Saturday, February 6, 2010

Myanmar: Chin People(钦族)

Chin people

The Chin are one of the ethnic groups in Myanmar. The Chins are found mainly in western part of Myanmar(the Chin State) and numbered circa 1.5 million. They also live in nearby Indian states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur and Assam.

The Chin are one of the large ethnic minority groups in Myanmar. The Chin people are of Tibeto-Burman groups and they probably came to Myanmar, especially the Chindwin valley in the late 9-10 century A.D. Most Chin people moved westward and they probably settled in the present Chin State around 1300-1400 A.D.

Map of Chin State, Myanmar

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Owing to Mizo influence and Baptist missionaries' intervention, 80%-90% of the population are Christians. However, a sizable minority of the Chin adhere to their traditional tribal beliefs, as well as to Theravada Buddhism. A small group of individuals from Mizoram claimed that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel, that of Bnei Menashe tribe, some have since resettled in that country.

Tribal people
There are many tribes among the Chin people such as Daai (the biggest population of southern Chin state), Thai, Tedim (who prefer to call themselves Zomi, as the word "Chin" is not in their own language; note the resemblance to Mizo(米佐族) of the neighbouring Mizoram state(米佐拉姆邦)in India), Asho, and Cho. Four major tribes of the Chin are Daai, Tedim, Falam, and Hakha. It would be relevant to mention also that they are related to the Kukis of Nagaland(那加兰邦), Manipur(曼尼普爾邦) and Assam(阿萨姆邦). For want of a more acceptable common name, they are usually called the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people, bringing together the three most common names for them, whether given by outsiders or themselves. There are also ten of thousands of Chin people in Mizoram State, India, mainly in Lai District, formerly part of Chhimtuipui District and a sizable population also live in Churachandpur district of Manipur comprising of smaller tribes like the Hmars, Paite, Simte, Zou,Gangte and others. Bawn tribe in Southern Mizoram State and Bangladesh are descendants of the Lai tribe. This Chin/Mizo/Zomi/Kuki people are scattered into three countries: Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India. The Chin speak several Kuki-Chin languages; Ethnologue lists 49 languages in this group, of which 20 contain the word "Chin" in their name.

The term 'Chin' came from their ancestors the great Chin from China; There's a firm proof to say the name 'CHIN' is originated form the 'chin-the' or 'chin-theig', or 'chinthegi' a Burmese word for a lion, or lion-kind, or lionly; or the Cheetah club, or the Cheetahgroup.

Chin State

Chin State is a state located in western Burma (Myanmar). The 36,019-square-kilometre (13,907 sq mi) Chin State is bordered by Rakhine State in the south, Bangladesh in south-west, Sagaing Division and Magway Division in the east, Indian state of Manipur in the north and Indian state of Mizoram in the west. The (Chin) ethnic group make up the majority of the state's 500,000 people.

Falam was the state capital since the British Colonization. But after Ne Win took over the power, he moved Chin Affairs Office from Falam to Kalay although the Commissioner of Chin State was still executing in Falam.

The official language is 'Laizo' dialect, since early 20th century. Though there are numerous dialects among the ethnic Chin, they all have links and similarities, which make them easy to understand each other. After studying several years on all the dialects among the Chins, the research concluded that the Laizo dialect has the commonest and it's also the most understood language over all chin tribes including Mizo ţawng and is recognized as the Chin official language with the British scholars and learns through out the state until the junta disallowed to continue in the late 20th century. Laizo (Falam) dialect is being practiced as official Chin language in Myanmar as in radio broadcasting.

For much of history, sparsely populated Chin Hills were the westernmost region of Irrawaddy valley-based Burmese kingdoms. The extent of Burmese control of Chin Hills, which never had a political organization beyond chiefs, can only be inferred from the recorded history of the region's more established neighbors, the kingdoms of Manipur and Assam. Manipur first came under Burmese suzerainty during the reign of King Bayinnaung in 1558. Conversely, at least northern parts of Chin Hills were likely part of an ascendant Manipuri kingdom whose forces were raiding northwestern Burma with regularity during 1730s and 1740s. Burma re-exerted control over the region in the 1750s as King Alaungpaya of Konbaung dynasty conquered Manipur in 1758 and made it a tributary to the Burmese kingdom once more. In the early 19th century, Burmese kings pursued an expansionist policy beyond Chin Hills and Manipur. King Bodawpaya annexed Manipur in 1813 and captured Assam in 1817. His successor King Bagyidaw was left to suppress rebellions in Manipur in 1819 and in Assam in 1821-22. The Chin Hills were one western region the Burmese retained after the rest of their western possessions--Assam, Manipur, and Arakan--were ceded to the British after the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824-1826.

