[The speech below was delivered on the 62th anniversary of Chin National Day jointly organized by CCN at Froland, Norway]
Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to have the opportunity to deliver a speech on such an auspicious occasion of the 62th Anniversary of Chin National Day. I would like to thank the Chin Community in Norway (CCN) who are here tonight–coming from all over Norway, and especially to its Froland-based members who organized this event. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Norwegians who are in a way, supporting the Chin cause by joining us on this auspicious Day. On behalf of all Chins in Norway, I would also like to thank the Royal Norwegian government who give us love, sympathy, shelter and refuge in their country.
First, let me brief you about the Chin and Chin land. Chin land is located between Burma, India and Bangladesh. Before the British invasion, Chin land was an independent nation that had its own territory with well-defined boundaries with its neighboring countries and their own language and culture as well. The British subjugated the entire Chin Hills in 1885. The British ruled the Chin Hills for 62 years until 1947. Chin land was divided into three parts to become parts of Burma, India and Bangladesh without the consult of its people.
The birth of Union of Burma: Burma including the eastern part of Chin land (i.e., the present Chin State) also became independent in January 4, 1948. Before independence from British, negotiations for independence took place in the Shan State of Panglong on February 12, 1947, where a historical treaty known as “Pang Long Agreement’’ was signed. The signatories were leaders and representatives from Burma, Chin, Kachin, and Shan. They formally agreed to form the Union of Burma. It is the birth of Union of Burma.
The birth of Chin National Day: After independent, Chin political leaders organized a Chin National Conference on February 20, 1948, at Falam, Chin state. It was the a historical landmark as the first time ever in our entire history where the Chin peoples from all over Chin land gathered to determine their common destiny. The following are the significant facts of the Chin National Day.
- Chin people from east and west, out of their own initiative convene a National Conference in unity;
- Sixty two years ago on this day – 20th February – the Chin people in Burma laid down the foundation stones of democracy in Chin land;
- On this day the Chin people gained back their national self-determination and they all unanimously agreed and affirmed their political identity to be – Chin;
Under the Military rule: However, the Burma Army took over the state power by force from the civilian government in 1962 and introduced one party dictatorial system under the coup leader General Ne Win. A series of military regimes have since ruthlessly controlled the country through violence and oppression. Burma’s ethnic nationalities, which comprise roughly 40 percent of the total population, suffer religious and political persecution. Ne Win totally discarded the Panglong Agreement and the dreams of our fore fathers to establish a peaceful, prosperous democratic federal Union of Burma. Under Ne Win’s rules:
- The civilian government was nullified and the period of brutality, under one party dictatorial system was first established.
- The military government blown off the Students Union Building with dynamite, the historical shrine of Burma’s Independent struggle on 7 July 1962 and hundreds of students, who showed their defiance against the military coup, were mowed down to death.
- Freedom of speech, freedom of press and all human rights were taken away, while the students struggle to restore democracy continued. In 1976 Salai Tin Mg Oo, a leader of Chin students, was hanged to death by the military government
- The military government started to isolate the whole country form the outside world.
- The military government started to brain washed the general population that federalism is the way to national disintegration.
- Teaching ethnic languages in schools were banned
- Worst still, the junta started its assimilation campaign against the ethnic groups under burmanization under the motto of “One nation, One religion, one language”
8888 Uprising: As the forces of globalization swept across the globe, its impact reached Burma in 1988, when the university students and civilians took to the street, demanding human rights and democracy in Burma. However, the movement was mercilessly crushed by the military government, which resulted in the death of thousands of students and civilians. Therefore, many students who got involved in that movement formed Chin National Front (CNF) in 1988 in the struggle against the military government. Many of Chin students joined CNF since inception, and it has tremendous leverage in its struggle against the military rule in Burma.
Post 8888: Even after the national uprisings of the 1988 respect for the rule of law has not prevailed and rampant corruption, lack of transparency and lack of accountability on continued. General Than Shwe took over power following the resignations of Ne Win and Saw Maung. General Than Shwe follows the footsteps of his predecessors:-
- Resumed the Ne Win’s policy of “ one nation, one religion and one language”;
- Burmese soldiers were sent to ethnic remote areas to assimilate them in many ways: inter marriage, especially targeted on the daughters of Christian pastors in Chin State.
