Chins Commemorate National Day
By Salai Za Uk Ling, 21 February, 2005: Hanging a banner that reads “Chin National Day” is illegal at celebrations inside Chin State, but Chin people living in exile in countries around the world were able to commemorate the 27th Chin National Day without having to worry about repercussion from Burmese military authorities.
February 20 is an annual celebration marking the declaration of the result of a Chin public plebiscite held in 1948. At the public assembly held at Falam that year, over 5000 Chin people voted for democratic system of government after rejecting the continuance of traditional aristocratic feudal system that had been in practice in Chin society for centuries. That day came to be known as Chin National Day and has annually been observed as a national holiday.
The 57th celebrations of Chin National Day were held in cities across Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. In Kula Lumpur, imminent immigration crackdown by Malaysian authorities did not deter over 2000 Chin expatriates to converge for the National Day celebration. In New Delhi, Aizawl, Singapore and Tokyo hundreds of Chin gathered to observe the occasion. In Canada, celebrations were held in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver. In the United States there were celebrations in Washington D.C, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Indianapolis and Battle Creek. In Europe, commemorative events took place in Germany, Norway and Denmark.
“We take pride in our National Day being an occasion that celebrates the dawn of democracy in Chinland,” says Salai Mang Bik, Chairman of the organizing committee for the celebration in Ottawa. Ironically, the democratic system that the Chin people voted for was short-lived when General Ne Win overthrew a democratically elected government in 1962.
Inside Burma and Chin State, the decree of ruling military regime prohibits the celebration of February 20th as Chin National Day. Instead the regime uses the name “Chin State Day.” This move has been seen by Chin people as a distortion of history to facilitate the policy of eliminating the Chin’s distinct national identity.
This sentiment was echoed in a commemorative address to the Chin people by Chin National Front’s Chairman Thomas Thangnou. He blamed the “racist ideology” of Burma’s military junta as being responsible for the erosion of Chin language, culture and religion. He stressed that patriotic consciousness is necessary to resist the threat of identity erosion.
“We will stand firmly against any powers which threaten the survival of our national identity. Protecting our Chin national identity and interest remains the guiding principle of Chin national revolution,” Mr. Thangnou said.