[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Project Maje: Chin Compendium Part


Report by Project Maje
September 1997

Project Maje, 0104 SW Lane St., Portland OR 97201 USA

PART 1/2


"Our forefathers...worshipped the hills and dales in our territory thinking
were spirits in them. But the reason they worshipped these hills and dales
is not 
only that they believed in the spirits in them, but also that they have in the 
remote regions of their consciousness that they are our protector from the 
invasion of the outside world, from the invasion of the alien people. It has
in some way these hills and dales of ours which have preserved our distinct 
national identity to reach this modern age as a people. But we should now 
adopt a political means with which we could develop our distinct national 
identity, as our hills and dales are no longer enough of a barrier to keep
out the 
invasions of all kinds."       -- Pu Lian Uk, Chin, Member of Parliament

While international awareness of Burma's relentless traumas has increased in 
recent years, the situation of one particular region has remained largely 
unnoticed. That is the area of northwest Burma inhabited by the ethnic group 
known as the Chin people. Bordering northeast India, where turmoil has 
prevented most outside access, the Chins are isolated even by upland Burma 
standards. This report seeks to fill some of the information gap by compiling 
recent documents and articles concerning the Chins in a format accessible to 
those who are interested in Burma and in indigenous peoples issues.

The contents of this report come from a variety of sources, including 
journalists, human rights projects, and dissident groups/individuals. Project 
Maje, the compiler of this report, does not confirm or deny the veracity of any 
of these documents and commentaries, but hopes they will inspire further 
investigation and examination of the Chin situation. The contents cover a time 
period roughly from mid-1996 to mid-1997. Project Maje is grateful to Burma 
Net for making many of these documents widely available. Others come from 
private sources who have kindly contributed their impressions to this report.

The identity of the people known as Chins is both distinct and amorphous. 
Acknowledged facts are that the Chins live mainly in the Chin State and 
Sagaing Division of Burma, with relatives in India's Mizoram ( Mizos and 
others) and Manipur (including the Kuki). They speak a Tibeto-Burman 
language with numerous dialects. Most, though not all, are Christians. The 
Chins are traditionally a mountain people, but many now live in towns, small 
cities, and some valley areas. Beyond those basics lies controversy based on 
ethnic subdivision -- the Chins can endlessly be split into clans, tribes, and 
subtribes, or recombined into the Zo or Chin identity. Christian denominations 
add further lines of separation, and coexist, often uncomfortably, with 
Animism, Buddhism, and even a small Jewish Chin sect.

In the Chin populated parts of India, fragmentation has led to tension and, not 
uncommonly, outright violence. This contributes to the overall climate of 
violence that covers India's northeast like mist rolling over the mountains. 
While these intra-Chin tensions tend not to be as overt on the Burma side of
border, they do exist, with the dire potential for exploitation by Burma's 
SLORC regime and its typical "divide and rule" strategy.

While Chin soldiers were conspicuous in Burma's military during British 
colonial rule, they have not followed the example of other indigenous peoples 
such as the Karens and Kachins in launching a full-scale insurgency during the 
past decades of Burman-dominated dictatorship. A few small guerrilla outfits 
have cropped up from time to time, never achieving troop strength of over a 
thousand or two. Since the suppression of 1988's pro-democracy uprising, 
Chins who had been students at that time have attempted to revive armed 
rebellion and bring it up to true fighting strength. Meanwhile, the SLORC 
regime greatly increased its own battalions in the Chin hills. The SLORC sent 
troops to Sagaing Division to protect a petroleum exploration concession (of 
America's Amoco and South Korea's Yukong), which was soon abandoned. 
The soldiers stayed on to secure trading routes to India, engage in logging for 
valuable hardwoods, and reportedly participate in heroin trafficking. The Chin 
State was also targeted by the SLORC's "Border Areas Development Program", 
with a railway line extension and road building which were undertaken with 
the massive use of forced labor.

The most active opposition group, the Chin National Front (CNF), has sent 
small armed bands out to combat the SLORC troops which hugely outnumber 
them. In recent months, the CNF appears to have switched tactics to an "urban" 
strategy, using bombs to harass SLORC bases in the towns, and attempting to 
attack SLORC officers rather than fight the "rank and file" troops. While the 
CNF claims to thus spare the rural population from crossfire and
retaliation, it 
remains to be seen if this strategy can stay confined to military targets
incurring the civilian casualties and "terrorist" label earned by true
elsewhere in the world.

