A Year in Review: 10 Most Impactful Events on the Chin in 2009
05 January 2010: The year 2009 proved to be one of the most difficult years for the Chin people in recent memory as they continued to struggle with the impact of cyclical flowering of bamboos and related rat infestation that culminated in the worst food crisis in half a century. But 2009 also carried some of the most memorable events that made great impacts on the lives of the Chin people. Chinland Guardian is pleased to present its list of the 10 top events [in chronological order] of the year 2009 that mattered to the Chin people.
Release of “We Are Like Forgotten People”
January: Human Rights Watch, the New York-based international rights watchdog released a report ‘We Are Like Forgotten People‘ that highlights the situations of Chin people. After years of “All quiet on the western front,” it was the first time the situations of the Chin people got highlighted in mainstream international media, despite the long suffering comparable to that of other parts of Burma that have long enjoyed attention and support. It was also instrumental in bringing much-needed attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Chin State.
Closures of Christian Institutions by Burma’s Authorities
January-March: A number of Christian institutions including Bible colleges, orphanages, churches, and apartment-based worship places were ordered to shut down. Since December 2008, more than 100 churches in Rangoon were closed down, about 50 pastors forced to sign the documents promising to stop holding church services, and 80 per cent of churches in the former capital affected, according to a report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). At least 33 British Members of Parliament expressed their grave concern by signing an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons.
Release of US Senate Report on Refugees and CHRO Officer’s Joining APRRN
April: A report ‘Trafficking and Extortion of Burmese Migrants in Malaysia and Southern Thailand‘ by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations brought an international attention to the forgotten and hidden plight of Burmese migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia.
With the situations and protection issues of refugees in Malaysia in greater focus, the APRPN elected CHRO’s Advocacy Officer Amy Alexander as its deputy Chairperson on the APRPN Southeast Asia section. A new regional organization consisting of 70 civil society organizations from 13 countries in the region, the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRPN) was created out of a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2008. Chin Human Rights Organization was a founding member of the network.
Death of Siangbawipa Rev. Dr. Robert G Johnson
June: Rev. Dr. Robert G Johnson, otherwise known as Siangbawipa, the last American missionary to the Chins, died peacefully in Redlands, California. He was 94. Rev. Johnson spent 20 years in the Chin Hills as the last American missionary from 1946 to 1966, helping to shape the modern societal and religious landscape of the Chin people. Kicked out of Burma following the military coup, Reverend Johnson attempted to visit the Chin State in 1999 on the occasion of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the introduction of Christianity among the Chins. He was denied permission to visit the Chin State by Burma’s ruling military regime.
Food Aid Concerts in Three Continents
July: Beginning in February, a series of benefit concerts were held in Australia, Denmark, Norway and Germany raising awareness and funds for victims of famine in Chin State. Some of the most popular Chin singers participated in the program to entertain thousands of audience in Europe and America, which continued through the end of the year.
Chin Youth Gatherings in Europe and North America
July: A series of gathering of Chin youths took place in Europe and North America under the leadership of religious and youth bodies. In Canada, Norway and Denmark, religious fellowships were organized where hundreds of youths were in attendance. In the United States, the Chin Youth Organization held its biennial event in Indianapolis, India where hundreds of youths participated.
Release of Updated Report on the Food Crisis in Chin State
September: The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) released a new report updating on the humanitarian situations in Chin State with specific regards to the continuing food crisis facing the Chin people in western Burma. An update to its previous report of 2008, which brought wide international attention, the new report was instrumental in bringing renewed focus on the Chin situations.
In parallel with its new report, the Chin Human Rights Organization launched its Europe advocacy tour, which kicked off in Prague, the Czech Republic with a photo exhibition showing the Chin food crisis organized by the Burma Center Prague and an hour-long radio interview on Czech national radio about the humanitarian crisis in Chin State. The tour proceeded on to Norway, as well as the United Kingdom where the delegation met with the UK Department For International Development (DFID), the primary contributor to the ongoing humanitarian efforts in Chin State and the Shadow Foreign Minister and Chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.
MP Cin Sian Thang Meeting with High-Level US Delegation
November: Chin MP-Elect Cin Sian Thang of the Zomi National Congress, a prominent opposition figure on the Burmese national political scene, was among the ethnic leaders met by the visiting high-level US State Department delegation. A member of the Committee Representing People’s Parliament (CRPP), an opposition platform set up in 1998, Cin Sian Thang had his son and nephew sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2008 for their alleged role in the monk-led popular uprising of 2007.
Release of Chin-related Scholarly Books
November: A book containing a collection of scholarly articles submitted during the seminar on “Exploring Chin History, Culture and Identity” in October 2008 was published by the Mizoram University. The event was inaugurated by Mizoram State Chief Minister Lalthanhawla.
Two academically acclaimed books entitled A Descriptive Grammar of Daai Chin by Helga So-Hartmann, and Proto-Kuki-Chin: A Reconstructed Ancestor of the Kuki-Chin Languages, by Kenneth Van Bik, was published by STEDT (Sino-Tibetan Etymological Dictionary and Thesaurus) project, Department of Linguistics, University of California.
Individual Achievements in Arts, Entertainment and Sports
December: Artist and cartoonist H.C Thawnga (Salai Chan Thawng Ling) organized a solo cartoon exhibition depicting sketches of more than one hundred cartoons promoting the need for environmental preservation in a region that is facing a fast diminishing of its natural environment due to traditional agricultural practice and poaching activities. The exhibition was inaugurated by Chief Secretary of Mizoram and the exhibition viewed by hundreds of audiences at Vannapa Hall in the capital Aizawl.
Ms Van Dawt Cin aka Moe Moe, 24, won the second prize of ‘Melody World’ in an X Factor-styled nationwide singing contest in Burma. Three Chin athletes representing Burma, Aung Ngeain, Kap Cin Pau and Mai Nilar Htwe, won four medals at the 25th SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos, in archery, judo and women football.