The British acquired the Chin Hills after the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885. The ensuing Chin resistance to the British was suppressed only by 1890. The British administered the Chin Hills as part of Arakan Division

After the war, Chin leaders participated in the Panglong Conference which discussed the future of an independent Union of Burma. Because of the region's heavy economic dependence on Burma Proper, Chin leaders, unlike other minority leaders, asked only for a "special administrative division", not a full fledged state. Despite the support by Chin people, today the Junta military rule had forced many Chin people become refugee.

Upon independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, Chin Hills Special Division was created out of Arakan Division, with the capital at Falam. On 4 January 1974, it was granted the state status and became Chin State. Today, the state has little infrastructure and remains extremely poor and undeveloped.

The Chin people are facing famine caused by locusts and rodents. Up to 82% of the rice farmland, and 78% of sesame crops has been destroyed. The food remained are the root yam. Yet the rodents are competing for food with human in Chin state. I appeal to World Food Organization to improve their assistance program, as their “Food plus Cash for Work” programme, cannot help the old and young people who cannot work, but still need food for survival. Direct assistance should be introduced for urgent and needy cases. It is ironically that a UN World organization like World for Food took 3 years to realize that Chin State is suffering from food crisis, when NGOs already highlight to them. It is a shame, how they assess the situation?.

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The major famine was caused by Bamboo-Flowering. The bamboo-flowering produced bamboo-fruiting and as a consequence, the rat population increased dramatically. The rats ate all the crops and caused the famine for the Southern Chin people, especially in the bamboo forest areas. On top of that, because of ongoing forced labour by the military regime, the young people are fleeing on a daily basis. The Junta provide little help to Chin people, may be a hidden agenda to force diaspora of Chin people. One way to solve their problem with the minority political struggle. But they forgot Chin people was the party to Panglong Conference, they should have treated them well. Anyhow this military government has no respect of civilian law and obligation.

The Chin people escaped from their country as political refugee, to the neighboring countries which do not recognized them as refugee. Their life is still suffering from no legal protection and employument,no education for their children. They are also facing the human right abuses by the enforcement units of the country.

1. India

A majority of Chin forced to flee Burma cross into neighboring India and settle in the Mizoram hills, which are adjacent to the Chin Hills. Although it is impossible to accurately determine their true number, it is estimated that between 60,000 to 100,000 Chin live along the Indo-Burma border, North East India. Many Chin stay in the Northeast states of Mizoram and, to a lesser extent, Manipur, where there are large Chin populations. A smaller number journey onward to New Delhi, hoping to gain UNHCR protection. There are 4,200 staying in New Delhi, the capital of India where UNHCR office is located, half of them are unregistered. Unfortunately, UNHCR is not allowed to open office at the India-Burma border of North East India.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and while it generally tolerates the presence of Burmese refugees, it does not afford them any legal protection. This leaves them vulnerable to harassment, discrimination and deportation. But under international law, is bound by the principle of 'nonrefoulement', which protects migrants from being returned to any country where they could be persecuted.

Despite relatively close ethnic ties between the Chin and Mizoram natives, tensions between the two populations regularly flared into anti-Chin pogroms. In 2003, Young Mizo Association (YMA) forced 10,000 Chin back into Myanmar,In September 2008, the YMA issued an order for the Chin to leave Mizoram by the end of the month. The threat did not materialise, but it was enough for them to go into hiding, close their churches and wait till tensions were over. So similar race is not a criteria, as humanitarian aids come from hearts. I wonder is there any charity in Mizo?

Chin refugees also struggle in obtaining a residency permit which would allow them to both live in the country and access some government-run services.The residency permit is an essential thing for every refugee to live in India.

Chin refugees in India wait on average four to six months to fill out an asylum application form after first registering with UNHCR. After that, they wait another 12 to 18 months for the RSD (Refugee Status Determination) interview. The total average time from the first approach to UNHCR to the time when the RSD interview is conducted is 10 to 18 months longer that UNHCR’s own guidelines suggested. The refugee in India-Burmese border do not know UNHCR, and has no moeny travel to New Delhi to apply for refugee status. Why can't UNHCR increase their staff strength and travel to the border to facilitate the refugee registration?. In September 2007. Only ‘priority’ cases or those considered especially vulnerable, such as pregnant women, the elderly and the infirm, are now eligible for registration. ‘Non-priority’ cases will have to wait until the general registration process re-opens, which is unlikely to happen soon.

The Chin in Mizoram lack jobs, housing and affordable education, most were relegated to temporary, labour-intensive and low-paying jobs, earning around 100 rupees ($2) a day for 10 to 16-hour shifts. They are now facing the risk of being "forced back" to Myanmar.