The SLORC ignores the existence of rebellion along its western front in its 
statements to the international community. SLORC officials speak of the Karen 
National Union, on the Thailand border, as the only armed opponents yet to 
"return to the legal fold" (as SLORC terms the shaky cease-fires throughout the 
frontier regions). Smaller groups than the CNF have been lauded by the 
SLORC for making cease-fire deals, but the present effort, through some 
Christian clerical go-betweens, to get the CNF to join in, has been slow to 
progress. Since the CNF holds no territory, it lacks the incentive of a "safe 
area" to be gained by signing a cease-fire agreement. Also, being a more recent 
rebellion, the CNF may not have the "battle fatigue" that led other groups into 
some forms of rapprochement with the SLORC. The CNF itself has suffered at 
least one factional split, and it is not inconceivable that one segment or the 
other could sign on the SLORC's dotted line eventually. But at present, CNF 
operatives are continuing to try to organize support and pursue their "urban" 
strategy, staying, like Shan, Naga, Rohingya, Tavoyan, Karen, Karenni, and 
other groups, quite outside the "legal fold" of the SLORC.

It can be too easy to romanticize the violence of India's northeast and Burma's 
northwest, when much of its impetus probably dates back to the days of spear-
wielding warriors staging daring raiding parties for ritual head-hunting. But 
this legacy of violence nowadays catches many non-combatant victims in its 
scope, and there is nothing romantic about the hacked corpses of a slaughtered 
village, whether the killers are SLORC troops or righteous indigenous people. 
If the Chins of Burma can find a way to resist the SLORC without huge 
casualties and stay unified amongst themselves, they will have achieved 
something worthwhile, and -- in their neck of the woods -- unique.

Currently there are a great many Chin people in very uneasy exile in India. 
This has helped some to contact the international community, form human 
rights and women's organizations, and seek other non-violent ways to benefit 
the survival of their people. But pressure for their expulsion, especially in 
increasingly xenophobic Mizoram, is constantly on the increase. While the 
Mizos are of the same large ethnicity as Burma's Chins, sympathy for the poor 
(and sometimes criminal) relations from the land of SLORC is at an all time 
low. The Indian national government, while supporting democracy for Burma, 
appears to do very little to assist the refugees in India's northeast.
Perhaps the 
best approach is to push for change in Burma -- through trade embargoes, for 
instance -- so there wouldn't be refugees. The worst approach seems to be co-
operation with SLORC in "counterinsurgency" campaigns on both sides of the 
border, which accomplish nothing while incurring further animosity from all 
the indigenous people. The one thing the people of those mountains can agree 
on is their hatred of outside military occupation, whether it is sent from
or Rangoon.

This report contains information on human rights violations, including forced 
labor, executions, and campaigns apparently intended to convert Chins from 
Christianity to a Buddhism which might assimilate them into the SLORC's 
"national" Burman culture. The fact that the SLORC conducts suppressive 
campaigns against Buddhist clergy, Moslems, and other religious groups makes 
its deliberate oppression of Christians no less significant. There is also 
commentary on environmental and economic conditions in Chin areas. It is 
worth noting that Chin forests are being clearcut (often by forced labor), the 
search for rare orchids is hastening deforestation, and the magnificent
bird, a Chin ethnic symbol, is now endangered. The growth of narcotics 
production is reported, with the related spread of HIV/AIDS. The AIDS 
epidemic, unchecked in the Chin areas, has the potential to doom large 
segments of the population, as it has decimated the young people of India's 

Although the Chins are isolated, the outside world can help their cause. In 
India, pressure can be mounted for protection of Chin refugees, and for 
investigation of Mizoram's human rights violations such as the death in 
custody of CNF Vice President Salai Sang Hlun. The handing-over of Chin 
activists to the SLORC by Indian or Mizoram police must be stopped. 
Elsewhere, efforts by Chins to document the situation inside Burma, form 
women's projects, protect the environment, and educate their people about 
HIV/AIDS, should be supported internationally. India can seriously clamp 
down on the flow of Burma's heroin (which profits the SLORC) across its 
borders, along with the influx of illegal timber from Burma's last forests. The 
rest of the world must reject Burma's heroin, Burma's teak wood, and the 
multinational petroleum companies (including Total and Unocal) which keep 
the SLORC -- the Chins' oppressors -- in business and well armed.

