My Vision for Chinland

By – Zo Tum Hmung

Introduction: Chinland (Chin Nation) is situated in Bangladesh, Burma, and India. Before the British annexed it in 1890, Chinland was an independent country with its own administration, religion and culture since time immemorial. The British ruled Chinland together with India and Burma till 1937 from British India for its administrative convenience. This had separated Chin territory into two pats, whose boundary line became the international border between India and Burma. For the Chins, it is an artificial boundary, since the British did not take the informed consent of the Chin people when it was divided. One part of Chinland was ruled form British India, and another part fell under the rule of British Burma.

During the colonial period, the British ruled Chinland with the Chin Hills Regulations, Which were enacted on 13 August 1896 because the Chin peoples quite different from the Burmese culturally and linguistically, giving autonomy to the chiefs of Chinland. When India gained the complete independence from the British in 1947, Chinland ruled from British India joined the Indian government. In 1948, the British granted independence to other part of Chinland along with others ruled from British Burma. in that year, the Chin peoples participated in forming the Union government with Kachin, Shan, and Burmese for the purpose of mutual benefits. Therefore, this paper would attempt to critically analyze the true status of the Chin people in the Union of Burma and will set forth a dream for the future of Chinland.

A Broken Union of Burma:

The word “Union” clearly indicates that the government is not of a single people or group; it is of at least two or more peoples. Therefore, it is very important to note that the government formed by the Kachin, Chin, Shan and Burmese before the military coup in 1962 led by General Ne Win was not the only government of Burmese nor of the Shan. It was not only the Chin people, nor the Kachin either. It was the Union Government of the Burmese, Kachin, Chin and Shan on the grounds of Panglong Agreement, signed by the four different groups on February 12, 1947 became Union Day in Burma, and has been successful observed till today.

The following are the representatives of the Panglong Agreement.

(1) Shan Committee: Hkun Pan Sein, Sao Shwe Thaike, Soe Homhpa, Sao SanHtun, Sao Tun Aye, Maung Phyu, M. Khun Hpung, U Tin Aye, Tun Myint, Kya Bu, Sao Yapehpa, Khun Saw and Khun Htee;
(2) Kachin Committee; Sinwa Nawng, zau Rip, Dinra Tang, Zau La, Zau Lawn and Labang Grong;
(3) Chin Committee; Hlur Hmung, Thawng Za Khup and Kio Mang.
(4) Burmese Representative; U Aung San.

As a matter of fact, the importance of the Panglong Agreement has mutual benefits for all of the signatories. Among the 9 points agreement signed together, the preamble also clearly mentions the purpose of the agreement; “The members of the Conference, believing that freedom will be more speedily achieved by the Shans, the Kachins and the Chins by their immediate cooperating with the Interim Burmese government.” The Agreement also came to the point that the system of the administration for the frontier areas (Kachin, Chin and Shan areas) shall be federalism in the union government. Article 5 of the Panglong Agreement says, “Full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas is accepted”… Article 7, which guaranteed the fundamental rights of the indigenous peoples, states, “Citizens of the Frontier Areas shall enjoy rights and privileges which are regarded as fundamental in democratic countries.” Moreover, Chapter Ten of the Union Constitution was for the right of secession for the indigenous people; giving its title as the “Right of Secession”. The right of secession was solely vested on the will of the indigenous people. “Every State shall have the right to secede from the Union”…(Article 20); “Any State wishing to exercise the right of secession shall have a resolution to that effect passed by its State Council” (Article203-1); “The Head of the State concerned shall notify the President of any such resolution passed by the Council” (203-ii); The president shall thereupon order a plebiscite to be taken for the purpose of ascertaining the will of the people living in the State concerned” (Article 204).” The military regime does not practice the agreement made with its fellows and has been systematically persecuting the co-signatories and co-founders of the Union government. The insincere attitudes of abolishing the agreement and the Union Constitution could be clearly interpreted as breaking the relationship among the signatories, paving the way for all to go back to the Pre-Panglong Agreement status.

