VOL.V No.IV SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2002
Burmese Army Looted Chin Traders
SPDC Troops Forced Women, School Children and Civilians to serve
SPDC recruit USDA member in Chin State
A Chin Refugee Girl Raped
Chin Refugees Face Imminent Crackdown in India’s Mizoram
Burmese Junta uses Forced Labour Freshly in Rakhine State in Western
36 Chin Villages Extorted by Burmese Army
Indian Security Force Arrested a Chin Democracy Activist,Fellow Acticists Fear Extradition to Burmese Military
Press Release by Asylum Seekers From Burma in Delhi
“The refugee situation on the western borders of Burma”
By Chris Lewa, Forum Asia, Bangkok
Delivered at the Canadian Friends of Burma Public Conference
What Chinland with its people is to India
by Pu Lian Uk
Burmese Army Looted Chin Traders
The Burmese troops confiscated two mithans (cattle) and Kyats 100,000 from cross-border businessmen en route to Mizoram on two separate incidents on August 29, 2002 and July 29, 2002 respectively.
The two victims of extortion, wishing to remain anonymous due to security reasons, are from Sumsem village of Matupi township. They said that they were on their way to India’s Mizoram State to sell 5 mithuns when they were intercepted by Captain Myint Lwin from Light Infantry Battalion 50, then commander of Sabawngte army camp. The captain confiscated two of the five animals, and demanded Kyats 40,000 from the two businessmen as a ransom for the three remaining mithuns.
The same Captain confiscated cattle belonging to Salai Khai Kung and Salai Than Uk of Dar Ling village of Matupi township. The captain also demanded Kyats 50,000 from his victims.
SPDC Troops Forced Women, School Children and Civilians to serve as porter
The Burmese soldiers forced 6 women, two middle school children and 67 civilians to serve as porters from 20 September 2002 to 29 September 2002 in Matupi township, Chin State.
The SPDC troops from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 266 forced Chin civilians including women and school children to carry army rations and supplies to and from Ruazua and Sabawngte army camps, situated 80 miles apart from each other.
On 24 September 2002, Lieutenant Colonel Htun Oo and his troops from LIB 266, Ruazua army camp ordered 14 Sawthi villagers to carry army ration and supplies from Ruazua to Sabawngte village. On 25 September 2002, the soldiers ordered 12 Sabawngte villagers, 6 of them were women, to carry army ration and supply from Sabawng to Pintia village. The porters were not paid on both occasions.
On September 20, 2002, Captain Ngyi Ngyi Lwin and his unit from LIB 266 stationed at Ruazua army camp forcibly ordered 12 Sawthi villagers to transport army supplies from Ruazua army camp to Ruamang village. On the same day, 8 Ruamang villagers along with 2 horses were forced to serve as army porters from Ruamang to Dar Ling village. Besides, 12 Darling villagers were forced to serve as porter from Dar Ling to Sabawngte army camp. On their way from Ruazua to Sabawngte, the Burmese soldiers looted 2 chickens from Dar Ling villagers.
On 23 September 2002, Captain Myint Lwin from LIB 50 ordered 17 Sabawngte villagers to serve as porter from Sabawngte army camp to Darling village. When they arrived to Dar Ling, the Captain called 12 more villagers including 2 school boys to transport army supplies to the next village, Tonglalung.
The name of the two school boys are Thawng Sang and Sui Or. Thawng Sang is an 8th grade student and Sui Or 5th grade respectively.
Incidents of forced labor in various forms including forced portering routinely and in large scale occur in remote and rural areas despite orders from the Ministry of Home Affairs which prohibit the use of forced labour in Burma.
SPDC recruit USDA member in Chin State
The State Peace and Development Council SPDC announced in July 2002 that members of Union Solidarity and Development Association USDA and the children of army veterans can apply for passport to go to Malaysia as migrant laborers.
Sources from Chin State said that the SPDC is using this tactic to lure more Chin youths to join Union Solidarity and Development Association and to gain supports of Chin army veterans. USDA is a youth organization sponsored by the military junta mainly to promote its own political objectives.