Chin Resources:

Burma Net (strider@xxxxxxxxxxx) regularly posts information about the India-
Burma border region from the ABSDF and other sources. Karen Human Rights 
Group has issued reports on the Chin situation. Some background documents 
on the Chins, as well as contacts with Chin groups,  are available through 
Project Maje [maje@xxxxxxxxxxx] and through Burma Peace Foundation 

For background on the Chins, books include "The Structure of Chin Society" by 
Frederick Lehman (University of Illinois Press, 1963) and "Zo History" by Dr. 
Vumson (Mizoram, 1986). Martin Smith's "Burma: Insurgency and the Politics 
of Ethnicity" (Zed Books, 1991) outlines the development of Chin rebellion, 
and Sanjoy Hazarika's "Strangers of the Mist" (Penguin India, 1994) gives an 
overview of India's turbulent northeast.


1. All Burma Students Democratic Front, "Indo-Burma Border News", Sept. 3, 
2. Kuki Students Democratic Front, "Arrest of Activist", Sept. 2, 1997.
3. Democratic Voice of Burma, "Burma-India Border Heroin Trade", Aug. 8, 
4. Statement by Dr. Vum Son at UN WCIP, July/August 1997.
5. Dallas Peace News, July 1997.
6. The Nation, "Chins Feel the Pinch", May 2, 1997.
7. All Burma Students Democratic Front, "New Kabaw Valley Project", May 1, 
8. Panos, "Golden Triangle Heroin Trade Fuels HIV/AIDS", March 1997.
9. Free Trade Unions of Burma, March 1997.
10. Karen Human Rights Group, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15, 
11. All Burma Students democratic Front, "Border Development", March 12, 
12. Chin Human Rights Organization, "Religious Persecution", Feb. 1997.
13. Burma Issues, "Changing Tactics", Feb. 1997.
14. All Burma Students Democratic Front, "Indo-Burma Border News", Feb. 
24, 1997.
15. All Burma Students Democratic Front, "Forced Labor Continues to Reign 
in Chin State", Feb. 8, 1997.
16. Letter excerpts, Jan. 15, 1997.
17. Notes from information source, Dec. 13, 1996.
18. Letter excerpts, November 20, 1996.
19. Chin Women's Organization, "Request for Chin School", Oct. 19, 1996.
20. Chin National Front, "No Peace in Chinland", June 24, 1996.

Minor spelling and grammatical editing has been done on a few documents, for 
clarity. Variations of spelling of names of Chin places (Haka, Falam, Than 
Tlang, etc.) and people are left as in the original documents.

All Burma Students Democratic Front-Western Burma, September 3, 1997

On 3.7.97, local villagers found three corpses with gunshot wound in their
heads in a hut of hillside cultivation field near Zaothe village. Zaothe
village is 
part of Falam township, in Chin state of Burma. Two bodies are male and one 
is female. They are;
1. Tun Lin- Sergeant from Burma Regiment No (268)
2. Soe Myint -  Rifleman from Burma Regiment No (268)
3. Ms. Van Lai Pal- Local Villager

Details of the events are as follows.
On the night of 30.6.97 between 11 and 12 pm, three people escaped from 
regimental lock-up of Falam based Burma Regiment No (268) after removing 
the iron bar of a ventilation window in the cell. All of them were soldiers
Burma Regiment No (268). Sergeant Tun Lin was put into the lock-up due to 
the misuse of money collected from cow smuggling dealers as tax. Two other 
riflemen, Soe Myint and  Ko Oo were put into regimental lock-up because they 
tried to run away from their regiment. A platoon of Burma Regiment No (268) 
started the search operation to arrest the deserters in the same night. That 
platoon reached Zaothe village on 2.7.97 and platoon commander threatened 
the village chief and villagers that the village would be burnt down and all 
male villagers would be exterminated unless they disclosed the place where the 
deserters were hiding. So the villagers disclosed the place of hiding. The army 
surrounded the hut inside the hillside cultivation field near Zaothe village, 
where the deserters hid the afternoon of the same day. At that time three 
deserters and Ms. Van Lai Pal, a local woman were in the hut. 

Although they tried to escape, the army apprehended all of them except
rifleman Ko Oo. Three arrested people were interrogated the whole day in
that hut. Ms. Van Lai Pal confessed that she agreed to send the deserters to
anti-SLORC revolutionary forces staying at Indo-Burma border. Colonel Ohn 
Thwin, Commander of Military Tactical Command No (1), North-West 
Command ordered Major Khin Maung Wai, Deputy Commander of Burma 
Regiment No(268) to terminate all the deserters including the woman and then 
to report as death in an encounter.

Tun Lin, Soe Myint and Ms. Van Lai Pal were killed at the night of 2.7.97 in 
the same hut. Major Khin Maung Wai brutally beat rifleman Aung Myint Tun 
unconscious and put him in the lock-up without giving him any food. Rifleman 
Aung Myint Tun was on guard duty for lock-up when the three soldiers escaped 
from there.