- The government established state-run schools in which impoverished students were allowed to attend free of charges, plus giving some aids so that they can convert them to Buddhism;
- The civil servants’ salaries are not enough for a week to sustain their families and that resulted in rampant corruption among the public servants;
- The military government forcefully promulgated their one-sidedly drafted Constitution through “referendum” on May 17,2007;
- The military government formed its thug known as USDA in order to counter-balance the roles of Civil Society and to help them prolong their stay in power;
- USDA is the junta’s thugs, which targets the pro-democracy movements in the country;
Religion: Before Missionaries came to Chin land, the Chin people were animists. The first missionary couple arrived in Hakha on 15 March 1899 from America and supported by American Baptist Foreign Mission. The Chin people celebrated Chin Evangel Centenary in Hakha on 15 April 1999 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the gospel to Chin Hills. It is reported that more than 80% of the Chins belong to Christianity. 20% are Buddhists, animists and other religions. Burma is the Buddhists country, as 85 % is the Buddhists. The junda is determined to persecute the Chin Christians. The following facts highlight the junta’s stratagem to persecute and eliminate Christianity and denial of developments in Chin land:-
- Buddhist monks are sent to Chin State to counter the Christian growth in the region;
- Christianity movements and building new churches are strictly prohibited;
- Christian crosses erected on mountaintops across Chin State were replaced with Buddhist pagodas by force;
- No proper job is availability in the State;
- No railways and no airports are constructed;
- Teaching of Chin language is prohibited in Chin State;
- INGOs and tourism are not allowed entry into Chin State;
- No government-assisted developmental programs in Chin State;
- There are no higher learning institutions in Chin State; though other smaller states have their own colleges and universities;
- The planned paved road for Chin State in 1948 (Hakha to Kalay 112-miles) has never been fully completed;
- Among the Buddhist, 120-mile (southern Chin state) road was completed within two years (2005-2006) with the forced labor contributed by Chin Christians.
Food security: About 80% of the Chin people lived in rural areas where the people still practice the traditional way of slash and burn shifting cultivation. Due to poor soil, backward agricultural system and negligence of the government the food supply will continuously be in shortage for fore seeable future in Chin State. The biggest problem the Chin society faces at present is that of food security.
Chin State is a predominantly Christian state in a Buddhist country. Perhaps because of this, it is the most neglected and oppressed, therefore, the poorest state in the Union of Burma. The result is that there are few employment and business opportunities except the backbreaking work of tilling the land. Owing to this, hundreds of Chin families have migrated to elsewhere since the 1990s.
Food crisis in Chin State: Moreover, at present the people in Chin State are facing a widespread famine locally called “Mautam ” since 2006. When the bamboo flowers blossom, it bears the fruits, then all the bamboos die. The flowers and fruits of bamboos can be eaten by the rats, therefore a number of rats population are feasting on the bamboo seeds and rapidly increase its population. After the bamboo flowers and seed are gone these rats eat up all agricultural products over night, further migrating to other areas of the hill lands in the thousands. Hence, a widespread famine is in place since then. Rats have eaten not only rice but also other agricultural products such as maize, cucumber, beans, and pumpkins away.
The Chin Exodus: Even without the famine, there has been food scarcity in Chin State because of the military government’s economic mismanagement and various means of human rights violations. As a result, the Chins left their homeland Burma to avoid human right violations, forced labor, military porter, and other forceful services imposed against them by the ruling military government. The primary destinations for most Chin refugees are India and Malaysia. The journey out of Burma is fraught with risks for Chin refugees and many lives are lost along the way.
Words of thank and request for Norwegian people: It is expected that there would be more Chin refugees in the years to come through Malaysia and India. The Chin refugees have been arriving Norway since 2002 and now made up of about 1200 in Norway. We are very thankful to you for your love, sympathy, shelter and refuge in your country. We do not really worry about for food security, jobs, health, education, transportation, peace and all that is necessary for our daily life. However, living in Norway is not without problem. The big challenge faced by us is the lives between two cultures and languages.
In this regard, I would like to sincerely request the Norwegian government and the peoples to educate and help us with the following urgent needs we are facing;
- The need for proper integration into the Norwegian society;
- To educate us on Gender awareness;
- To educate us about the right of the children;
- To educate us about the democratic ideals and transparency;
- To educate us on the role of civil societies and minority right;
- To educate us on community management in democratic society;
Conclusion: As a matter of fact, due to the absent of the rule of law in the Burma under the brutal military dictatorship political change will not be seen easily. Therefore, urge international community, including the Royal Government of Norway to listen to the voice of the helpless people in Burma. We would like to urge the international community to engage by:
- To dialogue with constructive engagement for settlement of political situation in Burma
- To release all of political prisoners immediately and unconditionally
- To make possible the dialogue among the military regime, NLD and ethnic groups at all
- Initiating a humanitarian-based dialogue for food security in Burma;
- Encouraging the military regime to permit the entry of international supporters into Chin State to bring in food and other needs;
- Helping us in our struggle to restore peace, freedom and democracy in our country;
- Educating the Burmese and Chin refugees about the ideals of democracy, transparency, human rights, the role of civil societies and the rule of the law
Thank you and May God bless you all!
(Ceu Mang’s Profile)
Previous posts assigned before leaving Burma:
- Church Pastor Carson Baptist Church, Kalaymyo, Sagaing Division (1990-1996)
- General Secretary Chin Association for Christian Communication, Hakha (1992-96)
- Secretary Peace and Tranquility Commission (1994-2002)
- Secretariat United Nationalities Alliance-UNA (2002- 2008)
- Acting Secretary Chin National League for Democracy-CNLD (2002- 2008)
- Secretary Chin Social Association, Yangon (2006-2008)
- Coordinator Community (Chin) Development Initiative-CDI (2006-2008)
- Field Director Children Development Program -CDP(2007-2008)