Increased militarization of Chin State since early 1990s has resulted in widespread human rights abuses by the army such as forced labor, depriving many Chin families of time to make their own living and thus forcing many to flee to neighboring countries. Taking advantage of the hardship of the Chin people, the SPDC is promising USDA members and children of army veterans with a passport, so they can travel to foreign countries as migrant laborers.
A Chin Refugee Girl Raped
On July 20, 2002 at around 10 Pm, a 17-year-old Chin refugee girl Ms. L (Real name withheld to protect identity) living in Sairang Sub-district of Mizoram State, India was raped by a local man. The case was reported to CHRO by a close family friend of the victim.
Ms. L and her family are living as “illegal immigrants” at Sairang village. They were taking a temporary shelter at a nearby village to avoid a crackdown on illegal foreign immigrants by Mizoram State authorities in July 2002, when the girl was raped.
The rape victim reportedly was severely punched and beaten at the time of the rape. When the Chin refugee community leaders from Sairang village reported the crime to the local police, they were told that case had already been settled between the victim’s brother and the perpetrator before the police.
To settle the case, the victim family was compensated 500 Rupees, equivalent of U$ 10.
Though the victim family members are not satisfied with the way the case was settled, they could not do anything due to their immigration status in Mizoram.
“The rape victim’s family arrived to India only a few months ago after fleeing military repressions in Burma and now they had to face this situation,” said a close family friend of the victim.
Chin Refugees Face Imminent Crackdown in India’s Mizoram
Chin Human Rights Organization
July 10, 2002
Chin nationals from Burma who are taking refuge in India’s northeastern State of Mizoram are facing imminent security threat after the Mizo Zirlai Pawl, an influential student body, pressured the state government to take stringent action upon all illegal immigrants living in Mizoram.
July 10 2002 edition of Vanglai Ni daily newspaper in Aizawl reported that the MZP will take all necessary action if the government fails to take action upon the “illegal immigrants”. The MZP indicated July 20, 2002 as a deadline for the government to take appropriate measures.
The decision was made during MZP Central Committee meeting in Aizawl, the capital city of Mizoram State on July 9, 2002. The MZP said that they are concerned about the social problems in Mizoram as a result of the increasing population of illegal immigrants in the state.
Vanglai Ni newspaper quoted president of MZP, Mr. Lalchandama Ralte as saying that Mizo people should beware of renting out their houses to the illegal immigrants. Mr. Ralte said that the student body has taken the decision in the interest of the Mizo people in a long run and that the students are ready to face all the consequences for their actions. He persuaded the Mizo people to support his organization’s action.
Illegal immigrants in Mizoram include ten of thousands of Chin refugees who fled political repression and human rights violations perpetrated by Burmese military regime in their home country. An estimated 50,000 Chin refugees are taking shelter in Mizoram state with no status and international legal protection.
Labeled as being the source of societal ills such as drug trafficking and other criminal activities plaguing Mizoram, Chin refugees face frequent arrest and deportation by the state government often under pressure by local youth group, the Young Mizo Association.
In 2000, the Mizoram government conducted a mass-scale arrest of Chin refugees and handed over dozens of them to Burmese military while one of them died in police custody. Reports later surfaced that those handed over to Burmese authorities were given lengthy jail terms with hard labor in Burma’s prisons.
In July 2001, Chin refugee families were evicted from Lunglei, the second largest town in Mizoram, leaving hundreds of them homeless.
Burmese Junta uses Forced Labour Freshly in Rakhine State in Western Burma
Maungdaw, 23 Aug. 02: There was a discussion between the officials of the UNHCR, Maungdaw chapter, with that of the two majors from Nasaka Security Forces in Maungdaw yesterday evening on the use of forced labour in the area bordering with Bangladesh, according to our correspondent.
There are reports of new incidents of extensive use of forced labour in and around Maungdaw in Rakhaing (Arakan) state, Western Burma, which has caused to raise tough arguments between the UNHCR and the Burmese law enforcement agencies including the officials of the military junta.
Beginning 25th July forced labour was extensively used to build a new Nasaka Security Forces camp at Khamaung-hseik village, northern part of Maungdaw. Till 4th August the number of forced labour used stood at 135, men and women.
Similarly, at Kathay model village, under Nasaka Area #2 of Maungdaw Township, seven hundred and three people were engaged in forced labour between 1st July and 28th in construction works of the new model village.
