Has “Chin National Day” Achieved?
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was formed as an independent multi-nations state, a combination of different nationalities and their territories. The ethnic Chin is one of the eight major ethnic nationalities in Myanmar, the other seven are Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Shan, Mon, Arakan, and Burman.
In Myanmar, the Chin state lies approximately between North Latitude 21°0' and 24°15' and East Longitude between 93°15' and 94°0. It has an estimated area of 13,907 sq miles.
The Chin people were involved in movement for greater freedoms and independence in the Union of Myanmar, through fighting British colonization, Japanese Fascism in World War II, and the Communists in the civil war. For example the “Chin Rifles,” one of divisions of the federal government army made up of ethnic Chin soldiers, and its military hero Capt. Thai Coeng, were outstanding fighters against the Fascist Japanese in World War II and the Communists in Arakan, the Shan state and Pagu Yomas.
“Chin National Day”
The traditional ruling system, including elements such as chieftainship and the feudal system, were abolished at the Chin Conference held on Feb. 20, 1948 in Falam town, the state capital of the Chin state. It was the only the occasion of the conference in Chin state in Myanmar have democratically elected leaders.
February 20 has thus been designated as “Chin National Day” as it marks the beginning of freedom and democracy in the Chin state. This day marks the first time a democratic ruling system was practiced in the Chin state. In the process of democratization, this “Chin National Day” was reaffirmed by the Chin affairs Council on Oct 9, 1950. Since then “Chin National Day” has been widely celebrated as a commemorative day.
The National of the Chin People
The word “nation” comes from the Latin “natio,” meaning birth place of or origin; it was used to refer to a certain group. Likewise the term “Chin National” also designates the origin of Chin people’s birth place on the Chin land, and reflects the Chin people’s dignity, freedom, and culture.
The Chin people never belonged to Burman nationality. The Chin people were the first to migrate to the Chin land. They have always been the native residents and owners of
the Chin territory.
In terms of territorial boundaries, “the Chin Nationality” is comprised of the Matupi, Palatwa, Mindat, Hakha, Falam and Tedim major townships of the Chin state. People descendent from these towns are the legal owners of the Chin territory and they are the native residents.
People living in other areas like Asho, Lushai and Thado in Myanmar are also Chin nationals, but they do not have a clear cut territory of their own.
Therefore “Nationality” is very important and meaningful in this geographical, political and historical context. Moreover, the term “Nationality” is the term chosen by the Chin people to express their political rights. It is the rights of Chin people and these rights should be protected. It is reflected in the commemoration of “Chin National Day,” nobody should abolish this commemoration day. According to the UN Declaration on Indigenous People, Article 33, “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity in accordance with their customs and traditions.”
Furthermore, “Chin Nationality” compares equally with other nationalities in Myanmar. Therefore, “Chin National Day” is a very important day for Chin people, and it is the highlight in the Chin people’s identity. Through this symbolic day of “Chin National Day” Chin people want to preserve and pass down the Chin cultures and customs into the future generation.
Nowadays, the military government has ruined the culture and identity of the Chin people by sending troops to their territory. The life of the Chin people was deteriorated. One of the reasons is the lack of political knowledge among Chin people. In fact, Myanmar’s military government has been an illegal government for a longtime.
Chin people are denied religious freedom as well. They are forced to observe Buddhism instead of Christianity. Over 90 percent of Chins are Christian.
Since the military government ruled, thousands of soldiers are sent to every town and villages in the Chin state to indirectly occupy and oppress the people there. The soldiers are asked by the military government to marry Chin women, in return, the soldiers will received their job promotions in the middle of ethnic conflict. It is also as part of a policy to promote bio-genocide. Although there are a handful of Chin rebel groups, they are inactive and merely a showcase, they are imposition to push back that any of military government projected and entering into Chin territory.
Looking back on the whole story, it is a consequence of the aggressive policy of the Myanmar military government. Certainly, the Myanmar military government neglected the development of the Chin people and disregarded Chin sincerity toward the formation of a unified country during the formative years of the Union of Burma.
Chin National Day is also to recall democracy, human rights, and freedom in Myanmar on this occasion. The military government must stop oppressing the Chin people politically, social-economically, and religiously.
At the moment, there is an ongoing offensive war against the ethnic Kachin, ethnically brother of the Chin people, and this, too, must stop. The involvement of international society is needed to end the ethnic repression in Burma. There are still thousands of refugees from Myanmar in neighboring countries.
Chin people protest in-front of Myanmar Embassy
The beautiful Chin hill
John S. Thang is a Burmese activist based in South Korea. He is the Managing Editor of the Global Digest magazine. His PhD dissertation is on the comparison between Foreign Policies of South Korea and Myanmar.