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A Year in Review: Important News & Events that Mattered to the Chin in 2011

A Year in Review: Important News & Events that Mattered to the Chin in 2011
31 December 2011

Human Rights:

New Report Shed Light on Abuse Against Chin: In January US-based Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians for Human Rights released a hard-hitting report on the Chin. Titled “Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State”, the report was covered in more than 250 media outlets around the world. The first quantitative research on human rights among the Chins, and collaborated by six Chin civil society organizations, the report found that the Burmese authorities had subjected nearly 92 percent of the Chin people to forced labour while 14 percent of people surveyed reported religious persecution on the basis of their Christian identity. Physicians for Human Rights legal analysis concludes that the systematic and widespread nature of the violations may constitute Crime Against Humanity under the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and called a United Nations-mandated Commission of Inquiry into international crimes committed by State actors in Burma.

Chin Participated at Burma’s First Rights Review: The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) was among members of a delegation of Burma Forum-UPR, a coalition of 13 human rights organizations working on Burma at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in January, where Burma’s human rights record for the previous four years was reviewed by the world highest rights body. As part of the advocacy efforts to convince world governments participating at the Universal Periodic Review on Burma, CHRO met with ambassadors and diplomats from over 30 countries around the world. Jointly with Physicians for Human Rights and Burma Forum-UPR delegation, CHRO also provided briefings to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the various special procedure mechanisms within the UN human rights system.

Special Rapporteur Tomas Quintana Visited Chins in Malaysia: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma Tomas Quintana visited Malaysia in February to speak to and hear from Chin refugees in Malaysia as part of his field trip to gather information on the situation of human rights in Burma. Having expressed his interest to visit Chin State during two previous private meetings with the Chin Human Rights Organization, the UN rights investigator decided to visit the Chin community in Malaysia instead after his request to visit Burma was refused by the Burmese government. Following the visit, Quintana used the Chins as a case study for his official report to the UN Human Rights Council.

International Labor Organization Visited Chin State:
The International Labor Organization (ILO) made an official visit to Chin State’s capital Hakha in May and conducted an awareness-raising workshop with more than 160 local officials, including civil servants, judges, police and military personnel. The ILO’s visit came at a time when a new report had found that over 90 percent of Chin people had been subjected to forced labor by the Burmese authorities.

Politics:

CNF Reorganized: 23 years after its founding in 1988 the armed resistance group Chin National Front (CNF) underwent a major reorganization at its first emergency conference held on 12-16 December at a location on the India-Burma border. The new structure includes an expanded Central Committee and a Supreme Council headed by veteran Chin politician Dr. Za Hlei Thang MP. In a move hailed as a ‘milestone’ for Chin  political unity, the reorganized CNF leadership includes people from various backgrounds, including those from the different Chin tribal and geographical groups, as well as academics, activists, community leaders and students from inside and outside of Burma.

CNF Held Preliminary Peace Talks: A two-member delegation of Chin National Front, Chairman Zing Cung and Foreign Secretary Dr. Sui Khar met with Burma’s President Thein Sein’s emissary Aung Min, Railways Minister on 19 November on the Thai-Burma border. The highest level meeting yet between the two sides, the meeting paved a way for an agreement to hold further talks towards a ceasefire and political dialogue. The two sides are set to meet in the Chin State capital Hakha on 5-6 January 2012.

Ethnic Coalitions Formed: The Chins were represented in two new ethnic coalitions founded in 2011: Ethnic Brotherhood Forum (EBF) founded by legal political parties inside Burma and the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), founded by ethnic armed resistance groups based along Burma’s international borders. The Chin National Party, one of two leading Chin political parties took an active role in the formation of the five-member Ethnic Brotherhood Forum, while the Chin National Front participated as a founding member of UNFC.

Religion & Society:

Two Christian Crosses Destroyed & Desecrated in Kanpetlet: Six members of local authorities ordered 15 local Chin Buddhist youths to destroy two wooden Christian crosses planted on both sides of the Mung River suspension bridge in Kyindwe village, Kanpetlet Township of southern Chin State on 28 July 2011. The destruction sparked outrage among local Christians, who wrote a letter of complaint to President Thein Sein, signed by more than 200 Christians. No known action has been taken as of the end of the year.

Global Zomi Alliance Formed:
The Global Zomi Alliance (GZA), initiated during the Cope Centennial Jubilee Celebration held in Tedim Town of Chin State in November 2010 with the aims of establishing a common ground for the betterment of Zomi people in the future, was formed at a meeting in Singapore on 27-29 April 2011.