When the UNHCR brought the matters to the notice of the higher administration about the extensive use of forced labour, the Nasaka security forces demanded that they paid kyat 100 a day to each of the ‘workers’. While on inquiry the UNHCR found that the labour was actually used forcefully and without any payment as argued by the Burmese junta officials.
Fresh reports from Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-u and Minbra Twonships have confirmed that the Burmese Army is making use of extensive forced labour for cultivating the military owned agricultural fields in those townships by pressing the Rakhine farmers as forced labour by making use of the cattle of the villagers and without providing wages or food to them.
Source: Narinjara News
August 23, 2002
36 Chin Villages Extorted by Burmese Army Chin Human Rights Organization
August 20, 2002
Thirty six villages in Thantlang township are facing an army decree requiring them to provide money for maintaining an army camp at Vuangtu village. Captain Phu Taw of Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion (50) based at Vuangtu village has ordered three dozen villages in the immediate areas of Vuangtu to pay for the expenses of maintaining the camp, according to a local villager.
Among the villages that have been ordered to contribute the money is Tlaungram village, located on the Indian border. Tluangram village alone has paid a total of 320,00 Kyats to the army–50,00 Kyats for the month of May, 100,00 for June and another 170,00 for July respectively. The amount every village has to pay vary depending on the number of the households in that village, as determined by the army.
The army camp is still yet to be repaired and no village has received an order for further payments for the month of August.
In issuing the order, Captain Phu Taw warned that any village that failed to contribute the money would face severe punishment. “All of these villages had no choice other than pay the money because they were afraid of the repercussions,” said one villager. He further said that Captain Phu Taw has only recently been transferred to Vuangtu camp from his previous posting in Gankaw in Magwe Division. During his three month posting at Vuangtu, the Captain has regularly extorted money from the villagers, seized goods and cash from cross-border traders passing through Vuangtu village.
On July 28, 2002, Captain Phu Taw and his troops crossed into India and looted and beat villagers of Daldanle in Mizoram State. They sneaked back into Burma with their loots from Indian villagers.
Until recently, all Burmese army battalions stationed in Chin State have used forced labor to repair army camps. However, since earlier this year, they began collecting money from villagers in stead of using human labor. The following is the list of villages from which Captain Phu Taw demanded money:
(1) La-U (2) LaiLen (3) FarTlang (4) KhuaLiPi
(5) NgaPhaiPi (6) NgaPhaiTe (7) LawngTlang (8) LungCawiTe
(9) LungCawiPi (10) khuaBung(A) (11) KhuaBung(B) (12) HnaRing
(13) KhuaHrang (14) ThangAw (15) FarTlang (16) SenTung
(17) SurNgen (18) TiSen(A) (19) TiSen(B) (20) SurNgen
(21) LeiTak(A) (22) LeiTak(B) (23) ZePi (24) HmawngTlang (25) PhaiKhua (26) CawngThia (27) KuhChah (28) VuangTu
(29) ZaBung (30) HlamPhei (31) ZeiPhai(A) (32) ZeiPhai(B)
(33) TluangRam(A) (34) TluangRam(B) (35) TlangRua (36) HriPhi.
Indian Security Force Arrested a Chin Democracy Activist, Fellow Acticists Fear Extradition to Burmese Military
September 28, 2002, Aizawl: A Chin democracy activist who has been involved in dissident movement against Burmese military regime was arrested on September 26, 2002 on India-Burma border. Hre Tling, about age 35, is now being held at Assam Rifles Regiment (19) base at Farkawn, a small Indian border town. Access to him in custody is being denied and fellow dissidents fear he might be handed over to the Burmese military across the border.
Hre Tling fled Burma in 1988 following a nation-wide democracy movement, which was brutally crushed by the Burmese armed forces. He has been actively involved in India-based dissident movements for restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma. His arrest is now raising serious concerns among India-based dissidents that India will extradite him to Burma, where he will face serious security risk including possible execution.
“If handed over to the Burmese military he could face summary execution, or at best long term imprisonment,” said his fellow activist. “In many cases, the Burmese military has been known to have executed those who have been captured by them,” he said.
