Remaking the Future: An Interview with Victor Biak Lian
Remaking the Future:
An Interview with Victor Biak Lian
[Chinland Guardian Note: It was a nice sunny morning in the south western coastal region of Noarway. The Chin Forum’s tour through Europe had just ended the previous day in Egersund, a small harbour town in the southern tip of Norway, where more
than three hundred Chins were converging for their annual religious and community meeting. Similar meetings were held in Denmark and Germany in the preceding weeks where the Chin Forum and other leading Chin activists had a chance to meet and talk with Europe’s Chin community members. On a train en route to Stravenger, another beautiful Nowegian city, Chinland Guardian’s Salai Za Uk Ling had an opportunity to interview outgoing Chin Forum’s secretary Victor Biak Lian about the meetings in Europe, his experience, his views on Chin struggle….and more….]
Chinland Guardian: I am sure many people are very eager to know about this tour in Europe. Let me begin by asking as to the purpose of the Chin Forum’s meeting in Europe? What do you think were accomplished by this meeting?
Victor Biak Lian: Thank you for the opportunity to give my first interview with Chinland Guardian regarding the Chin Forum. As you know, in the past 8 years, the Chin Forum conducted many seminars, workshops and discussions among the Chin in various countries with the kind support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Euro Burma Office and the National Reconciliation Programme. But we never had such an opportunity with our fellow Chins in Europe and that’s why the Chin Forum’s Managing Board meeting was deliberately planned to coincide with various Chin community meetings taking place in Europe; in Denmark, Germany and Norway so that we could have consultation meetings with the Chin communities in Europe on Chinland Constitution in particular and the Chin political movements in general. In terms of accomplishment, I believe that through the meeting we were able to get the message out to our fellow Chins in Europe about our political struggle. I was very impressed by the great turnout and the enthusiasm and interest with which our fellow Chins in Europe participated in the consultation. I also hope that they there will be stronger understanding and cooperation from our friends in Europe in our future struggle.
Chinland Guardian: We’ve learned that you’ve relinquished your position as secretary of the Chin Forum after having served in the group for the last eight years. Why is that?
Yes, it is true that I have now relinquished my position as a secretary. Actually, I have requested the Managing Board of Chin Forum to let me leave the post since two years ago due to my heavy workloads at the National Reconciliation Programme, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Part of the reason is that I feel that I have served long enough and that there are other leaders amongst us who are just as capable. Another reason is that I am engaged in several other Chin-related works; as a Board member of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), and by extension Chin refugee issues in Malaysia, India, as well as a member of Strategy Study Committee of the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC). These are my major involvements. Along with these involvements come frequent travels which sometimes make me very tired. I believe I contributed my best to the work of the Chin Forum for these past eight years and I could only hope that others will feel the same way.
Chinland Guardian: As secretary of the Chin Forum for the past eight years, what are the most challenging and rewarding parts of the job?
Victor Biak Lian: I am glad you asked this question. Let me begin with the most difficult times I could recall. As you’d know about working in an organizational setting, you’d hope and plan for the best but things do not always turn out as you expected. We operated with limited capacity in terms of funding and human resource. Efforts are made with the maximum possibilities but sometimes I feel that all our efforts are just a waste of time and energy. One of the main purposes of the Chin Forum is to strengthen and nurture Chin unity. That’s not an easy task as you know. Sometimes we were accused of bias and favouritism. Sometimes it’s quite disappointing when things did not turn out as you expected, despite knowing that nothing can be perfect.
But when we see positive results out of our work, that’s the moment I enjoy the most. As I mentioned earlier, the Chin Forum has had many discussions and consultation with the Chin in different countries. What is very important, and we take it very seriously, is that we need to find our common ground on which to work together. Today, it is very encouraging to see our political organizations and civil society groups working together for our common cause. The creation of the Chin National Council has been a great achievement. I think we can say that the Chin Forum provided an important initial step in a long process of building a foundation for the kind of unity and understanding that led to the founding of the Chin National Council earlier this year.
Chinland Guardian: Most Chins would agree that the founding of the Chin Forum provided an important platform for leading Chin activists to work gather for common purpose at a time when ‘unity and cooperation’ was so desperately needed. What do you think made the Chin Forum so successful.
