By Salai Ceu Mang
Date: 20 februar 2013.
Chin as our national name
The Chins are found in mountainous region in the northwestern part of Myanmar, between India and Bangladesh, and were independent people prior to the British colonization. In 1890, the British conquered our land and observed as being identified ourselves as different names such as Asho, Cho, Kuku, Laimi, Lusei, and Zomi. However they acknowledged that we are the same people with varied dialects, shared culture pattern, marriage system, clan system, law and custom etc. Linguistic similarity is also another area that the British observed about the Chins as one people, that the Chins have same or very close names of animal, plants and other materials names though slightly different in accent.
Geographically speaking, we occupied mountainous territories that had never been under any foreign occupation and thereby never mixed with other nationalities. They observed also that we came from the same valley of Chindwin and later moved up to mountainous areas where we settle today. By observing all features by international standard, the British finally concluded that the Chins are one ethnic people and our national name as ‘Chin’, a name that historically used by our forefathers. The name ‘Chin’ has its root from China; our connection to them therefore is meaningful and distinctive.
Under the British colony
Prior to the British colonization, the Chins had no a single political ruling system that represented the whole Chinland with diverse tribal groups. The many tribes with their own dialects in different territories had their own chieftains. The British created the law called ‘Chin Hills Regulation Act’ in 1986, which was made applicable for all tribes in Chinland. In this way, the name ‘Chin’ became an official name of people of Chinland. That was historically the beginning of the name became recognized as Chin by the world as our national name. The name took shaped and gradually accepted widely and most importantly internationally.
The British ruled territories inhabited by ethnic Bamar under the Burma proper while other ethnic nationalities were put under Frontier Area Administration. Governor was supposed to be in charge of the Chin state, but the deputy commissioners and sub-division officers were assigned as in charge of our land as we had no shared political system at a national level. The Chins were forced as porter during World War II, therefore the Chins revolted against the British. Many were killed and imprisoned during the revolution. And other also fled to Gankaw district, which was under the Burma proper administration. They were in fact the first Chin refugees.
The worst and most painful experience for the Chins occurred first in 1937 and in 1948 when the British divided Chinland into three parts; one into India, one into Burma and one into Bangladesh, without consulting the land owners, the Chins. Since then self-determination began losing its meaning among the Chins. That was also the reason why the Chins took arm and revolted against the British colonizers.
The panglong agreement and the founding of the Union of Burma
As the WWII came to an end, the colony powers were significantly reduced. Therefore granting Burma independence became inevitable. The British wanted the ethnic minorities to remain under the UN administration until they became self-reliance. The Burman leaders persuaded ethnic leaders by promising to form a union where all stakeholders would have equal rights. Under the leadership of Aung San, on February 12, 1947, ethnic representatives from the Shan, Kachin, Chin and Burma proper signed a historic agreement that guaranteed equal rights under federal democratic system, at Panglong, Shan state. It’s fair to say that Panglong accord gave birth to the Union of Burma. On January 4, 1948, Burma proper and other ethnic states got independence.
Origin of a historic Chin National Day.
In 1896, the Chin hill district headquarters were located in Falam town. This included the townships of Falam, Tedim (current Tedim and Tongzang), Haka (Current Hakha, Thantlang and Matupi). Palehwa township was made part of Burma proper and put under the administration of of Sittwe district. Townships of Kanpalet and Mindat were also made part of Burma proper and administered by Pakhuko district. In 1928, Kanpetlet township was moved to Falam district administration. If we look at history between 1929-30, we can see leaders of Kanpalet complaining about the move of their administrative headquarter and showing their concern about change in distance and that they would need to learn Laizo language and profess Christianity. They therefore made request that their township be administered by Pakhuko district, thereby they would be free from learning Laizo language or a language spoken by Falam people.
However on February 20, 1948, as people firmly recognized that we are one people, the public meeting in Falam was attended by Chins across the state including people from southern Chin state; Mindat, Kanpetlet and Paletwah. Dignitaries including tribal and local chiefs and representatives from northern Chin state were also present at the meeting. The day is historically significant because:
- This is the day for the first time in history; we voluntarily recognized the name ‘Chin’ as our collective national name without being coerced by anyone.