Hre Tling’s arrest came in wake of fresh efforts between India and Burma to crackdown on political dissident movements based in their mutual borders. Since mid 1990s, under bilateral agreements, India and Burma have frequently launched joint operations against dissident movements.
In 1996, India extradited Burmese army defectors to the Burmese regime and many of them were later reportedly executed in Burma.
Source: Chinland Guardian
Press Release by Asylum Seekers From Burma in Delhi
October 23, 2002
We, the Burmese asylum seekers, are organizing an indefinite demonstration in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in New Delhi until our appeal for refugee status is met. The demonstration is being taken place from Wednesday (23 October 2002) at UNHCR Office: No. 14, Jor Bagh, New Delhi-110003, India.
We left our homes, nears and dears due to human rights abuses committed by the ruling military junta in Burma. Although we have approached the UNHCR Office for the last several months, we still do not get the recognition and protection from the UNHCR. In some cases, UNHCR has rejected our appeals without careful consideration.
We are exceedingly disappointed over the rejection of our appeals without careful consideration on the information we provided during our interviews and over-delaying of further processing our cases without no proper grounds by the UNCHR.
We are badly concerned for our security because we do not have any legal document or refugee status (of UNHCR), which could lead us to the repatriation to the hands of military generals since India is not a signatory to the 1951 convention on Refugees.
As you are aware, Burma is now widely notorious through out the world for its gross violations of basic human rights under the military regime. The country is ruled by highly repressive, outrageous and authoritarian military regime. Since the armed forces took the State power in 1988 after killing thousands of Burmese peaceful demonstrators, who demanded the end of 26- year old Ne Win-led regime and bring about democracy and human rights in Burma, the gross violations of human rights against its civilians rampantly committed by the successive generals continuously unabated which resulted in thousands of Burmese peoples fleeing our own country.
The violations of human rights under their cruel policy of ethnic cleansing especially in Kachin and Chin areas include forced labor, pottering, forced relocations, extortion, systematic use of rape against women as a weapon of war, religious persecution, forced conversion from Christianity to Buddhism, harassment, torture and arrests of Christian leaders.
All these mentioned problems and the increased political turmoil inside Burma caused us fled our country in seeking a legal protection from UNHCR.
Therefore, we urge the UNHCR officials to consider the following appeals:
1.To immediately recognize us as we believe we fall under the mandate of refugee status enshrined in 1951 convention,
2.To speedily process our cases and declare our result soon,
3.To reconsider all rejected cases and arrange re-interviews soon
4.To treat us equal with respect by interviewing officials during our interviews and cease to intimidate us
5.To brief our date of interview, registrations and bring an end to over-delaying our cases from further processing.
If these demands are not met, we would take an indefinite hunger strike. We would like to request the people of India, international community and the media in particular to intervene with UNHCR urgently.
Burmese Asylum Seekers
New Delhi, India
“The refugee situation on the western borders of Burma
By Chris Lewa, Forum Asia, Bangkok
Delivered at the Canadian Friends of Burma Public Conference
Ottawa – 9 October 2002
Panel One: The current situation
Burma’s borders with India and Bangladesh have received much less international attention than the Thailand-Burma border. A major reason is the difficult access to refugees in these border areas due to policies of the host governments. Nevertheless, outflows of refugees from Burma to India and Bangladesh are no less significant. More than 50,000 mostly Chin refugees have fled to India while up to 200,000 Rohingya refugees are found in Bangladesh in and outside refugee camps.
An essential difference appears when comparing the overall situation along the eastern and western borders of Burma. In Chin and Arakan States, bordering India and Bangladesh respectively, there is little ethnic armed resistance and the military regime does not resort to ruthless counter-insurgency tactics to assert control, as is the case along the Thai-Burma border. Therefore, the worst forms of human rights violations such as massive forced relocation, torture, summary executions, are less frequent, but this does not mean that the situation is noticeably better. Over the last decade, the Burma Army’s presence has rapidly expanded along the western border. The establishment of new battalions has resulted in two significant consequences:
– (1) exaction of forced labour and arbitrary taxation on the local population to build and maintain camps and grow foodstuff for the army, but also for road construction carried out in the name of development, but which mostly facilitate army penetration; and
– (2) military control of the local economy for the Army’s profit, either directly through collection of taxes at checkpoints and from the border trade, or indirectly through the granting of business monopolies on local commodities in exchange for high bribes.