News and Information Unit     ABSDF (Western-Burma)

September 2, 1997 

Mr. Paul, of Kuki nationality and a democracy activist from the Moulnoi
village of Homlin township, Saggaing division of Burma was arrested by
military intelligence in Rangoon on 2nd October 1996. Mr. Paul left Homlin 
for Rangoon in mid September 1996 to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to 
discuss the present political situation of Burma, attitude of NLD party on
nationalities affairs and the future role of Kuki nationality in Federal
Union of 
Burma. He was arrested by the MI persons on the way to Daw Aung San Suu 
Kyi's residence when he was trying to cross the road blockage by security
on the way to her residence. 

During the period of interrogation he repeatedly faced brutal torture by MI 
persons and he was forced to confess to being a representative of outlaw Kuki 
underground organization. After that he was sentenced to eight years 
imprisonment by a military tribunal at Rangoon and now he is kept in the 
notorious Insein jail in Rangoon. The authorities in the jail do not allow
him to 
meet with his relatives and friends. He does not receive regular, adequate and 
proper food. He is continuously being tortured physically and mentally by 
authorities of the jail. Although he is suffering from serious illness he
has no 
chance to achieve medical care even at the jail hospital.

We, the KSDF (Burma), personally know Mr. Paul as an active and sincere 
Kuki youth who has no contact and activity with any anti-SLORC organization 
in exile. He personally tried to meet and discuss with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 
based on his personal political outlook. There are a lot of such political 
prisoners in several jails of Burma. We the KSDF (Burma) strongly condemn 
the SLORC for arresting his own people who have political consciousness and 
tried to meet and discuss with democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. 
SLORCs manner clearly shows that they do not accept Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 
as a national leader and they consider her an outlaw person even though they 
dare not arrest her. The SLORC is attempting to crush all persons those who 
are politically conscious and anti-SLORC minded by using Daw Aung San Suu 
Kyi as bait. We strongly believe that similar happenings will occur with 
increasing frequency in the future and no political problems can be solved 
unless the SLORC refuses the dialogue with its opposition.

We are worried about the condition of Mr. Paul and we would like to appeal
to all international communities, human rights organizations and all NGOs to
try with great effort to achieve the release of Mr. Paul who is now in
Insein jail 
of Burma. The Kuki Students' Democracy Front (Burma) has recognized and 
recorded Mr. Paul as a brave active youth and his goodwill towards Kuki 

Democratic Voice of Burma (radio) -OSLO August 25, 1997
 [translated from Burmese]   DVB correspondent Kyaw Moe

Large amounts of heroin from Burma are reported to be flowing daily into 
Mizoram, India.  Heroin packages from Burma bearing Tiger Head, 555, and 
Double UO Globe brands have the appearance of legal commodity. One-kilo 
packages from Lashio are repacked into one-pound packages when they reach 
Tahan in Kalemyo.  In the trade, a one-kilo package is referred to as a Lashio 
package while a 1 lb. package is called a Tahan package by heroin traffickers.

It has been learned that the present market price for a 1 lb. package of
heroin is 
Kyat 200,000 and for a one-kilo package it is Kyat 500,000 in Kalemyo.  
Heroin is transported from Lashio to Tahan in cars, and both cars and human 
labor are used for transporting heroin from Tahan to the Indian border via 
Tiddim.  There is a method of transporting heroin to the Indian border from 
Tahan using SLORC [State Law and Order Restoration Council] (?defense 
force members).  This is called a carry [preceding word rendered in English] 
arrangement.  SLORC police also carry heroin under various pretexts such as 
pursuing absconders, tour duties, and home visits. Sometimes, they carry heroin 
on their return trip after sending witnesses to Monywa and Mandalay. 
According to a private source, a SLORC military officer himself transported by 
car 50 700-gram Globe brand heroin packages to a creek near the Tamu border 
on 10 August.  One one-pound package of heroin fetches Rupees 300,000 and a 
one-kilo package fetches Rupees 700,000 in Aizawl in Mizoram, India.  It has 
been learned that a heroin trafficker arrived in Aizawl on 15 August and has 
been reportedly trying to sell 50 packages of heroin transported by the SLORC 
officer at 75 percent of the market price.

According to unconfirmed reports, as opium plantations increase in the Chin
Hills heroin refineries are kept inside the SLORC military camps in Kalemyo.
According to local people, heroin produced from these refineries is sent to
Champhai through (Taung Creek) at the border and then sent on to Aizawl.  
On 21 August, authorities from the Excise Department of Mizoram confiscated 
two kilo of heroin carried by three Burmese nationals. The government 
television in Mizoram reported on 22 August that the amount of Burmese 
heroin seized by the Excise Department in Mizoram exceeded 100 kilo in 1997.

