January 28, 2009

II. Background

Brief Political History of the Chin

Located in the remote mountain ranges of northwestern Burma, Chin State is home to an estimated 500,000 ethnic Chin.[1] While the term "Chin" generally refers to one of the many ethnic groups in Burma, the Chin themselves are ethnically and linguistically diverse.[2] At least six primary Chin tribal groups can be identified and sub-categorized into 63 sub-tribes, speaking at least 20 mutually unintelligible dialects.[3]

For centuries, Chin societies existed largely free from outside interference and influence, governing themselves under a system of local chiefdoms.[4] Chin territory originally encompassed not only the Chin Hills of modern-day Burma, but also neighboring regions of Burma, Bangladesh, and India's northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur. Foreign occupation by the British in the 18th century, however, marked the end of a unified and free Chinland.

From 1872 to 1889, the British invaded the Chin territory from Bengal (present day Bangladesh) in the west, through India's Assam State in the north, and from Burma in the east. Following these military incursions, the British assumed control over a large part of Chin territory and divided the area into separate administrative zones: a southwestern territory governed by the British Governor of Bengal; a northwestern territory controlled by the British Governor of Assam; and an eastern portion governed by British-controlled Burma. Effectively, these separate governance structures divided the Chin into three populations and set the Chin people of Burma, India, and Bangladesh on different courses.[5]

The 1886 Chin Hills Regulation Act governed the administration of Chin territory allocated to British-occupied Burma. Under this Act, the British agreed to govern the Chin separately from Burma proper. In contrast to the administration of Burma proper controlled directly by the British crown, the Act provided that Chin traditional chiefs would maintain their positions of authority with only indirect governance by the British.[6]

In 1939, as World War II broke out across Europe, prominent student leader Aung San and other Burman nationalists took the opportunity to challenge British rule. Allied with the Japanese, Aung San and the "30 comrades" formed the Burma Independence Army and took control of Burma proper by May 1942. As the British retreated to India, Chin State turned into a strategic battleground. Mistrustful of the Burmans and benefiting from British missionaries, the Chin aligned themselves with the British and fought against the advancing Burma Independence Army and Japanese forces, earning Burman resentment. In August 1943, the Japanese declared Burma an "independent" nation. When the Japanese refused to relinquish control of the government, the renamed Burma National Army turned to the British in order to expel the Japanese from Burma.

As the Burmans negotiated for independence from Britain, Aung San reached out to the Chin and other ethnic nationalities included under the administration of British-occupied Burma. The Chin, along with the Kachin and Shan ethnic groups, participated in the Panglong conference organized by Aung San and agreed to sign the Panglong Agreement of February 12, 1947, an essential document for Burma's independence. In it, the signatories agreed to cooperate with the interim government of "Ministerial Burma" led by Aung San. The agreement guaranteed the establishment of a federal union and autonomy for the ethnic states.[7] But the resulting draft constitution failed to satisfy many of the demands of the ethnic groups and set the stage for lasting civil conflict.

Independence further solidified the division of the Chin people through the demarcation of international boundaries. With Burma's independence from Britain on January 4, 1948, the eastern Chin Hills were incorporated into the federal union of Burma. Similarly, with India's independence a year earlier, the western Chin Hills became India's northeastern state of Mizoram. Since this time, Burma's Chin State has encompassed nine townships, including Tonzang, Tiddim, Falam, Thantlang, Hakha, Paletwa, Matupi, Mindat, and Kanpalet. The borders of Chin State are demarcated by Bangladesh to the southwest, India to the west and northwest, Burma's Arakan State to the south, and Magwe and Sagaing Divisions to the east. Today, the largest populations of Chin continue to be divided between Chin State in Burma and Mizoram State in India.[8]

The assassination of Aung San in 1947 led to an independence fraught with disappointment and instability in Burma. A military coup in 1962 ended Burma's democratic system and began nearly 50 years of military rule.