These practices have severely affected the livelihood of already impoverished communities and compelled them to leave Burma. In their host countries — whether in India or Bangladesh –, most of these 250,000 people are not recognised as “refugees” but labelled as “economic migrants”. The root causes behind this forced migration are ignored in order to keep the outflow invisible and to deprive these refugees from protection and assistance. Meanwhile, the two host governments are engaging in negotiations with the military regime in Rangoon to enhance cooperation and improve economic ties.
Let me first address the specific situation of refugees in India and then Bangladesh.
At a rough estimate there are 50,000 Chin refugees in India. Apart from a few hundred who came to New Delhi to seek UNHCR protection, the vast majority have taken shelter in Mizoram State and a small number in the southern part of Manipur State.
Chin State is a remote hill region inhabited by various communities belonging to the Chin ethnicity who are predominantly Christians. Chins are also found in the southern part of Sagaing Division.
Forced labour, arbitrary taxation and lack of education facilities are the main root causes for flight. Chins also experience many difficulties in practising their religion. The military regime regards Christianity as a threat to its control since the only civil society groups active in the region are linked to the churches. Soldiers have prevented evangelists from preaching and imposed restrictions on attendance at religious gatherings. Christians have also been forced to labour on Buddhist pagodas and to donate money for Buddhist festivals.
Chin refugees in Mizoram State have no camp to accommodate even the most vulnerable and they have joined the local labour market, in the weaving industry, on road construction sites, etc. As undocumented migrants, their situation is very precarious. While Mizos are religiously and ethnically related to the Chins, they resent the continuous increase of “foreigners”. Chin refugees have sporadically been threatened with deportation, particularly during election time, when they become scapegoats for the various local political parties. In March 2002, the Young Mizo Association forcibly evicted Chin families from Lunglei District. New elections planned for next year again raise serious concerns that Chin refugees might face another expulsion drive.
India does not allow UNHCR to exercise its protection mandate in Mizoram State where access is also denied to most outsiders. As a result the Chin refugees receive little or no assistance.
A few hundred Burmese activists and their relatives facing persecution have approached UNHCR in New Delhi for protection. Chin represent the largest Burmese urban refugee caseload in Delhi of about 800 individuals. Even though most of them have been recognised by UNHCR as “persons of concern”, their situation in Delhi is also uncertain. So far, UNHCR has provided them with a small monthly subsistence allowance of Rs 1,400 (about US$30) per person and even less for dependents. But over the last couple of years, UNHCR has been threatening to cut this financial assistance in order to promote self-reliance. Lack of education and employment opportunities combined with inadequate and cramped living standards make their lives miserable. The Indian authorities have issued them with residence permits, but denial of work permits makes any attempt at self-reliance almost impossible and illegal . Young Chin people often join Bible schools in the absence of other educational opportunities.
Refugees from Burma in Bangladesh can be divided into 3 categories:
Rohingya refugees in 2 refugee camps (21,500)
Rohingya refugees outside camps in the Southern part of Bangladesh (up to 200,000)
Rakhine urban refugees caseload in Dhaka (50)
Arakan State, bordering Bangladesh, is another remote region along the Bay of Bengal inhabited by two major ethnic communities. The majority group is Rakhine Buddhist, close to the Burman in terms of religion and language, while the Rohingya Muslims are ethnically and religiously related to the Chittagonians of southern Bangladesh and are concentrated in the northern part of Arakan State adjacent to Bangladesh.
The Rohingya Muslims are the group most discriminated against in Burma and they are simply excluded from the nation-building process. They have not been included amongst the “135 national races” identified by the government, and the Citizenship Law of 1982 renders them stateless .
Communal tensions are prevalent between the Muslim and Buddhist communities in Arakan. While this can be explained from a cultural and historical perspective, such violence has been exacerbated by the divide-and-rule policies of the military regime, denying all rights to the Muslim population in order to allow the military to pose as protectors of the Buddhist community.