Under the successive military regime of Burma:

The purpose of representatives of the Chin people signing the Panglong Agreement and their participation in forming the Union government was quite clear. They wanted to get independence form the British quickly, and they thought they would find a better life for the Chin in the Union government according to the Constitution. Unfortunately, after the military takeover by General Ne Win in 1962, the inherent tights of the Chin people gave been lost daily, constitutionally and practically. Even when General Ne Win prepared to draft the Union Constitution, which came into being in 1947 for the purpose of legitimacy, the Chin peoples submitted Suggestions for the Constitution in 1968.

The title of the Suggestions was known as “ The Suggestions of the Young Chin People”. The suggestion, written in the Burmese language and which are available outside the country of Burma, were mainly proposed for the Constitution to be drafted democratically and to consider federalism for the Chin people. As soon as this came to the notice of Ne Win, he banned the suggestion papers and arrested intellectuals of the Chin people who were suspected of participating in writing the suggestions. The military regime released them only in 1947, when the Constitution was already adopted. There were no fundamental rights for the Chin in this Constitution, as the constitution was of the military’s design. As a result, Chinland fell under the rule of the Burmese army completely, against the consent of the Chin people. There were several areas in which the despotic rulers of Burma subjugated the Chin people. For example, the unavailability of a university in Chinland for two million Chin people clearly testifies to the policy of assimilation by the military government of Burma towards the Chin peoples. Since February of 1995, the learning of the Chin language has been prohibited by the present military junta, known by the acronym SLORC (State law and order restoration council).

Forget about development issues, cultural genocide, administrative systems, and human rights violations such as portering, unpaid labor, relocation of the Chin day-to-day painful experiences; the attitudes of the military towards the Chins in 1979 was unforgettable. It was a cruel program by the military government of Rangoon to plant opium in the Tiddim area of Chinland. More than 400 Chin university students in Rangoon, had fearlessly boycotted such plans, which aimed to wipe out the existence of the Chin people, by encouraging the use of the narcotic. They made a strong statement that the military regime should withdraw its plan. As a result, the Burmese army suspended its inhuman program. This kind of policy continues today in Chinland.

In the field of religious freedom, the 1947 Constitution made by the dictatorial rulers provided the free exercise of one’s religious in Burma. The 1974 were Constitution says: “The National Races shall enjoy the freedom to profess their religion, use and develop their language, literature and culture”… In practice, this Constitution has no meaning for the Burmese army. The closing of some Churches in Chinland by the Army is an example showing the betrayal of the military junta of the Constitution and the Chin people. History repeatedly mentions that successive military regimes do not act according to the handmade Constitution. In the same manner, the agreement between the Burmans and the Chin became a dead agreement for the Burmese military government.

Therefore, drafting the new Union Constitution of Burma will indeed be a crucial question for the future Union of Burma and the Chinland’s future as well.Equally important, the Panglong Agreement would play a key role in restoring the Union.

National Struggle:

In order to understanding more about the painful experiences of the Chin peoples and their desire, its national struggle needs to be noted briefly here. In fact, the history of the Chin nationalism movement goes back to the period of colonial rule .In1939,the Chin National Union led by Vuam Tu Mang de4manded independence from tie British. Instead of considering the demands, the government in Rangoon arrested toe leaders of the CNU and kept them in jail.

In 1957,another Chin national movement, called the Chin National Organization, was formed under the leadership of Hrang Nawl, a former member of Parliament, along with many prominent Chin leaders, such as Lt. Col. Suan Kho Pau, son Cin Lian and others .The CNO based their activities in India. When the India Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shatri visited Rangoon in 1965, General Ne Win of Burma convinced him to wipe out the CNO. Therefore, the Indian government arrested all the leaders of the CNO and handed them over into the hands of the Burmese army, They were kept in jail for more than eight years in Burma.