Sports & Entertainment:

Chin athletes At SEA Games: Chin athletes Mai Nilar Htwe as a striker for the Burma women’s football team, Mai Nelly Bawi Nei Sin as a boxer (54kg), Salai Kyaw Min as a bodybuilder, Ms Aung Ngeain as an archer and Mai Yinhwa Thawng Luai as a karate coach participated as members of sports teams representing Burma at the 26th Southeast Asian Games in November 2011. Ms Aung Ngeain, from Khimpuang Village, Mindat Township of Chin State, won a gold medal in archery.

Chin Tennis: Mr. Thawng Za Lian, 24, from Chin State Tennis team, won prize for Burma’s best player in the 48th State-and-Region Tennis Tournament, jointly organised at the Thein Phyu tennis courts in Rangoon by Sports and Physical Education Department and Myanmar Tennis Federation from 11-18 February 2011.

Chin Education Network (CEN), a non-profit group dedicated to promoting education for Chin youths, organized 17 Chin and Burmese singers to perform a live concert in Rangoon to raise fund and awareness in support of education initiatives in Chin State.

Humanitarian:

Chin State Named Poorest in Burma: The United Nations study on poverty released in June concluded Chin State was the poorest among Burma’s 14 States and administrative regions. The report found that as many as 73 percent of the population of Chin State live under the poverty line, which far exceeds the national average. Rights groups attribute the extreme poverty to decades of government neglect, compounded by militarization and widespread human rights violations against the Chin people, especially during the last two decades.

India Donated for Chin State: In an unprecedented move, the Indian government in August announced that it will give an 8-million donation for development in Chin State. The announcement followed the visit to Chin State by Mandalay Indian Consul General Dr. Madan Mhohan Sethi. While the donation was largely welcomed, some had cautioned that the donation could be ‘sweetener’ money meant to ‘hush’ Chin people ahead of the potentially controversial development project supported by India in southern Chin State. Started in late 2010 and set to complete by later 2013,  The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project, a joint India-Burma project will see the dredging of the biggest river in Chin State and the construction of an inland water terminal and a multi-lane highway in Southern Chin State that will link with India’s Mizoram State.

‘Chin Future’ Seminar:
On 20 October, more than 200 Chin academics, religious leaders, youths and politicians gathered in Rangoon to discuss the ‘Chin future’ in an attempt to find solution to various problems facing the Chins in the face of growing poverty, increasing number of youth migration out of Chin State.

Chin Response to Displaced Kachins: Despite the extreme poverty at home, the Chin people quickly and generously responded to the plight of Kachin people displaced by conflicts in northern Burma following the breakdown of a 17 year-old ceasefire between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Organization. In total, not less than 50,000 US dollars was donated by Chin churches and communities from both inside and outside the country.

Protests:

Chin Students Protest in Kalay: In a rare public protest against Burmese authorities, over 500 Chin students studying at various universities in Kalay, Sagaing Division staged a demonstration in January to protest against 100 percent increase in bus fare, which they said was discriminatorily unfair to Chin students, who largely live off campus. The students refused to take the bus and formed a human chain by walking to the universities on foot. The protest ended when the authorities responded positively to the students demand by cutting back the bus fare to the original charge.

Chin in Delhi Protest on World Refugee Day:
3000 Chin refugees and their supporters from the Indian civil society groups took to the street in New Delhi on World Refugee Day on 20 June, demanding protection and improved services from the Indian government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The largest such protest organized by the Delhi-based Chin Refugee Committee, the protest resulted in widespread media coverage around the world, which helped raise the profile and plight of about 100,000 Chin refugees living in India.

Celebration & Awards:

CRC Celebrates 10th Anniversary: 2006 Suaram human rights award winner Chin Refugee Committee (CRC) based in Kuala Lumpur celebrated its 10th founding anniversary to coincide with the 63th anniversary of Chin National Day on 20th February. Founded in 2011, the CRC has provided crucial and life-saving services to more Chins who have resettled to third countries such as North America, Europe and Australia during the last ten years.

Zomi Independence Hero Award: Veteran Chin politician Pu Cin Sian Thang MP, and leader of the Zomi National Congress (ZNC) was awarded Zomi Independence Hero Award by the Wolrd Zomi Congress in honour and recognition of his relentless commitment to working for the freedom of his people. A former political prisoner whose son and nephew remain behind bars in Burma for their political belief, Cin Sian Thang is a highly respected figure nationally in the Burmese political scene.

Tragedy:

A series of fatal road accidents in Chin State in 2011 had claimed more than 40 lives and caused over 120 injuries. Treacherous road conditions, a tragic result of Burma’s longstanding neglect of Chin State for infrastructure and economic development, were largely blamed for the tragedies.

Quote of the Year:

The foetus of unity that has developed in the womb of mother Chinland through ages has now been reborn” Dr. Za Hlei Thang, newly elected Chairman of CNF Supreme Council in a message to the Chin people following CNF’s recent emergency conference.

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