The Rohingyas’ freedom of movement is highly restricted, as they need permission to travel even to a neighbouring village. Their land has been confiscated to accommodate Buddhist settlers. To date, the government has established 26 “model villages” of about 100 houses in Northern Arakan State. Mosques have been destroyed and Rohingyas are routinely subjected to forced labour, extortion, and constant humiliations. While UNHCR and its partners have managed to reduce the amount of compulsory labour by taking over responsibility for building local road infrastructure, this practice is far from being eradicated. Forced labourers continue to be recruited for army camp construction and maintenance, sentry duty, portering, and especially for such commercial ventures of the military as shrimp farm maintenance, plantation work, brick-baking, bamboo collection and wood cutting.
Currently, there is increased repression against Muslims in Burma. On August 1, the SPDC signed the United States-ASEAN Joint Declaration of Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism. Ethnic cleansing policies against the Rohingya Muslims have been newly consecrated as an “anti-terrorist campaign”.
Bangladesh has been burdened by two mass exoduses of more than 200,000 Rohingya refugees, in 1978 and again in 1991/2. In both cases, repatriation followed in conditions far from conducive to safe return. After gaining access to the Burma side of the border, UNHCR supervised the last mass repatriation but its “voluntariness” was questioned by international relief agencies. At present, 21,500 refugees remain in two camps in Bangladesh without any durable solution in sight. Repatriation has stalled for several years. The SPDC has not expressed any willingness to accept them back, while most refugees do not want to repatriate to Burma until conditions improve to guarantee a return in safety and dignity. UNHCR has recently announced its plan to disengage from both sides of the border by June 2003. UNHCR being the only international organisation with a protection mandate, there are grave concerns that its withdrawal could lead to severe abuses both in Bangladesh and Burma.
The conditions in the refugee camps are particularly appalling. They are managed by Bangladeshi officials and not, as along the Thai-Burma border, by the refugees themselves. Primary education has only been permitted in recent years and capacity building for refugees is minimal. Corruption and violence are common. 58% of refugee children suffer from chronic malnutrition, exposing them to disease and hampering their physical and mental development.
Access to the refugee camps has been denied to new arrivals since 1995 when the mass repatriation started. However, the exodus never stopped. The post-1995 outflow is a constant trickle of repatriated refugees (“double-backers”) fleeing again to Bangladesh and newcomers who are either landless or have had their land confiscated. Starvation prompted their flight but lack of food came about because of forced labour and extortion. This influx seems to be encouraged and at the same time strictly controlled by the Burmese authorities, and concurrently it is rendered invisible by the Bangladesh authorities. The local press reports that as many as 200,000 Rohingya are living illegally in slums or villages in the Southern region of Bangladesh. People living in a shanty town near Cox’s Bazar claim that up to 80% of their population comes from Burma. They are surviving as undocumented migrants without any protection from UNHCR nor humanitarian assistance. The Bangladesh authorities refer to them as “economic migrants” and do not allow any relief for fear of creating a pull-factor. In early June 2002, they declared that “it was taking all out measures to complete repatriation of the remaining Rohingya refugees by June 2003 and had instructed border forces to check further influx from Burma.” Over the last 2 or 3 months the outflow of new arrivals from Burma has again increased significantly due to high rice prices, devaluation of the Kyat, and the strict implementation of land policy.
Stateless, expelled from Burma and unwanted in Bangladesh, some Rohingya are relying on human smuggling and trafficking to look for better living conditions in Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Dubai.
The Rohingya plight can be summarised in these 3 questions a woman addressed to me during an interview: “Who am I? What should I do? Where should I go?”
The Rakhine Buddhists are also a neglected ethnic group in Burma. The Burmese regime has always attempted to forcibly assimilate them. They are also subjected to forced labour. They are tightly controlled and taxed. Whereas very few Rakhine refugees came to Bangladesh, many left Arakan State to search for income opportunities in the urban centres of Central Burma and, whenever possible, on to Thailand and Malaysia. About 50 Rakhine political activists have been recognised by UNHCR as urban refugees in Dhaka. Assistance from UNHCR was curtailed in 1998 and most survive in substandard conditions.
