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The Chin connection

In a chance meeting with a Chin underground leader, it could be
understood that the Chins of Myanmar were deeply concerned over the
escalating Kuki-Paite clashes.

Among the spirited audience to warm up the moments of a North-East
extravaganza in the Capital on Nobember 1. There

We want independence from Burma. It will be an independent State for the
Chin people, he said with a smile on his face. It has been the demand of
the Chin National Front, an insurgent group, formed in Champhai
(Mizoram) in 1988 for liberating the Chin people from the dutches of the
Burmese military junta. The man in the ethnicChin dress was a top leader
of  Chin National Army (CNA), the armed wing of the CNF.

In the backdrop of the Kuki-Paite clashes in Manipur -both the tribes
along with the Mizos are orginally the Chins, speaking the same
language- the importance , attached by the CNF into the Indian affairs
has naturally increased. But the outfit strongly denies the rumour that
it has side with the Paites, In a release on September 3, 1997, CNF
terms the problems of the Kuki and Paite within Chins as the works of
some anti-Chin elements.

The close interaction of this militant outfit, across the border, with
those of the North-East dates back to their joint training in Kachin( in
Burma) by the Kachin Independent Organisation (KIO), a group established
by zaw Maing in the fifties. In those days, the CNA cadres used to play
football matches and sing song together with those of the NSCN, ULFA,
and border of other N_E insurgent groups.

However, during the Operation Golden Bird of the Indian Army against the
NE insurgents, its relations with the India government were strained as
it was aiding the Khaplang group of the NSCN. Now it claims that it has
severed its relation with that faction of the NSCN.

Like the North East India, Myanmar is also infested by hordes of
insurgent groups. The country's Shan tribe itself has 10 different
militant outfits. The insurgent groups of other tribes like Chin,
Kachin,Karen etc, have demanded self rule in their respective territory.

The dictatorial regime of General Than Shew, who is the present chairman
of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) in Myanmar, has
led the moderates to join hands with the extremeists. The umbrela
organisation, called National Council of Union of Burma (NCUB) has now
taken as its constituents some student organisations, exiled
groups,National League for Democracy/ Liberated Area and some insurgent
groups including the CNF. The prime objective of this co-ordinating body
is to establish democracy and a federal structure in Myanmar.

In the country, ruled bythe military generals for years, the democratic
practice is totally alien to the Burmese . Aung San Suu Kyi's party,
National League for Democracy (NLD), was not allowed to form the
Government even though it won an overwhelming majority with 394 seats in
a house of 485 after the May 1990 general election.

The military junta struck terror upon the NLD members, arresting its
members indiscriminately. As many as 32 members crossed to the India
side and they are now stationed in five places-Moreh ( Manipur), Imphal,
Champhai, Aizawl (Mizoram) and Delhi. Interestingly these include some
democratically elected MPs from the Burmese Parliament.

When contacted by the North-East Sun, Dr.Ro Ding general secretary of
National League for Democracy/ Liberated Area ( NLD/LA ) remarked,
'"even my father U Do Thawng, an MP was arrested by the military regime
 . The military regime crackdown on NLD intensified after some MPs
recently met at Mandalay (second largest city in Myanmar) for
restoration of democracy in the military-ridden country. The members of
the NLD had no other option but to take refuge in some other countries."

Because of the common culture and tradition, the Chin refugee of Myanmar
could easily adjust with the Mizos in Mizoram and the Kukis and Paite in
Manipur. Till the 15th century, the Kukis and Paites lived together at
Teddim  in the Chin hills of Burma .In the Chin language, the Paite(a
later migrant ) itself means the people who have left.

But the recent chapter of Kuki-Paite enmity has indirectly disturbed the
Chin refugees, their original brothers from the Chin Hills of Myanmar.
Any involvement in the activites of one group leads the other group to
suspect them. Says Dr. Ding, himself a Chin, "Both Kukis and Paites are
the Chins and we want immediate stoppage of Fratricidal killings."