Political Reform Since 1988

Frustrated by more than two decades of military rule and economic decline, nationwide protests broke out on August 8, 1988, with hundreds of thousands calling for democratic change in Burma. The military responded to the demonstrations, commonly referred to as the 8-8-88 uprising, with unrestrained violence. The army killed an estimated 3,000 people during the weeks of the crackdown and imprisoned many more.

In the lead up to the August 8 protests, the authorities closed Burma's universities and high schools and sent ethnic students home. Chin students went back to Chin State and took the lead in organizing demonstrations. In Hakha town, the police arrested student leaders several days into the protests but released them soon after when villagers threatened to storm the police station. On September 18, the students took over the government offices. The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the military government in power in 1988, sent in Infantry Battalion number 89 (IB 89) from Kalaymyo at the end of September to suppress the student movement and place public offices under SLORC control.[9]

After the crackdown, SLORC announced that elections would be held in May 1990. The National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi, Aung San's daughter, quickly emerged as the leading opposition party. Threatened by Suu Kyi's growing popularity, SLORC placed her under house arrest in July 1989.

Despite such tactics, the NLD won a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, winning 392 out of 485 seats. Chin candidates took 13 seats representing five parties and two independents.[10] But SLORC nullified the results, claiming a constitution first had to be drafted. Following the elections, the authorities hunted down and imprisoned hundreds of political opponents. Since that time, military rule has continued in Burma, changing only in name (in 1997) to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).[11]

The process of drafting the constitution took place sporadically between January 9, 1993 and March 31, 1996, resuming again from May 2004 until September 2007. But the military authorities fully controlled these sessions, handpicking a majority of the National Convention delegates.

In September 2007, as large-scale protests for democratic change gained momentum throughout the country, the SPDC announced the closing of the final session of the National Convention. In the weeks that followed, the military government engaged in a brutal crackdown against thousands of monks and peaceful protestors. Human Rights Watch's December 2007 report, Crackdown: Repression of the 2007 Popular Protest Movement in Burma, provides a detailed account of the protests and the brutal crackdown and mass arrest campaign that followed.[12]

Shortly after the crackdown, the SPDC formed a 54-member Commission for Drafting the State Constitution, which excluded political opposition leaders and non-Burman ethnic representatives. The military government held a referendum on its draft constitution in most parts of the country on May 10, 2008, despite the massive loss of life and devastation in the Irrawaddy delta region caused by Cyclone Nargis that struck only a week before. Following the May vote, the military government announced on May 27 a 92.8 percent popular approval of the constitution with a 98 percent voter turnout. The international community denounced the drafting process, referendum, and resulting constitution as nothing more than a "sham" devised by the military government to ensure future military rule under the cloak of a civilian parliamentary system. Human Rights Watch's May 2008 report, Vote to Nowhere: The May 2008 Constitutional Referendum in Burma, analyzed the repressive conditions under which the referendum was conducted as well as the provisions of the draft constitution.[13]

Chin Resistance and the Chin National Front (CNF)

Armed insurgency groups have been operating in the ethnic Chin areas since Burma's independence in 1948. These groups became a focal point of the opposition movement following the 8-8-88 uprising as the military heightened its presence throughout the country. It was at this time that the Chin resistance movement gained momentum.

The Chin National Front (CNF) and its armed branch, the Chin National Army (CNA), is the largest organization with a sustained presence in the Chin resistance movement. Ethnic leaders opposed to military rule in Burma established the CNF in Mizoram on March 20, 1988, just months before the 8-8-88 uprising. As many Chin student leaders fled across the border into Mizoram to escape arrest by the army, they filled the ranks of the CNF and joined the armed struggle against the military government.

Over the years, the operations of the CNA have been considerably reduced by the military might of the occupying Tatmadaw in Chin State.[14] In practical terms, the CNA no longer presents any significant military threat to the government. Actual conflict between the Tatmadaw and the CNA is limited to small-scale firefights between Tatmadaw soldiers and heavily outnumbered CNA soldiers.