In addition, I must mention the hopeless situation of more than 500 Burmese “released prisoners” detained in Bangladeshi jails. Half of them are fishermen from various parts of Burma, but especially from Mon State and Tenasserim Division, who first came to Thailand seeking jobs on Thai fishing trawlers and were later caught fishing illegally in Bangladeshi territorial waters. The other half are Rohingyas arrested as illegals in Bangladesh. All of them have long ago served their sentence for illegal entry but could not be released because the Burmese authorities are generally not interested in taking them back. As a result, they are languishing in jails, some for more than 10 years.
In conclusion, the western border of Burma and the refugees in India and Bangladesh deserve more attention from the international community, whether for capacity-building, humanitarian assistance or advocacy. Canada and other countries should use their leverage to pressure Bangladesh and India into recognizing and treating refugees from Burma according to international human rights standards.
What Chinland with its people is to India
by Pu Lian Uk
Recently I read an article “In Land of Plenty, Some Swiss Struggle to Get By” by an author, ELIZABETH OLSON in The New York Times. The article reminds me what some people usually told us about some similarities between Switzerland and Chinland as both being land locked and hilly regions in a similar geographical position. So It gives me an idea to write this article in the context of that article thinking that we may get some idea from it
Switzerland, being the highest land mass in the region in the center of Europe, has a dominating position of its surrounding regions. Thus it is a very strategically position in military point of view.
Any forces that dominate that highland have been supposed to have great advantage to others in warfare. The reason why Switzerland was made to be a neutral nation by warring European countries in the past therefore is said due to its strategically position as a highland in the center of Europe. It remains a neutral country till recently. It has become now a UN member.
Switzerland, though a land locked nation, is usually known as land of plenty as it is here written in the heading of the article I mentioned. In Burmese it is said “Lawka-neihban”. Its geographical position, being between the Great-lowland plain and the Lombardi plain in South Europe, is to some people comparable with the geographical position of Nagaland, Mizoram in North East India and the Chin State in the Union of Burma in South Asia.
The geographical position of the three sister States, together with Manipur State, as a single land mass is also a mountainous region Between Ganges-Brahmaputra plain and the Chindwin-Irrawadi plain serving as a defense natural wall. It also is like a bridge between the two plains like the Alps, on which Switzerland also is, serves as a bridge between the Great-lowland plain and Lombardi plain. Not only that the two territories had Similar geographical position, but also geologists even have found out that the two territories have the same type of soil and rock structure.
In fact, this highland embracing ChinHills in continuous to Patkoi range was the lifeline of the allied forces and what is now Republic of India to survive today the invasion of Japanese fascists during World War II. It was from Kohima, Imphal and Chin Hills that the invading Japanese forces were repelled to save India from the war.
British Burma, at that time, was totally occupied by the Japanese forces and the government of British Burma fled the country to Simla in India leaving Chin Hills/Chinland and the whole British Burma under the mercy of fascistJapanese forces. The Chin people who were still loyal to the British and the allied forces resisted the occupying Japanese in guerilla warfare as Western Chin Levy.
Had the Japanese invading forces, who tried to penetrate into Ganges-Brahmaputra valley of British India through Chin Hills /Chin State, were not repelled by the Chin guerilla forces from their territory with the help of the topography of their land, the people of India and the allied forces had to face the brunt of war against the invading Japanese fascists in the Ganges-Brahmaputra flat plain costing many lives and wealth and even the Japanese could occupy the whole British India.
The reason was that it would not be easy to defend the country against the invading forces from the flat plain in the Ganges and Brahmaputra valley. At the same time there were Indian forces led by Mr. Chandra Bose who were fighting in alliance with the Japanese forces against the British and the allied nations. The Burmese or Burman forces were also at that time fighting against the allied force that were sacrificing their lives in defending India.
The governor and the Frontier Areas Secretary of British Burma, who fled Burma to Simla in India during the war declared that the allied nations and India had for this reason owed a great debt of gratitude to the Chin as both knew about the situation of that war very well in this region, (The Economics of the Central Chin Tribes by HNC Stevenson). We hope that the allied nations and India today acknowledge it.
The lifeline of the Republic of India could again be on this highland as it was in World War II if Burma military regime, having no ideology other than militarism to hold on their dictatorship, joins the communist China to invade India to turn it into communist country. The two nations in the past had been once at war for one reason or the other and we can not say that it will not break out again any time in the future.