Through fighting for the common cause of liberating the Chin Hill area
from the Barmese control, Chins have now several groups. Jhon No Than
Kap, a former chairman of the CNF, has now headed a separate group of
Chins in Myanmar. Jhon followers are reported to have a good
coordination with the NSCN( Khaplang) and thus they are very much
involved in the Indian affairs.

Another Chin group, Chin Libration Organistion(CLO) headed by a former
Rangoon University lecturer, Ro Za Thang itself is based in Mizoram, a
state which witnessed no major insurgency after Laldenga's joining to
the mainstream. The group of Ro Za Thang is often accused of siding
towards the Paites, Making the things more compli-eated for the Chins.

In the meantime, the Kuki National Front Submitted Aide- Memotre (a
memorandum) to I.K. Gural on October 25 last, where it described Vuite
(Paite) along with Zou, Simte etc, as differnt Kuki clans. However, it
has no mention about its ongoing clashes with the Paites, Nor has it
proposed to restrain from it. The front basically feiterated its demand
for creating Kukiland "within the frame-work of the Indian Constitution
so as to protect and preserve Kuki ethnicity, custom, culture and

In spite of Government's best effort, the Kuki-Paite enmity and its
violent reactions in Manipur's Churachandpur district have not receded
as yet.

North-East  Sun
Monthly Magazine
Novenber 15-30, 1997.

Former students fight for democracy in Burma

Dawn Gwin Camp, (Thai-Burma border), Dec. 22: A decade ago they were
among Burma's best and brightest, young idealists on the road to
becoming lawyers, engineers and doctors in what they dreamed would be a
democratic societry. In that year of revolt, 1988, stuents activists
manned the front lines in the attempt to bring down entrenched military
rule. some fell to bullets and bayonets. Others were tortured and
imprisoned. And some felt to remote frontier areas to carry on the
fight. Today, the hard-core remnants are just hanging on. They live in
disease-ridden jungle camps, dependent on foreign donors and the fickle
sympathies of Thai officials. Although dedication to the cause remains
strong, their road seems headed for a dead end.
" Some revolutions are long-term, but we believe that all dictators must
fall. So we will never give up our objectives or beliefs," said Sai
Myint Thu, a one-time chemical engineering student and now a leader in
the All Burma students Democratic Front. Many have in fact given up.
Originally 10,000 strong, the democratic front fighting force has
dwindled to 1,700. And some among these hope for asylum in the West. The
international focus isn't on these forlorn guerrillas but rather on Aung
San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader and Nobel peace prize-winner
locked in an indecisive struggle with Burma's military rulers in the
capital, Rangoon. Her portrait hangs inside many of the guerrillas,

Camp life is hard, sometimes lethal. The rebel movement's headquarters,
once inside Burma, has been forced to relocate seven times in the past
three years under attack from Burmese troops. Several hundred former
students have been killed. Now, the headquarter is just inside Thai
territory in the rugged northwestern province of Mae Hong Son. The Dawn
Gwin camp, housing 160 rebels, is a collection of thatch and bamboo huts
on ajungled hillside. Almost inaccessible by vehicle during the rainy
season, the area is rife with malaria and other diseases. Food and
medicine, provided by western humanitarian groups, are basic. Lonelines
and fatalism pervade.

No longer devil-may- care students, most of the fighters are now men in
their late 20s or early 30s who haven't been able to marry. Only 10 per
cent of Dawn Gwin's residents are women, some trying to raise a new
generation in the jungle. " I won't return to see my homeland and my
family until there is democracy in Burma. I may die in action, Thant Zin
Oo said sadly. Like most of the guerrillas, he hasn't had contact with
his family since 1988. Their blueprint for a future Burma is not be
detailed and the jargon of Leftist causes is sometimes used. But the
aims are clear: an end to 35 years of military rule, free elections,
recinciliation between ethnic Burmese and the country's many ethnic
minorities> The democratic front operates out of nine camps, seven along
the Thai border and one each on the Chinese and Indian frontiers. (AP)