2. Thailand

Thailand plays host to a majority of Burma's refugees, the Chin population in Thailand remains very small. Most Chin instead seek refuge in India and Malaysia. Thailand is only transition country for the refugee. But the most dangerous part of their escape route. Many died on the way to the border, and facing human right violation.

3. Malaysia

95 % of Burmese who came to Malaysia must come through Thailand while the rest are coming by boats through Andaman sea and mostly landed in Penang port. In normal time to arrive Kuala Lumpur from Thai border town take about 5-6 hours, the human smugglers take 10-12 hours to arrive KL.

Malaysia has become a destination for the Chin and currently hosts some 23,000. Malaysia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol and since the beginning of 2006 the general registration process has been closed. As the exodus of Chin to Malaysia continues, more and more Chin find themselves waiting to be registered. Holding UNHCR documents at least provides hope of resettlement to a third country even if it provides no guarantee of protection or access to benefits in Malaysia.

The majority of Chin refugees live in devastating poverty in extremely cramped accommodation in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Others live in makeshift camps outside the city or in the distant Cameron Highlands, where they work for low wages on farms, with unreliable water supplies and inadequate protective gear.

Harassment and abuse by the authorities is a daily reality for the Chin in Malaysia. In addition to raids on neighbourhoods and workplaces, immigration officials approach and threaten individuals in public areas. Those unable or unwilling to pay bribes risk arrest, detention or deportation. Refugees who are detained in Malaysia are often kept in overcrowded, unhygienic cells. They are inadequately fed and given little access to basic amenities. Illness is common. Complaints of harassment and physical abuse by guards and officials are widespread.

Chin refugees are not allowed to work in Malaysia and are relegated to the informal work sector. Fewer than one third of the Chin community in Malaysia are employed while those who secure employment are often subject to exploitative employers and abusive working conditions.

Basic health services are provided through mobile clinics to both urban refugees and those living in the jungle camps. Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had been operating in Malaysia providing translators and reimbursements for hospital care until early last year when it withdrew its operations.

The recent announcement by the Home Ministry of Malaysia to issue Identification for refugee is a good news for the refugee, as they will recognized with refugee status. We anticipated that the difficult situation will changed for better.

钦族(Chin People)

钦族是缅甸少数民族中第六大少数民族,人口为92.8万(1997年),占缅甸全国总人口的2% 。主要居住在缅甸西北部钦邦。钦族属于汉藏语系藏缅语族钦语支,其先民大约在公元2世纪前后从中国内陆南迁至缅甸户拱地区,随后继续向南转移,大约于13世纪到达亲敦江流域,几经辗转流徙,以后又于14--15世纪被迫迁至西北部山区钦山山脉定居,即今日缅甸的钦邦。一部份迁到了印度阿萨姆地区。是随藏缅语族南迁,较早进入缅甸的民族之一。

钦族共有53个支系,即钦(Chin)、梅台(Metai)、克岱(Kathe)、萨莱(Hsalai)、 克林都鲁些(Kalintaw-Lushe)、克米(Kami)、奥瓦克米(Aw-wakami)、润挪(Khawno )、康梭(Khaungso)、康塞钦(KhaunghsainChin)、卡瓦西姆(Khwahsim)、孔立(Khu n li)、甘贝(Ganbe)、贵代(Gweite)、阮(Nywan)、西散(Hsisan)、辛坦(Hsinhtan )、塞丹(Hsaintan)、扎当(Zataung)、佐通(Zohton)、佐佩(Zophei)、佐(Zo)、赞涅(Zanhnyat)、德榜(Tapaung)、铁定(Tihtein)、德赞(Teizan)、达都(Tado )、多尔(Tawr)、定姆(Dim)、岱(Dain)、那加(Narga)、丹都(Tandu)、玛茵(M aryin)、勃南(Panan)、玛甘(Makan)、玛乎(Mahu)、米延(Miyan)、米埃(Mi-e)、门(Mwin)、鲁鲜鲁些(Lushain-Lushe)、雷渗(Leimyo)、林代(Linte)、劳都(La unt-ht u)、莱(Lain)、莱佐(Lainzo)、巴金姆(Parkim)、华尔诺(Hwarlngo)、阿努(A-n u)、阿南(A-nau)、乌布(U-pu)、阿休钦(Asho Chin)、养突(Yaunghtu)等。

钦族人原先均信奉原始拜物教,也有信奉佛教的和信奉基督教的。北部钦山地区靠近印度边境,土质肥沃,有水源,可以灌溉。这一带钦族人种植水稻、玉米、芝麻和棉花等,此外,还种植桑树养蚕。钦山山区主要种植山坡旱田,种植旱稻、玉米、小米等。钦族人生产力水 平低下,大部分地区至今仍然处于刀耕火种的阶段。


钦族人在反对英国殖民主义的斗争中,英勇善战,狠狠地打击了英国殖民主义者。英军占领钦族地区以后,在钦族人中间传播基督教,制造民族矛盾,企图把钦族同缅族分离开来。但是,钦族人识破了英国殖民主义者的阴谋,参加了彬龙会议,签署了代表民族大团结的彬龙 协议。1973年,钦族建立钦族自治邦。

Important historic events of the Chins:

1895 Greater part of the Independent Chinland was annexed by the British colonial power after launching three major offensive military attacks on Chinland. However, the entire Chinland fell under the total control of the British only in early 20th century.