Events in the CNF/CNA's long and complicated history have exacerbated ethnic divisions between Chin of the Laimi sub-tribe, particularly between Laimi Chin from Falam township who speak a Falam-dialect and are commonly referred to as Falam Chin and Laimi Chin from Hakha and Thantlang townships who speak a Lai-dialect and are commonly referred to as Lai Chin.[15] Although Tial Khar, a Falam Chin, founded the CNF/CNA in 1988, shortly after its formation Lai Chin began to dominate the membership and positions of power in the CNF/CNA.[16] Many Falam Chin left CNF/CNA after Falam leaders broke away from the CNF/CNA in the early 1990s. Over the years, Falam leaders formed several Falam-based resistance groups, including the Chin Integrated Army (CIA), the Chin Liberation Council (CLC), and the Chin National Confederation (CNC). These groups have been relatively short lived and today are mostly inactive in Chin State. Lai Chin continue to comprise the majority of CNF/CNA's membership.

Although increased dialogue and collaboration has drastically improved relations between the various Chin sub-tribes, many Chin remain skeptical of the political agenda and motives of the CNF/CNA. This, combined with the SPDC's harsh treatment of anyone suspected to be affiliated with the CNF/CNA and the CNF/CNA's own alleged role in abuses, has resulted in a lack of popular support for the CNF/CNA in some parts of Chin State, particularly among the Falam Chin.

Chin Unity in Diversity

Although its people comprise only three percent of the total population of Burma and its territory makes up just five percent of the total landmass of Burma, Chin State is one of the most ethnically diverse states in Burma. [17] Chin tribal diversity developed over the centuries largely due to isolationism created by steep mountains that typify the Chin homeland. The Chin people belong to six main tribes and 63 distinct sub-tribes differentiated by dialect and cultural variations but connected by a common history, geographical homeland, traditional practices, and ethnic identity. [18]

Chin ethnic identity arose as the British established borders that divided the Chin people. Prior to the arrival of the British, ethnic identity was primarily based on exclusive tribal affiliations. When the British incorporated the Chin tribes into the much larger, multi-ethnic British Empire, this forced the Chins to see themselves as much more similar than different. British influence on Chin traditional society and the rapid spread of Christianity among the Chin led to a further break down of tribal barriers and increased recognition of ethnic commonality. [19]

Chin Migration to Mizoram

The border demarking Mizoram and Chin State is of relatively recent origin-it is a creation of British rule-and significant migration between Mizoram and Chin State continues.[20] Sharing a common history, ethnic ancestry, and cultural practices, Chin State and Mizoram have had a long history of cordial border relations.

In 1959, a famine caused by the flowering of a particular type of bamboo severely affected the people of Mizoram.[21] An underground movement for statehood in Mizoram gained momentum with accusations that the Indian authorities failed to take appropriate measures to respond to food shortages. Led by the Mizo National Front (MNF), armed struggle in Mizoram against the Indian government continued for more than two decades. During this time, some MNF activists and insurgency fighters took sanctuary in Chin State.

In the 1970s, an increasing number of Chins from Burma traveled to Mizoram to fill the growing demand there for cheap sources of labor. At this time, the Chin faced very few problems and, because they shared ethnic similarities, integrated easily into Mizo society.

In 1986, the conflict between the MNF and the government of India ended with the signing of an agreement promising that Mizoram would become a state in its own right within the Indian federal system. Less than one year later, on February 20, 1987, Mizoram officially received statehood. During this same time in Burma, tension between the ruling military government and the people of Burma was dramatically increasing, culminating in the protests and crackdown of 1988. Since that time, and in the face of increasing abuses in Burma, many Chin have fled across the border in search of safety in Mizoram State.

