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Indo-Burma border news (r)


Date. 18th January 1997
        We are informed that native Naga people of Saggaing division are 
forced to covert 
from Christianity to Buddhism. 
        In early  November 1995 State Law and Order Restoration Council 
of Saggaing 
division chairman and commander of North-West command Gen. Hla Myint Swe 
issued an 
order in which all the battalions deployed in Saggaing division were 
ordered to do all the 
possible ways for the propagation of Buddhist orders among native Naga 
        There were forced conversion from Christianity to Buddhism in 
this region after this 
order had been issued.
        One village chief said that State Law and Order Restoration 
Council forced the 
villagers to construct Buddhist monasteries and sent abbots to each 
monastery in Pansat, 
Kokailong, Kutki, Phongtharet, Leyon and Ngakyan villages in Sumra Naga 
hill tract. These 
abbots taking protection of Burmese army are organizing the local 
Christian people to be 
converted into Buddhism. 
        In these regions local Christian people are forced to cut down 
the bamboo and wood 
and have to carry for the construction of monasteries. 
        When the army authorities summon the village chiefs to army camp 
in order to instruct 
them for the construction works, they used to send a piece of bullet or 
charcoal or chilli 
enclosed with the letters. The village chief explained that 
-bullet means if they fail to come to the army camp they will be killed.
-charcoal means if they fail to come to the army camp the villages will 
be burnt down.
-chili means if they fail to come the army camp they will be tortured.
        Soldiers from Light Infantry Regiment (229) and (222) deployed in 
these regions were 
asked to marry with local Naga girls and those who married to the 
soldiers were forced to 
convert into Buddhism. After they had converted into Buddhism were sent 
to Big cities like 
Rangoon and Mandalay for touring and provided good clothing. In this way 
the army 
authorities persuade more local Naga girls to convert into Buddhism. 
        In addition native Naga people who converted into Buddhism are 
provided (500) to 
(1000) Kyats by the army authorities. The army authorities also organize 
the native Christian 
people that they will provided ration supplies and clothing regularly to 
those who have 
completed six months after conversion. Ministry of home and religious 
affairs has funds for the 
propagation of Buddhism in hill tract. From this funds they bare all the 
expenses of above 
mentioned plans.
        Furthermore Buddhism people from these regions are freed from 
porterage, forced 
labour and supply rations to Burmese army. Only Christian people were 
asked to work. And 
they were forced to do village sanitation, constructions of the roads and 
army camps on 
Sunday. Majority of the local people are Christian and they usually do 
not work on Sunday. 
Going to the Churches and saying prayers on Sunday is the must for 
Christian people. 
        Village chief also that one day army commander of the said region 
angrily shouted at 
the villagers that what he ordered them to do is only for the sake of the 
development of the 
villages and village people. As such village people have to work whether 
it is Sunday or not.  
The commander added that those who refused his order would be in trouble. 
        There was an order issued by the army authority in which if the 
pastors want to hold 
prayer meeting or bible training course or youth gathering or any 
religious function, firstly they 
have to ask permission from the Buddhist monks. Regarding this matter the 
pastors were not 
satisfied. So, they complained to the ministry of home and religious 
affairs but yet any 
appropriate action has been taken.
        Moreover, the army authorities made the Christian youths busy at 
work a week ahead 
of Christmas in order not to celebrate Christmas functions in this 
region. They order them to 
carry army supplies from Leshi town which took ten days journey on foot. 
When they got 
back home the Christmas was over. Three Christian youths who refused the 
order were badly 
beaten by the soldiers. 
        One villager said in the year 1995 in Sumra village while the 
village people were 
celebrating Christmas function, the Burmese soldiers deployed in that 
village fired in the air 
and came over to the place and order them to stop the function 
immediately for security 
purpose. The section commander explained to the villagers that according 
to their information 
insurgents were planing to enter the village on that very night. In fact 
there were no insurgents. 
But the army did purposely in order not to celebrate the Christmas function.
        The above mention villages are located in Leshi township. But 
local people said the 
Burmese army is practicing the same tactic in other townships of Naga 
hill tract.
        Previously, Khamti, Namyon, Leshi, Lahe and Homlin townships were 
considered as 
Naga hill tract. But after the National Convention held by the SLORC, 
only Namyon, Leshi 
and Leha townships were considered as " special autonomous area ". Almost 
all the Naga 
people are not satisfied on this decision.
        Finally  the village chief said that to eradicate all the Naga 
insurgents, the SLORC is 
creating a problem between Buddhist and Christian people in Naga hill 
tract as they did in 
Karen state last two years back.
News and information Unit
ABSDF (Western-Burma)