Excerpt of speech given at CNC by Dr. Za Hlei Thang
13 December 2013 – Note: Ex-political prisoner Dr. Za Hlei Thang, a Chin MP elected in Burma’s 1990 General Election, and former President of the Supreme Council of the Chin National Front (CNF), addressed the Chin National Conference held in Hakha, Chin State on 12-15 November 2013.
The following is an unofficial translation of an excerpt of his speech, as posted by the Khonumthung news, delivered on the first day of the historic event as he chaired the opening programme.
Today is a historic day of the second Chin National Conference for the Chin. The first conference was held in Falam town on 20 February 1948 with about 5,000 delegates participating from across Chin State, replacing the traditional aristocratic chieftainship government with a public-elected democratic system.
Since Burma achieved independence from the expansionist rule of Britain in 1948, it has gone through four major changes of government: parliamentary democracy from 1948 to 1962; military dictatorship under the pretext of the Revolutionary Council from 1962 to 1974 after General Ne Win’s coup d’état in 1962; one-party system by the Burmese Socialist Programme Party from 1974 to 1988 after adopting Burma’s Way to Socialism.
As civilians could no longer tolerate ‘one-party rule’, a nationwide uprising broke out in 1988, bringing an end to the single-party authority. However, the military responded to the student-led civil revolt by using guns, leading the country to the military rule from 1988 to 2010. The military government drafted the constitution the third time without involving the peoples’ votes, and it was ratified in 2008.
The Chin were an indigenous nation which had never been ruled by any external forces/hands until 1895 but by their own chiefs. It was only in accordance with the Panglong Agreement signed in 1947 that the Chin together with other ethnic nationalities including the Burman founded the Union of Burma. The essence of the Panglong Agreement was equality and self-determination. However, the constitutions, drafted three times between 1947 and 2008, excluded the Panglong spirit and principles. Since the 2008 Constitution is not accepted by citizens of Burma and opposition groups as well as the Chin, the parliament agreed to make amendments to it. The very fact that the central government opens the door to amending the constitution is a starting step toward building a democratic federal peaceful Union of Burma.
The outcomes of this Chin National Conference will play a vital role in establishing the Union of Burma, based on democracy, federalism and self-determination that the Chin want. It is essential that all Chin nationals are involved in achieving our national rights in (the) light of the conference’s resolutions.
I would like to urge you to be actively and seriously involved in your respective discussion group during the 4-day conference while realizing the unity, understanding and uniqueness of/among the Chin tribes. It is exceedingly important that protection of languages (dialects), literature and cultural customs of the Chin tribal groups be taken as our national duties in the interest of and for the benefit of the Chin people as a whole.
I would also like to urge you to avoid expressing any words, usage and acts that would impose negative meanings on other fellows and tribes but to openly exchange ideas by keeping priority on the betterment of our people as today’s Chin National Conference is aimed at finding common resolutions for the development of the Chin.
Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that common resolutions and principles be unanimously agreed in this conference in order to strengthen national unity and to establish sustainable peace in the Union, and to build a genuine federal Union of Burma incorporating rights to self-determination of the Chin and full democratic rights.#