After the death of both the CNU and CNO, the Chin Democratic Party was formed by Mang Tling, a former member of Parliament who has been in political exile in the United State, in 1971. Under the CDP’s umbrella, the Chin Liberation Army was formed, and its head was William Sa Lian Zam. When the CLA marched into Chinland from the Thai-Burmese border area and Kachinland, they were attacked by the Indian army in the Indo-Burmese border areas. As they entered Burmese soil, the Burmese army captured all of them. They were killed on the spot by the army without court proceedings. Naturally, in the beginning of movement, Chin national revolutionary activities have to be based in its border areas of Indian soil. This is a major handicapped unfortunateness for the Chin peoples that the Indian authority never allowed to exist the movement. On the other side, the Burmese army always takes these advantages. But, the love of nationalism never disappears in the heart of the chins, which have distinct national identity and its national territory. Again, Tial Khar, a renounced Chin nationalist, formed the Chin National Front and who publicly criticized the military coup in 1962. After the democratic uprising of Burma in 1988, many Chin intellectuals and university students joined the CNF that has strengthen the movement. Mr. Thomas Thang No, a law degree holder, has been leading the CNF now, and it became one of the reliable sources in fighting against the Slorc from the western front.

Due to this continuous political crisis and civil unrest in Chinland, there are more than 40,000 Chin refuges from Burma in India. These refugees felt that India was not welcoming refuge for them. The Indian government does not allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee in New Delhi to assess the situation of refugees in border areas. In September and October of 1994, the Indian authorizes deported about 10,000 Chin refugees to Burma.

Actually, during democratic rules in the Union of Burma, the Chin people in India and Burma were well treated by both countries because of the shared national identity of Chin. For example, many Chins from India served in the Burmese army without questioning their Indian citizenship on the ground of Chin identity in the 1950s.

The Chin peoples from Burma were also welcomed by the Indian government as well. The 1950 Passport Act of the Indian Constitution made provision for the Chin people from Burma so that they could visit, within 25 miles of the border, their countrymen in India without requirement of legal entry permit by the Indian authorities. Likewise, the Chins of India have the same right in Burma.
After the nationalist awakening of the Chins in Burma, the attitudes of the Indian government changed negatively. The Indian government was afraid that Chinland in Burma would gain its independence from Burma, which would definitely endanger the stability of the Indian government in the Chin area. Another factors is that the India government indeed needed the supply of rice from Burma in the 1960s. Also, the military rulers of Burma have been approaching India not to Burmese territory. The Operation Golden Bird in early of 1995 was an enough example in which both the Indian and the Burmese soldiers cooperated against the Indian rebels.

No doubt, the Chin national Front also faces the challenge of the Indian government’s policies, as well as those of Slorc. However, the CNF is going forwards with its policy that is not intended to oppose the Indian government or the Indian people. It is the only hope for the Chin struggle against the dictatorial rule of Burma and its fight for self-determination. The entire Chin people are proud of the Chin National Army, which is an armed wing of the CNF, for its faithful service to the Chin people. It will fight until the restoration of the inherent rights of the Chin People with the full support of the Chin people. Conclusion:

Needless to say, the Burmese army does not respect their agreement and the Union Constitution. In fact, the agreement should be respected by the signatories. The historic Union with Burma for 48 years clearly taught us the disadvantages of the Chin peoples. Days and nights passed with tears, blood, and death for the Chin people in Chinland: there is no rule of law in Chinland. Whatever the Burmese army says or does becomes law. For these reasons, the Chin people have been taking up arms as a last resort against the despotic rulers of Burma.

Therefore, I am looking for the brightness of the Chin people in the near future, trusting in the Chin National Army. My vision for Chinland is: Chinland is for Chin peoples and Chin peoples are for Chinland.

Source: http://www.chinland.org/publications/art6.pdf

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