Due to the porous border and closed nature of the Chin community living in Mizoram, it is impossible to accurately determine the number of Chin currently living in Mizoram. Chin community leaders and long-time residents in Mizoram estimate that 75,000 to 100,000 Chin from Burma live in Mizoram.[22]

India-Burma Relations

As sister colonies under British rule, India and Burma developed long-standing amicable relations, which have continued through the years. By incorporating remote ethnic territories into the British Empire, Britain established the 1,640-kilometer border between India and Burma, providing a strategically and geo-politically important connection between the two countries.

India's attitude towards Burma, however, took a distinct turn following the 1988 uprising in Burma. New Delhi immediately froze its relations with Rangoon and sharply criticized the actions of Burma's military government. India openly welcomed pro-democracy refugees. [23] To accommodate the incoming refugees from Burma, the Indian government provided support to refugee camps on the border, including food, water, sanitation, and medical services. [24]

Despite continuing human rights violations in Burma and the exodus of refugees into India, New Delhi has since altered its policy on Burma. Strategic and economic interests, particularly the growing influence of China in Burma, led India to open dialogue with the military government. In 1992, India officially resumed contact with Rangoon, initiating high-level meetings between Indian officials and Burma's Generals. In January 1994, the two countries signed an agreement to cooperate to suppress insurgencies based along the Indo-Burma border. This entailed several joint military operations which have resulted in the arrest of members of Burma's ethnic opposition forces operating on the Indo-Burma border, including members of the CNF and the CNA. [25] In turn, the Burmese authorities have assured support in containing separatist groups that operate in northeastern India who have hideouts across the border.

India resumed trade relations with Burma in 1994. Today India is one of Burma's largest export markets, with significant investments in Burma's extractive industries, agriculture, fisheries, and other industries. Bilateral trade amounts to more than US$650 million, and in late October 2008 the two countries increased border trade. [26]

India has become a significant funder of infrastructure development in Burma, including the upgrading of road networks in the north, extension of roads from the border at Moreh in Manipur State to Kalewa and Mandalay in Burma, and river networks and port upgrades along the Kaladan river and at Sittwe. These projects are ostensibly intended to boost trade, development, and security in the region where Burma borders Northeast India but also overlap with India's energy interests. Two Indian state-controlled energy companies are part of a consortium formed to extract gas off the coast of Western Burma. [27] India had hoped that its ties to Burma would help it secure the rights to buy that gas as well. Instead, the consortium confirmed in late December 2008 that China won the purchase contract and would transport the gas via an overland pipeline all the way across Burma. [28]

Amid improving relations with Rangoon, the Indian government refused to recognize or support new camps that the Chin established along the Mizoram border in 2003. [29] Meanwhile, the central government in New Delhi has also failed to prevent the Mizoram authorities from arbitrarily arresting and forcibly deporting members of the Chin community in Mizoram.

As India has increasingly prioritized it's economic and political relations with the SPDC, its support for Burma's opposition movement-fighting for democracy and human rights in Burma-has faded away, as has its humanitarian concern for the protection of refugees from Burma. New Delhi claims it cannot ignore a crucial neighbor and has to engage with the government of the day.

Economic Conditions in Chin State

Four decades of military rule, political instability, and economic mismanagement has resulted in widespread poverty across Burma. According to a 2005 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) household survey, one-third of the population in Burma lives below the poverty line.[30] In Chin State some 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 40 percent are without adequate food sources.[31] The lack of infrastructure, natural resources, and economic opportunities compounded by SPDC policies and pervasive human rights violations described in the following chapter, induce and exacerbate poverty in Chin State. The situation has worsened due to famine in Chin State in recent years.

The SPDC places stringent limits on humanitarian aid through its 1996 "Guidelines for UN Agencies, International Organizations, and INGOs/NGOs." These rules limit travel within the country, and impose complicated bureaucratic procedures on organizations implementing development projects in Chin State.


