingdom(including Arakan, Mon and Karen) was make a part of British India. It later became known as “Ministerial Burma” or “Burma Proper”. Karenni or Kayah State was recognized as a sovereign state. The Shan States which later became the Federated Shan States like the Malay states, became a British Protectorate. The Kachin and Chins wre administered separately as the Frontier Area.


Burman nationalist, therefore, claim that they are the heirs of the pre-British Burman kingdom and that rightfully all of Burma belongs to them. They claim that the British deliberated carved up the country to divide and rule. So to the nationalists, the claims of the non-Burmans for self-determination are nothing buty a product of British imperialism. The non-Burmans, however, claim that by 1886 the Burman empire was crumbling and that the British only took the practical way ort by recognizing their de-facto independence from the Burman king. In any case, after 62 years, the Burmans who lo longer had a king could have no practical claims on them.


The Burmese situation is, therefore, different from Indonesia where most of the inslnds were one colony under the Dutch. The colony then became Indonesia. In Burma a formal agreement was entered into by different entities to become the Union of Burma.


1947 Panglong Agreement

To the Chins, Kachins and Shans, the Panglong Conference and Agreement formed the basis of their current union with the Burmans, not any historical claims of a now defunct empire. At that Conference, General Aung San, leader of the Burman independence struggle from “Ministerial Burma”, and leaders of the Shan, Kachin and Chin peoples agreed to merge their homelands on the basis of equality to form the “Republic of the Union of Burma” in order to accelerate the process of seeking independence from Britain.


1974 Constitution


Based on Panglong Agreement, a Union Constitution was drawn up. The non-Burmans believed they were getting a federal system but in reality, while the Shan, Kachin, and Kayah States and the Chin Special Division were recognized, power was not devolved to the states. At this time, the Kayah or Karenni people felt that they had been forced into a union without adequate consultation and took up arms against the central government. Separate negotiations with the Karens also broke down and they also took up arms. The Mon also joined the rebellion as did the Arakanese although the Arakan, Karen and Mon states were recognized at a later date.


From this you can see that, the non-Burman proplem in Burma stems from a failure of the government of Burma to properly address the basic nostitutional arrangement between the different states that make up the union.




To make matters worse, Prime Minister U Nu requested General Ne Win to form a “Caretaker Government” to prevent the Shan and Karenni states from exercising their constitutional rights to secede from the Union after 10 years if they were not satisfied. This started the Shan struggle for independence. To understand the problem you need to be aware that the Shan State makes up 23 % of the land area of Burma and about 20% of the population.




Following the Caretaker Government, the Shan leaders recognized the need to amend the constitution if the nation was be saved and initiated the Federal Movement. But General Ne Win instead seized power and said he was saving the nation from disintegration. General Ne Win also suspended the 1947 constitution .


As far as the Shan, Kachin and Chin were concerned, the suspension of the 1947 constitution nullified the Panglong Agreement which ound them legally to “Ministerial Burma” and as such, Ne Win had at one stroke set them free and illegally occupied their homelands. This plunged the country into civil war in earnest.




From all this, it is very clear that tho non Burman problem in Burma is not a “minority” problem, it is not a tribal problem and it is not an ethnic problem. I want to emphasos this because when we say ethnic problem, most people think of the fomer Yugoslavia where different ethnic people were killing each other. We do not have that kind of problem in Burma. Our problem is not a horizontal ethnic problem, but vertical one. It is basically a constitutional problem and it can be resolved by negotiations.


It is clear that we do not need a strong army to keep the country together. In fact in Burma, the army has made the problem worse by preventing dialogue and refusing the 8 states to engage in constitutional talks. I trust I have been able to clarify some souses for you.

[“The Non-Burman Ethnic People of Burma” is taken with the author’s permission from The New Panglong Initiative: Rebuilding The Union of Burma]






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