If the highly development and prosperity of Switzerland is at least in parts due to its geographical position, bridging the two plains in the South Europe, this group of sister States as a landmass in South Asia could also have such chance and opportunity to develop like Switzerland if they are free to shape their own destiny politically.
The inhabitants of these sister states are people who have so many similar affinities to be regarded in anthropology as a people in their long history. Even the Chin State by itself with an area, at present not less than 14000 Sq. miles, is larger than many sovereign independent nations the world over.
It was also the plan of the British to keep them as a province under a governor like Assam, Bengal and Burma when the territory was annexed in the late 1900s. The same idea again, to carve out this territory as a province to let them regain their own independence like other nations, was once again repeated under what was called the Crown Colony Scheme soon after World War II.
Nagaland leaders like A.Z. Phizo was said to have such vision before India and Burma became Independence from British. So independence of Nagaland was proclaimed on August 14, 1947 just the day before India and Pakistan proclaimed independence from British on August 15, 1947.
Nagaland Independence issue, though it was made comparable with the case of Algeria round about in 1960s, has not been raised in the UN just only for the reason that India has majority support in the UN (The United Nations and Portugal by Franco Nogueira P. 98). Algeria has now long been a sovereign independent state in north Africa.
At present the ethnic cleansing program launched by the Burmese military regime on the Chin people and their refusing to hand over power to elected parliament has created increased suspicions on the ruling military regime that their prolonging to rule the country is an intension to totally crush the existence of the Chin people and their fellow non-Burman nationalities of the Union.
The unfaithfulness of the Burmese leaders after the assassination of General Aung San for which the Chin people have suffered much in their joining the union, has seriously made in some people idea that Chinland is now forced to declare their own sovereign independent state.
In such cases India, whose democratic ideology could hold the existence of the Chins as a people, may have the option to accept Chin land as a protectorate nation on condition that their foreign relation and defense should be in consistent with Indian foreign and defense policy. This program could also make the Chinland closer to its sister states in the northeast India.
The ruling military regime has discarded the constitution of the Union of Burma in violation of the Panglong Agreement. Chinland, of course, which has never been a part of Burma or Burmese kingdom in their long history before British annexation, has now every right to secede from the Union of Burma in the absence of the Panglong Agreement and the 1947 Constitution of the Union of Burma. .
The Chin Hills Regulation 1896 amended in 1919 in its Section 2 actually defined all the inhabitants of this landmass as a people known as Chins. The Chin Hills Regulation, which is still in force in the Naga Hills in the Union of Burma and in the Chin State in its amendment as Chin Special Division Act 1948 and in some parts of North East India in its context, still recognized them legally as a people.
The Chin Hills Regulation 1896 was proclaimed and adopted by the Governor in Council of British India on August 13, 1896 to be used in administering the people who inhabited this single landmass between the two plains.
Some people even suggested that this August 13 should be observed as a historical day by the inhabitants of these sister states for good or for bad as the Chin Hills Regulation has great impact on them.
As a matter of fact, the Chin Hills Regulation protected the sister states from the over flow of the population into their territory from outside their common landmass. The document, that makes the people outside Mizoram State need to get Inner line permit today to get into Mizoram, is said to have derived from this Chin Hills Regulations 1896.
The inhabitants of this vast territories when they meet in foreign lands outside their common mother landmass always intimately hug each other as a long lost brothers and see and take care of each other welfare showing their instinct closeness of blood relation though they may have their respective minor regional differences.
The population in these states is overwhelmingly Christians to be able to call them Christian States. They are surrounded by extraordinarily densely populated Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists populations. Thus they are like the lonely and remote islands in the deep sea in the midst of the three extraordinarily densely populated religions in the region.
The reason why the British invaders immediately could recognized them as a people was based on their similarity in their native common religion which molded their many similar affinities as a people today and that same native religious faith has today transformed them again to have the same common faith in Christianity. Thus their common faith continues on keeping them today as the same people as before in their Christian faith.
As a matter of fact, 85% in Nagaland, 75% in Mizoram according to what was released recently in an Indian newspaper and 80% in Chin State in their respective states are Christian population.
They may very soon be able to see the need to make cultural exchange by forming a common religion organization in their common Christian Faith in which they can exchange their knowledge and experience to develop their religious faith and other cultural aspects.