Largely an agricultural-based society, for centuries the Chins have survived by cultivating the Chin Hills. About 85 percent of Chins today in Chin State rely on rotational, slash-and-burn farming for their livelihoods.[32] This type of traditional farming is hindered by the prevalence of steep mountains and deep gorges in Chin State. Farms are established on sloping hillsides, which are prone to erosion. Due to the lack of viable farm land, soil exhaustion is also common.[33] These environmental factors limit crop production in Chin State. Unaided by the military government, Chin farmers are unable to produce enough for their subsistence and are dependent on their low-lying neighbors for food provisions.

The mountainous terrain in conjunction with a lack of government support has also inhibited construction of infrastructure in Chin State. The state has only four vehicle-accessible roads covering a total of 1,700 kilometers. Due to the lack of a proper road system, parts of southern Chin State remain inaccessible from the north. Most of Chin State does not have electricity or reliable communication systems.[34] As a result, many Chin are largely isolated from each other and the outside world.

Besides farming, there are very few job opportunities available for Chin people in Chin State. Ethnic discrimination against non-Burman ethnic nationalities and religious discrimination against Christians hinder Chins from obtaining better-paying jobs with the government.[35]Christian Chins who are fortunate enough to get government jobs state that they are commonly given less-desirable postings, lower salaries, and passed over for promotions.[36]

While obstacles to daily survival, including earning a livelihood, are reasons for the continuing exodus from Chin State to India, the economic situation of the Chin people can only be understood within the context of multiple pervasive human rights violations being committed against the Chin, largely by the SPDC. A recent survey conducted by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center found that the main factors leading Chin to flee Burma are forced labor, extortion and heavy taxation, and food insecurity, all of which are interconnected.[37]

Flowering Bamboo and Famine

Problems of food shortages are increasingly acute in Chin State ever since the bamboo that fills the landscape, particularly in southern Chin State, began to flower starting in 2006. This naturally occurring phenomenon takes place every 50 years and has historically led to widespread famine. When the bamboo flowers it produces a fruit, which attracts rats. When the fruit supply is exhausted, the rats turn on farmers' crops, destroying their harvest. Rats began decimating harvests in late 2007, and the effects of the bamboo flowering are expected to last for at least another two or three years.

Critical food shortages are reported in many parts of the state. [38] According to the Chin Human Rights Organization, more than 100,000 people, or 20 percent of the total Chin population, are affected by food shortages. [39] One woman from Paletwa township described this phenomenon:

 There are many, many rats. They eat all our rice in the field. Now all we have are three or four tins [39 or 52 kilograms of rice], which will be finished within five days. Most people in my village do not have food to eat so they take roots from under the ground and eat that instead of rice. …At the same time, we need to spend a lot more money to pay for the food and the fees for school. This is the situation. [40]

The Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee, an organization recently established by members of the Chin community in Mizoram to send humanitarian assistance to those in the affected areas said, "Although the famine has been reported, the SPDC has done nothing about it." [41]

Exacerbating the situation, the SPDC has continued to demand forced labor, collect excessive taxes and fees, and enforce restrictions against traditional cultivation methods without providing training in alternative farming methods in the affected areas. [42] The Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee also reports that many people are fleeing to Mizoram because there is no food to eat in Chin State. [43] In July 2008, the Chin Human Rights Organization reported that more than 700 people had fled to Mizoram, India, due to food shortages in Chin State. [44]

Amid mounting reports of famine, there are still only a few humanitarian agencies that are allowed access to populations in need of aid.[45] Those with operations in Chin State must adhere to restrictions imposed by the SPDC. After the SPDC issued its "Guidelines for UN Agencies, International Organizations, and INGOs/NGOs," in February 2006, several humanitarian aid organizations pulled out of Burma, citing difficulties in effective aid delivery. Considering the severity of poverty in Chin State, the lack of government assistance, and the current food crisis in Chin State, large populations in need of relief in Chin State appear to be unreached and under-served.