Statement by Dr. Vum Son, representing the Chin National Council, to the
United Nations Working Group of the Indigenous Populations,
Geneva, Switzerland  July/August 1997

The Chin indigenous people habitat the N-Western part of Burma, the Chin 
state and surrounding areas. In the matter of land rights -- it is difficult
to say 
whether the Chin people have the rights to their properties, their domestic 
animals or to their own daughters and sons, to their houses, not to mention 
rights about their land or territory. No Chin is a member of the government of 
Burma or Myanmar and no Chin is a member in the administration of the Chin 
people. The Burma Army with the name of the State Law and Order 
Restoration Council is the government of Burma and the administrator of the 
Chin people. 

Let me give you a typical example how the Chin people are administered: in 
February this year a unit of the Burma Army, from Battalion 269 visited the 
village of Lunglel. The soldiers entered people's homes without invitation and 
took anything they desire and ate the meal cooked without invitation. They 
hunted and killed chicken and other domestic animals for their consumption. 
Young men of the village were rounded up, interrogated and beaten up, whom 
they were accused to have help the armed opposition forces. The commander of 
the army unit, Captain Kyaw Nyein demanded that three girls should spend the 
night with him. The house he chose to spend the night at, the owner had to 
vacate it. When the army unit left the village, the villagers were ordered to 
carry their luggage, their military supplies, and things taken from the
to their next destination.

In the Kabaw valley, Chin villagers were ordered to build new houses by forced 
labour for the people who were brought in from other parts of Burma, that 
means Myanmar people or Burman to live in the new houses. Then the original 
villagers were ordered usually at gun point, to leave their villages. Forced 
relocation of Chin people is also common so that army camps could be built in 
the grounds that are to the taste of the army.

As officers of the army are dominantly ethnic Burman or Myanmar, members 
of the majority people in Burma, this kind of actions are taken to groom and 
instill hatred between the indigenous people and the Myanmar mainly to 
instigate the indigenous people to attack the Burma Army thereby prolonging 
the military rule of Burma.

I hope this will inform a tiny fraction of the conditions of the Chin people 
concerning the land rights and human rights in Burma.

Dallas Peace Times,  July 1997

The Dallas (Texas) Peace Center (1-214-823-7793) seeks donations of funds or 
frequent flyer miles, to bring the children of a Chin political dissident 
minister/teacher to join him in the US, where he is a refugee.


THE NATION (Bangkok newspaper)   May 2, 1997    by Aung Zaw 

The small ethnic group fears it may be next in line for a Rangoon offensive:

Shortly after Indian army chief Gen Shankar Roychowdhury visited Rangoon in
March to meet Burma's top military leaders Chin rebels based along the border 
with India began preparing for a major offensive against their jungle camps.
"I think they [Burmese military] are going to attack all our camps before
the rainy season," said Sui Khur, a spokesman for the Chin National Front 
[CNF]. The Chin have been under pressure since last year when rebels based in 
India's Mizoram state came under attack from the local police and army
forces following the launch of "Golden Bird" operation.

In January about 150 Indian soldiers from the 19th Assam rifle attacked one
of the CNF camps. The CNF did not resist and deserted the camp without a
fight. The soldiers then burned down all houses in the camp. "At the moment, 
the Indian army is very hostile," the Chin rebel leader said, adding that
officials were also allowing their Burmese counterparts to enter Indian
as far as 25 kilometers in pursuit of Chin rebels.

India's warming relations with Burma are a response to fears in New Delhi
over the growing ties between Chin and Burma. China is Burma's a main arms 
supplier and is believed to be seeking access to various sea installations off 
Burma's coast. Once a supporter of the pro-democracy opposition in Burma, 
India now has changed tack and is siding with the regime. It has sent several 
delegations including business missions to Burma in the last six months.

The Burmese junta, officially known as the State Law and Order Restoration
Council [Slorc], has also been lobbying Bangladesh government to cooperate
in its counter-insurgency campaign against the Chins. Sui Khar said he 
believes that "sweet relations" have been restored between Burma and 
Bangladesh. Bangladesh's Sonali Bank has opened a branch office in Rangoon 
and Dhaka has told Burmese dissidents operating in the country to leave. But 
so far no drastic action has been taken place.