1896 The British draft and enforced the Chin Hills Regulation Acts and administered the occupied Chinland.

1933 The Chin National Union (CNU) was formed by the Chin patriots and demanded Independent Chinland from British-Burma government in Rangoon.

1947 The representatives of Chin participated in Panglong Conference along with the Kachin, Shan, and Burman representatives, singed historic Panglong Agreement on February 12, 1947 to form a federal union with equal rights, privileges, and status including secession right.

1947 The Chin representatives participated in Drafting Process of the Future Constitution of the Union of Burma under the leadership of General Aung San. The draft Constitution was drawn up by a 111-member committee of the AFPFL Convention which met on May 20, 1947, and approved on May 23 when the Convention was dissolved.

1948 The Union of Burma gained independence from Britain on January 4, 1948; and the Constitution of Burma (1947) was enforced. However, the Burman politicians disregarded the principles of Panglong Agreement so that the independence was stumbled with the civil war.

1948 Over five thousand Chins from all over the Chinland held unprecedented gathering in Falam Town and proclaimed in their unity and determination to be free from traditional feudal administrative system, and adopted a democratic system of governance on February 20, 1948, which later became the Chin National Day.

1961 In order to amend the Constitution of Burma (1947) into more federate features as agreed in Panglong Conference, the Chins and all non-Burman nationalities gathered in Taunggyi, the Capital of Shan State from June 8 16, 1961.

1962 The General Ne Win and his associates staged a coup in the name of Revolutionary Council (RC). Many Chin politicians and scholars presumed to participate in Taunggyi Conference were arrested.

1964 Chin National Organization (CNO) went underground to overthrow the military junta and restore democratic government.

1971 Chin Democracy Party (CDP) was formed in liberated area to overthrow the military junta and restore democracy in Burma.

1972 Over 70 Chin intellectuals, who had made suggestion to Revolutionary Council on RC announcement No. 74, Date December 5, 1968, were arrested by the military junta and sent them to jail.

1974 The Revolutionary Council drafted and enforced the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. The said Constitution has promoted and protected one party dictatorship.

1988 The Chin National Front was formed on March 20, 1988 to regain self- determination right of the Chin People and to restore democracy and federalism in the Union of Burma.

1988 The Chin National Front became a member of the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB) on November 18, 1988.

1989 The Chin National Front became a member of the National Democratic Front (NDF) on February 1989.

1992 The Chin National Front, as a member of National Democratic Front (NDF), participated and gave its consent on the Manepalaw Agreement to establish genuine Federal Union. The Manepalaw Agreement was signed by National Democratic Front, Democratic Alliance of Burma, National League for Democracy (Liberated Area), and the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma on July 11, 1992.

1993 The first Chin National Front’s Party Conference was held in the General Headquarters of Chin National Front on June 9 – 16, 1993 and the Government of Chinland was formed.

1997 The Chin National Front participated and signed the Maetharawhta Agreement. The Agreement was signed by KNPP, PPLO, WNO, UWSP, PSLF, KIO, AASYC, LDF, NMSP, ALP, KNLP, SURA, CNF, SDU, and KNU.
The second Chin National Front’s Party Conference was held at the Camp Victorian from June 20 – July 8, 1997.

2001 The Chin National Front became a member of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), representing the Chin people.
(source: UNPO)

The Chin National Front

The Chin National Front was formed on the 20th of March, 1988 and started its political revolt against the military regime with the aims: to topple the chauvinist military dictatorship, to secure national rights and to uplift the nation's economic, political, and social conditions.
Related articles. The Chins are represented in the UNPO by the Chin National Front.

1. On the age of survival : The continuing rat infestation and Food Crisis in Chin state, Burma; by Chin Human Right Organization, Sept 2009, A must read to understand the Chin state and the famine)
2. WFP to continue assistance to Chin State ,dated 7-1-2010,
3. The Situation of Burmese Refugees in Asia:Special Focus on India, by South Asia Human Right Documentation Center,
4. Chin Human Right Organization,
5. Democratic Voices of Burma,
6. Refugees International calls for international assistance for Chin refugees in India,
7. A shady tree,
8. Why and How Chin refugees fled to Malaysia from Myanmar, by Victor S Khambil,
9. Chin,

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