Victor Biak Lian: Yes, I agree that the Chin Forum’s contribution to the Chin political movement has been quite significant – in spite of the fact that we consider ourselves a non-political organization. One of the underpinning principles of the Chin Forum is that we must not affiliate with political organizations, rather we wanted to be a simple and loose organization or just a forum in which everybody can be accommodated regardless of their political affiliation, organizations etc. Whoever participated in the CF are individuals having a common interest in carrying out our common cause with a firm belief in the principle of “UNITY in DIVERSITY”.
As mentioned earlier, the Chin have many things in common for which we can work together. The most effective task we’ve undertaken so far was drafting the Chinland Constitution for our future political system. This is a core interest of all political organizations and civil society groups as well as individuals. Thousands Chin participated in this process and that bring us closer to one another and enable us to interact with each other, and finally, to work together.
Chinland Guardian: Biggest achievement of the Chin Forum in terms of impact and result?
Victor Biak Lian: The first Chin Seminar from which Chin Forum was founded, the second Chin Seminar in Delhi and several seminars and workshops on Chinland Constitutions all had given us a chance to meet, talk and interact with each other and recognize our differences and respect each other, and finally learn the need of working together. I would say that the Chin Forum has succeeded in providing an important impetus for the rise of cooperative spirits among Chin individuals and organizations. This is to say that the Chin Forum, in one way or the other, played an important role in the emergence of the Chin Consensus Building Seminar and the signing of Victoria Agreement, and of course eventually the Chin National Council. Some people might disagree with this position, but anyone who closely followed the Chin Forum’s activities and undertaking since its existence will understand that this was the case.
Chinland Guardian: You have been in the struggle for the past 18 years in various capacities; as a guerrilla fighter and leading member of Chin Forum and Chin Human Rights Organization, among others. Based on your personal experience, what are the weaknesses and strength of the Chin movement? In other words, what’s your view on the future of Chin struggle?
Victor Biak Lian: Thank you for the question. Actually, my involvement in this struggle began from the Street of Adihpadih Road of Rangoon University Main Campus in 1988. I later became a guerrilla fighter in the jungle and then an advocate for human rights. But I regard myself as an activist who still fights against the military dictatorship in Burma. I belong to no political organization now.
We must realize the fact that the country has not been free yet and we are still fighting the brutal regime. We must not confuse or deviate from our objective. I often see in ChinlandNet people finger-pointing each other and blaming the movement. We need tolerance and patience. I know there are some mistakes and failures in the struggle. But that doesn’t mean that we should deviate from our objectives. We always need to remind ourselves of the root cause of the country’s problems. I also want to highlight the fact that the Chin struggle has not suffered as much damage and loss compared to some of our ethnic brothers’. I am proud to say that we are not behind in the movement. But at the same time we need to continue to move forward with greater determination and conviction. In spite of our late beginning in the revolution, in many areas we are now an inspiration and a model for other ethnic groups in Burma. State Constitution Drafting process in which the Chins are taking the lead is something we all need to be proud of.
I also want to talk a little about the refugee issue. Today, we have approximately 20,000 Chin refugees in Malaysia and about 2000 in Delhi and about 40,000-60,000 of our people live in Mizoram. This is our common issue where we can begin to work together. We often have a wrong conception that refugee assistance is something outsiders will do for us. This is wrong. Churches are asking international communities to help for humanitarian and even for development. I think this is also wrong. We are now capable of helping ourselves in anything we want to do. I am impressed by the fact that in this trip, we met about 1000 Chins in around Europe and they all are capable financially to help the needy in Chin State. The same is true of North American Chin where we have about 2000 residents. We do have Chin in Australia and New Zealand as well as Singapore, Korea and Japan. All these Chin have not been apart of our strength for the movement. I hope it will be soon. So, my sincere appeal to the Chin is not to rely on others as we have more than enough resource within us. I also strongly urge all the Chin to work together with love and patient and tolerance.
Chinland Guardian: Thank you for your time.
Victor Biak Lian: Thanks so much for the opportunity.