Chins on the western border tell the same tales of human rights abuses, forced 
labour, and poor health conditions as the Karen, Mon and Shan people on the 
eastern border. Approximately 40,000 Chin refugees and migrant worker are in 
Mizoram state. "Pressure is mounting but we are surviving," says the Chin 

Set up in 1980s the CNF, with 300 men under arms, is led today by Thomas
Tang No. The rebel has responded to the situation by launching urban guerrilla
attacks against Burmese soldiers in major cities in the area. Last year the CNF 
planted bombs at army officers' houses and intelligence offices in Falam, Haka, 
and Htantalang. 

Now the CNF has a new target: bars in Chin state. "The local army officers 
have been encouraging Chins to open bars everywhere. This is how they intend 
to destroy our youth," says Sui Khar. Chin youths in Haka, Matupi, Htantalang, 
Falam and other Chin cities are becoming addicted to alcohol, he said. "This is 
one of Slorc tactics - they have done similar evils in some areas including
state and even in Rangoon," accused Sui Khar. "The only difference is that here 
it is alcohol not heroin," he said.

Local Chins also complain that local Slorc officers are trying to encourage
young Chin women to work in bars. "Chin parents are upset. The Chin people 
asked us to help shut down all the bars", Sui Khar said. The CNF has 
responded by warning bar owners to shut down their operations. Those who 
don't face the risk of being bombed. The CNF has already bombed bars in 
Htantalang, Haka and Matupi. "We have no intention to harm people so we 
detonate bombs at midnight after the bars are closed," Sui Khar said. A curfew 
has been imposed in many Chin towns accompanied by an order to shoot 
whoever is on the streets after 9:00 pm.


All Burma Students League        May 1, 1997  
New Kabaw Valley (or) Death  Messenger Project by the military regime in 

Kabaw Valley, a fertile agricultural place, is situated in Sagaing Division
and borders India. The present military regime, SLORC, has been trying to
establish this deserted valley as a human-settlement. This project, namely
"New Kabaw Valley Project" is being assisted by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP). Although the regime officially stated the
objective of the project as a part of its "border developmental programme",
the two ulterior motives behind the project are : (1) to counter armed
groups based in the region, and (2) to prevent any external invasion (of
India, in this case) in the future.

However, the SLORC, starved with the foreign exchange reserves at hand, has
been misusing the financial assistance provided by the UNDP. Instead of
spending the money for its stated objective, SLORC is using it for the
military expenses of its armed forces. The prisoners, mostly political
prisoners, are being used in the construction works under the project. The
villagers from the Upper Burma were lured by promises of money and job
opportunities to settle and work in the Kabaw Valley but later they were
forced to work as "voluntary labourers" without receiving any of the
financial and material benefits promised. Hundreds of local people in the
region, particularly from Sagaing Division, are being forced to work in the
various construction projects as "voluntary labourers" as the government
terms it.

The "New Kabaw Valley Project" was started in 1990. It is being monitored
and implemented by the Office of Regional Control under the army based at In
Thein Kyi in Kalay Township of Sagaing Division. In the beginning of the
project, the authorities lured the farmers from Shwe Bo, Mon Ywa, Ye Oo, Pa
Le townships with (20) acres of land, Kyat 5,000.00 for house building and
materials for farm ploughing for each person to come and settle down in the
valley. New villages, such as "Aung Zay Ya", "Ba Yint Naung" and "Yan Gyi
Aung" were set up in the valley and the farmers were moved into the new
villages. However, after some time, they ran away from the villages to other
parts of the region due to the difficult terrain, problems with several
diseases and the absence of the promised assistance from the authorities.

"Prisoners Camps" are set up in the townships of Aung Zay Ya, Yan Gyi Aung,
Watt Shu, Myo Thit, Tha Nan, Yar Za Gyo, Sa Khan Gyi  in Sagaing Division
for the use of labour of the prisoners in the construction works of the
project. The camps are under the control of Prison Department and the
various units of the Office of Army Regional Control. Makeshift huts are
made inside the camps for the prisoners to stay in. The camps are surrounded
by three-layers of barbed wire. About 250 to 300 prisoners are put into a
camp and a total of 4,000 prisoners are in all the camps to serve the New
Kabaw Valley Project. According to the information given by an escapee from
a camp, between 1 and 5 prisoners die in a week due to mal-nutrition,
over-fatigue, malaria, typhoid and other seasonal diseases and lack of
medicine. Sometimes, in bad weather, from 15 to 20 people die in a day. The
escapee who was interviewed by the members of ABSL in Moreh said that half
of the prisoners either died or ran away during the past four years.