- The day we collectively abandoned feudal system and started practicing democratic system.
- The day we chosed federal system for Burma based on the aspiration of Panglong agreement.
- The day Chinland started to have a democratic society.
The Burman rulers annulled the Panglong Agreement.
When Aung San, national hero and the father of Aung San Suu Kyi was assassinated along with his cabinet members, the remaining leaders led by U Nu and his colleagues, Burman nationalists immediately annulled the Panglong agreement. Though we became independent from the British, we remained stuck as slaves under the hand of the Burmans who appears to be much worst than the British. The Burman denied the concept of federal democracy based on equal rights among ethnic states, but maintained the Burman centric state where they continued to rule other ethnic states as their new colonies.
Buddhism was declared as state religion, all state government officials are gathered in Yangon and are brainwashed with the policy of Burmanization. Gradually and systematically our Chin identity was made blurred. In March 1962 Ne Win staged a coup d’état’ and the suffering and discrimination of ethnic minorities became more prevalent. After Ne Win, Saw Maung and Than Shwe continued the same policy.
- All laws were abolished and military’s orders became laws (Martial laws were imposed). No rule of laws and we were all under the command of military dictatorship.
- They took the life of our hero, Salai Tin Maung Oo.
- They claimed that federalism is equivalent to disintegration of the union, therefore claimed a neccessity to be under the military dictatorship.
- Ethnic languages are forbidden in schools except for basic level of up to 2nd standard at primary level.
- The worst case is that a policy of one nation one language and one religion is forcibly imposed on all ethnic groups in the country.
- State budget is allocated to building Buddish boarding schools in Chin state. Students going at such state sponsored Buddhist schools usually get daily subsistence and but they are often forced to wear Buddish monks robe and finally became Buddist.
- Every cross erected on top of mountains are ordered to be destroyed and replaced with Buddist pagodas.
- Cheating in school exam has been taught, and become a norm in everyday life. Students passing exam by cheating will never become a person of dignity and deserved to be trusted.
- On May 17, 2008, a much criticized constitution was approved by referendum not supported by general public.
Because estimated 90% of the population in Chin state is Christian we face more hatred by Buddist dominated military regime. The government sets up institutions like universities, other development oriented institutions, factories and hydroelectric projects across states and divisions in the country, but we the Chins are often left behind in these all priorities. Even in smaller state like Kaya state, it can be seen 7 institutions including universities. We have not had a single university in Chin state till today. Chin state is the poorest state according to the 2008 UNDP research result.
CNF maintains the aspiration of Panglong agreement.
The CNF up to this day maintains the aspiration of Panglong Agreement – self-determination and federalism in the Union of Myanmar. As history of the world has shown the importance of holding arm under the military dictatorship, it is critical for us to unitedly support the CNF and its vision for our future. The ongoing peace process that the CNF has chosen to engage is primarily aimed at achieving the promises of Panlong agreement. In addition, the CNF has vigorously started engaging in tribal conflicts, the prolonged conflict, which has been viralled as cronic desease among us. The step taken is positive, should be welcome and supported. We should not forget to pray for them as well.
We deserted our homeland
We are no longer safe in our own homeland because of the military regime, undergoing persecution and hardships, we are hungry and life is grim. At least 25% (125, 000) of the whole Chin population from Chin state has fled their homeland for better lives and safety. UNHCR in countries, such as Malaysia, India and Thailand granted us refugee status, and through their arrangement we finally resettled to Norway.
The country that has granted us resettlement doesn’t want us to lose our identity. Therefore we are, as everyone else in the country, granted rights to maintain our languages, celebrate our national day freely and establish our own churches freely where we worship God with our own languages. We are also allowed to form organization with our national name. That is the reason why we, in the name of CCN, could celebrate our national day today. Let’s not forget to thank the government of Norway and its people for all the support and humanly concern about our plight.