Access to healthcare and education is limited. In all of Chin State, there are only 12 hospitals, 56 doctors, and 128 nurses.[46] According to several Chin interviewees, the quality of healthcare in Chin State is poor and treatment is costly.[47] Education is also lacking in Chin State, where there are 1,167 primary schools, 83 middle schools, 25 high schools, and no universities for a population of roughly 500,000.[48] Chin students wishing to obtain a university education must travel outside of Chin State and pay costly boarding fees. Due to the lack of school facilities in many villages in Chin State, Chin children must walk long distances to neighboring towns and villages or pay expensive boarding fees to attend classes.[49] According to a 16-year-old Chin girl who left Falam township in 2008, about one-third of the children from her village are unable to afford an education due to the high cost, which ranges from 115,000 to 400,000 Kyat (US$98 to $340) per year.[50]

For Chin children who are able to attend school, the quality of education is perceived as extremely poor. Teachers demand extra fees from students to supplement their low salaries, and classes are taught in Burmese even when teachers are not fluent and students lack comprehension of the language.[51]  

Militarization of Chin State

Before 1988, the Tatmadaw had no battalions stationed in Chin State, and only two battalions operated there: light infantry battalion (LIB) number 89 stationed in Kalaymyo, Sagaing Division, and light infantry battalion number 50 stationed in Kankaw, Magwe Division.[52] At the time of writing, Chin State hosts 14 battalions with an average of 400 to 500 soldiers each and 50 army camps.[53] Many more battalions and camps are based in neighboring states and divisions. For example, in Kalaymyo, Sagaing Division, an area where the population is mostly Chin, there are more than nine battalions. These battalions also conduct regular patrols throughout the state.

Images Asia and Karen Human Rights Group, nongovernmental organizations focusing on documenting human rights violations in Burma, documented routine violations and arbitrary abuse of power by local Tatmadaw units in Chin State during this buildup of forces in the 1990s. Such abuses included forced labor on infrastructure projects and for military camp construction.[54]

Map of Chin State provided by the Women's League of Chinland; Information on army camps provided by Human Rights Watch. © 2008 Human Rights Watch

[1]Chin Development Initiative, "Facts about Chin State and its People," unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch, March 2006.

[2] In 1989 the military government unilaterally changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar. The United Nations and many of its members recognize this change, but due to the illegality of the military coup the previous year, Human Rights Watch uses the name "Burma."

[3]Lian H. Sakhong, In Search of Chin Identity: A Study in Religion, Politics and Ethnic Identity in Burma (Denmark: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2003), pp. 17-19. The name Chin is not accepted by all the people of Chin State as a common ethnic name. Some prefer to be identified by their tribal affiliations (e.g., Asho, Cho (Sho), Khuami (M'ro), Laimi, Mizo (Lushai), Zomi (Kuki)). To demonstrate the pervasiveness of abuses across ethnic lines, this report contains information and personal accounts of interviewees representing all the main Chin sub-tribes. For the sake of simplicity, this report uses the term Chin to refer singularly to all the Chin tribes living in Burma. Similarly, the term Mizo is used to refer to all the peoples of Mizoram, although there are many tribes represented in Mizoram.

[4]Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe and Lian H. Sakhong, eds., The Fourth Initial Draft of the Future Chinland Constitution (Thailand: United Nationalities League for Democracy (Liberated Areas), 2003), pp. 23-26.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7]Although the Chin intended to demand a state during the Panglong Conference, this demand was not communicated due to the lack of a competent interpreter. As a result, the Chin territory was initially incorporated into the Union as a Special Division. The Chin did not receive statehood until 1974. Like many of the ethnic nationalities who became a party to the Panglong Agreement, the motivation for the Chin was not so much an interest in joining a federal union but more to hasten their own sovereignty and independence from colonial rule. Sakhong, In Search of Chin Identity, p. 214.