The vacancies left by the dead or escapees are filled up by the new prisoners 
from Insein (Rangoon) Jail, Tharawadi Jail, Myin Gyan Jail, Mandalay Jail and 
Mon Ywa Jail. Between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners whose jail sentence are 
above one year are rotationally sent to the camps every six months for the New 
Kabaw Valley Project. A prisoner has to bribe the concerned jail authorities 
with 25,000-30,000 Kyats to avoid being sent to this infamous project. 
Therefore, the project is named by the prisoners as "Death Messenger Project".

One of the escapees from these camps is Maung Maung Oo, aged 18, from 
Dawae Township. He escaped from Kan Gyi Village Camp in 1995. Due to his 
family's economic hardships, he decided to board a boat as a boatman at the age 
of 14. He only realized after he was at sea that the boat he had boarded was a 
smuggling boat. On his very first trip, he, along with 15 boatmen were
caught by a Burmese navy boat. While others were released by bribing the 
concerned persons, he without any money, was arrested and sentenced to 7 
years imprisonment by a trial court in 1992. His age was 15 at that time. After 
serving one and half year in Insein Jail, he was sent to the Kabaw Valley to
as a labourer. He ran away from the camp in July 1995.

The Imphal-based ABSL members interviewed him in 1996. According to him, 
a camp has only one tractor intended for use in ploughing new land. However,
this single tractor was usually occupied by Camp Officials for their trips
and transportation. Therefore, most of the hard work was done by the labour
of the prisoners. The prisoners were made to work in digging, ploughing,
cutting trees and clearing forest in the areas. For ploughing purposes, iron
roles of length-six feet and weight-500 to 750 Kilos with four people
sitting on it were pulled by four prisoners. The prisoners were forced to
work from 7 A.M to 4 P.M with one hour lunch break from 11 to 12 noon.

Moreover, the prisoners were being shackled while working. The prisoners
suffered from mal-nutrition, typhoid, malaria, skin diseases and there was
not enough medicines for them. When they could not bear any more of pain 
and suffering, the prisoners had to take care of themselves with whatever
medicinal leaves and fruits available in the jungle. Although a prisoner got
two sets of rough clothes at the time of their arrival at the camp, their
clothes were easily torn apart within 3 months of their work in the area.
They did not have spare clothes and had to wear the same clothes all the
time. Sometimes, they had to dry themselves under the sun without any
clothes. The regular meal for them is rice, watery peas and Ngapi.

One civilian who took part in the project estimated that a total of 3500 to
4500 prisoners died between 1990 and 1996 and 6000 acres of agricultural
land were explored in the above-mentioned period. News came out that in
March 1997, a 12 year-old prisoner died because of the camp officials'
beating in Yar Za Gyow Camp situated on Kalay-Tamu road. The prisoners of
this camp are made to work in the farms owned by the Burmese Army. It was
estimated by the officials that they had a stock of more than 3000 Tins (one
Tin is approximately equal to a bushel) of peas. However, in reality, only
1500 Tins of pigeon pea were found when the army came and to collect. The
prisoners were accused by the camp officials of stealing the peas and the
said 12-year old prisoner was beaten to death in the process of investigation.
In fact, the prisoners were often beaten to the point of vomiting blood if
they were caught eating peas even before they were reaped. Usually, camp
officials and concerned departmental personnel smuggled the peas out
of the camps and the prisoners were made the victims of their actions.

Therefore, the project being done by the military government as a part of
their "Border Area Development Programme (BADP)" is given a new name by 
the local people and prisoners as "UN-sponsored BAD programme).

Compiled by : News and Information Bureau, All Burma Students League


April 1997    By Rupa Chinai and Rahul Goswami

KOHIMA, INDIA (PANOS) - The expanding heroin trade in Southeast Asia's 
'Golden Triangle' - the world's largest source of illicitly grown pure
heroin - is 
bringing with it a wave of new HIV/AIDS infections in Myanmar and a remote 
corner of India.

The Golden Triangle comprises 38 million hectares of rainforest-covered
mountains in Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Bordering 
Myanmar are three northeastern Indian states - Mizoram, Manipur and 
Nagaland. Sometimes racked by insurgency and girded by the Himalayan 
mountains, these states are among the poorest in India and, for the most 
part, closed to foreigners for security reasons.

But not to the opium trade evidently. On both sides of the border, opium and 
heroin addiction is destroying tribal populations, while contributing to an 
alarming rise in HIV infection and AIDS. Underdevelopment in Myanmar in 
particular is fueling an opium-driven economy, which depends not only on 
opium cultivation but also its use as a means of barter.

