Local youth groups to launch signature campaign over burial controversy
14 October 2020
Unsatisfied with the recent handling of a controversy surrounding the burial of a young Chin migrant worker whose dead body was transported from Malaysia to be laid to rest in her hometown of Thantlang, local youth groups are planning to launch a petition to have their grievance addressed by the Union Government in Nay Pyi Taw.
Facilitated by Thantlang Youth Association (TYA), individual signatures are being collected from residents in three townships following the “unsatisfactory response” from the Chin State Government during the official press conference conducted on Friday, October 9, 2020.
The local youths are conducting door-to-door visits to collect signatures from individuals willing to be part of the complaint, which they aim to send to the Union Government by the end of this week.
“Signature is open to any individuals or organizations willing to be part of this complaint before it closes on Friday,” said a local youth leader from Thantlang.
The petition to the Union government includes three demands, which were left unaddressed by the State government: to institute an independent body to make full investigation into the incident that led to the denial of burial for the dead body of Sui Hlei Tial at a cemetery, to hold all officials involved in making the decision to account, and to include local stakeholders in decision-making bodies that affect the community, including the Township level COVID-19 Response Committee.
Sui Hlei Tial, 21, passed away after falling off a nine-story building on 29 September 2020 in Malaysia. With the consent of relative members and with the help of the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the dead body was sent back from Malaysia to her native town, Thantlang of Chin State, Myanmar for the final burial.
The body was refused entry to the town’s entrance at a checkpoint operated by the local COVID-19 Response Committee, although the family had all the necessary documentation, including a proper death certificate from a Malaysian hospital and an official letter from Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
The Township Administrative Officer and Township Medical Officer, both of whom are non-ethnic Chin, were blamed for refusing to let the body buried in the town’s cemetery and compelling the family to make the burial on a roadside outside of town instead. Local residents were angered by the decision as the two officials who are the main decision-makers in the matter allegedly turned deaf ears to repeated pleas from local leaders and family members not to let the body be buried on the roadside. They accused the two officials of being insensitive to cultural norms and traditions and being utterly disrespectful of local Chin customs.
Under intense pressure and a storm of public condemnations, the authorities relented and let the family exhume the body and transfer it to the local cemetery, allowing only four people with full PPE gears to do the undertaking task in the dead of the night on October 6.
The incident had sparked outrage among Chin communities across the world and social media have been flooded with posts expressing deep resentment and anger towards the two officials who were also accused of suggesting that the family cremate the body against their Christian religious beliefs and traditions.
Reporting by Cer Len Ci and Naomy VT Chin