In India's northeastern states - there are seven altogether - large sections of 
the youth are now threatened by a rising HIV infection, drug and alcohol 
abuse and other chronic killers such as malaria and tuberculosis. "Millions 
of migrants are pouring out of Myanmar into China, India and Thailand, 
carrying HIV with them," says the United Nations International Narcotics 
Control Board's 1997 report.

In Myanmar, needle sharing, a proliferation of brothels, lack of public 
awareness campaigns and a weak public health infrastructure have
contributed to an explosion in the number of HIV-positive cases, the New
York-based The Nation magazine reported last December.  The UN reports 
that 60-70 percent of intravenous drug users in Myanmar are HIV-positive.
Myanmar-wide HIV figures cited by the United States' Bureau of the Census 
are equally disturbing.  Surveillance at 20 sites in 1995 found infection
rates of 
18.2 percent among prostitutes, 10 percent among patients of sexually 
transmitted diseases and 55.2 percent among injecting drug users.

The World Health Organisation believes there are 500,000 heroin addicts 
in Myanmar - or one percent of its population.  The Southeast Asian
Information Network, a Thai nongovernmental organisation (NGO) working on 
AIDS prevention, says the real figure may be two to four times higher.

Over the Indian border in Manipur, rates of HIV infection among intravenous 
drug users jumped from zero in 1988 to nearly 70 % in 1992, according to the 
US Census Bureau. Infection rates in the region are among the highest in India.
"We know there is a lot of movement [of heroin]," K.N. Singh, a police
officer in the border town of Moreh, said. "About 1,000 people come and go 
every day.  There are searches but we hardly ever find anything - when we do, 
its through tip-offs from sources. Many people are involved. Last year a senior 
police officer was arrested and imprisoned for trade in marijuana," he added.

Today's heroin trade follows old opium routes of the British colonial era
and takes advantage of porous borders. In Mon, a Nagaland border district,
large groups of Myanmarese youth, walking for days, recently arrived as
refugees fleeing poverty in Myanmar. Many brought opium with them.  
"This is the only medicine we have," said one refugee. Another teenage refugee 
said she had walked 18 days through north-west Myanmar to reach Mon.  She 
spoke of  villages heavily affected by tuberculosis, with no local primary
care and where every family grows opium.

A report by a Myanmar-based NGO smuggled out of the country corroborates 
the account.  It documents widespread opium cultivation and addiction in 
virtually every village in the Chin province of northern Myanmar, bordering 
India.  In Hpa Kant in Kachin State - famous for its jade - about 50 percent of 
the youth are thought to be addicts.

While several UN agencies have been conducting AIDS awareness and
prevention programmes for many years in Myanmar, there appear to be
constraints affecting health projects in the northern provinces. These have
been waging an insurgency against the Myanmar regime and the state
authorities are wary of any community activity.

In 1994, a US public health expert reported that Myanmar did not allow
regional programmes to warn people in Kachin and Shan states about 
AIDS. Community-based organisations are not allowed to exist and ethnic- 
or Burmese-language materials are banned.  Reports from the Indian
Intelligence Bureau, the Indian Army, the Konyak Mother's Association 
and refugees interviewed for this article suggest little has changed. "There
no roads, no schools, no medicines, no doctors, no communications in the 
villages on the other side," say the Reverend Yamyap Konyak of the Baptist 
Church in Mon.

Indian border police and customs officials admit that considerable amounts
of heroin pass into India, but there are no reliable figures.  The recent
opening of a trading post with Myanmar facilitates the trade. And the border is 
so open, anyone can walk through with a headload. Heads of anti-narcotics 
agencies of India and Myanmar have held several meetings to work out a joint 
offensive against the drug trade. But little has changed. The Indian Narcotics 
Bureau struggles for funds and has only 380 employees country-wide.

For Nagaland and Manipur, the combination of HIV and drug abuse is 
having devastating consequences, especially for the youth.  In 1996, 28 
young people died from drug abuse in Mon town alone, according to Father 
Joe, who works at a drug rehabilitation clinic there.  He says he doesn't 
know how many have HIV, because there are no testing facilities./PANOS



During the 1st week of March 1997, The villagers from Min Tha village 
were subjected to forced labour. Men, women and even aging were used to 
forced labour to take out the Teak from the jungle for Burmese Army BN228.
Forced labourers were beaten up by soldiers in work place as usual. One 
villager were severely beaten and broken his leg, but Army denied to give any 
medical treatment. Relatives brought him to Tamu Government Hospital but 
admission was not accepted. Therefore they went to the Kalay Myo for long 
distant and took medical treatment there. They have afraid to put on trial for 
their case against Army personals. Responsible person for the case is Capt. Tun 
Swe from BN 228.