[9]Human Rights Watch interview with Victor Biak Lian, former student leader and member of the Ethnic Nationalities Council, Chiang Mai, Thailand, May 28, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with A., Lunglei, Mizoram, India, March 4, 2008.

[10] Four Chin candidates who won parliamentary seats in the 1990 election were members of the National League for Democracy, three were members of the Chin National League for Democracy, two were with the Zomi National Congress, one was a member of the Mara People's Party, one was with the National Unity Party, and two ran as independents.

[11] Human Rights Watch, Vote to Nowhere: The May 2008 Constitutional Referendum in Burma, May 2008, http://hrw.org/reports/2008/burma0508/.

[12]Human Rights Watch, Crackdown: Repression of the 2007 Popular Protests in Burma, vol. 19, no. 18(C), December 2007, http://hrw.org/reports/2007/burma1207/.

[13] Human Rights Watch, Vote to Nowhere: The May 2008 Constitutional Referendum in Burma, May 2008, http://hrw.org/reports/2008/burma0508/.

[14]The term "Tatmadaw" is a Burmese word that translates literally as "armed forces," which includes the army (Tatmadaw Kyi), air force (Tatmadaw Lay), and navy (Tatmadaw Ye). In this report, we refer to the Tatmadaw Kyi as Tatmadaw. Chin people do not use the word Tatmadaw as it is Burmese, so quotations from Chin people refer to "Burma Army."

[15] The Laimi Chin sub-tribe primarily includes Chin tribes located in Falam, Hakha, and Thantlang township. For example, the Laizo, Khuangli, Khualsim, Zahau, Zanngiat, Lente, and Ngawn tribes of the Laimi are primarily located in Falam township. The other Laimi sub-tribes are located in Hakha and Thantlang townships. Due to geographical and linguistic differences, Chin from Falam township are commonly referred to as Falam Chin and Chin from Hakha and Thantlang township are referred to as Lai Chin although they belong to the same Laimi Chin tribe.

[16] Soon after the formation of the CNF, many Chin student leaders who were involved in the 8-8-88 uprising came to Mizoram. These former students were largely Lai Chin. Only a year after its formation, No Than Kap, a Falam Chin, replaced Tial Khar as the Chairman of the CNF. Ethnic tensions between the Laimi Chin intensified after the overthrow of No Than Kap and allegations of his attempted assassination by Lai leaders in 1992. After this, many within the Falam Chin community left CNF/CNA. SeeHuman Rights Watch interview with Dr. Sui Khar, the Joint General Secretary of the CNF, External Affairs Department, Chiang Mai, Thailand, May 30, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with Victor Biak Lian, Chiang Mai, Thailand, May 28, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with S.T., Aizawl, Mizoram, India, July 2005; See alsoPu Lian Uk, "Suppression of Chin National Movement for Federalism under the Revolutionary Council and the Burma Socialist Programme Party," in the Chin Forum Magazine (Thailand: The Chin Forum, 2008), p. 43.

[17]Harn Yawnghwe, "The Non-Burman Ethnic People of Burma," in Chao-Tzang Yawnghwe and Lian H. Sakhong, eds., The New Panglong Initiative: Rebuilding the Union of Burma (Thailand: United Nationalities League for Democracy (Liberated Areas), 2004), p. 52.

[18] Lian H. Sakhong, In Search of Chin Identity: A Study in Religion, Politics and Ethnic Identity in Burma (Denmark: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2003), pp. 17-19.

[19]Ibid., pp. 155-161.

[20]The names "Chin" and "Mizo" are commonly used to refer to all the peoples of Chin State, Burma and Mizoram State, India, respectively. These designations, however, are creations that arose after the establishment of the border separating modern-day Mizoram and Chin State. In an attempt to strengthen unity and the concept of a common ethnic identity within Chin State, Chin nationalist leaders popularized the term "Chin" following Burma's independence from Britain. Similarly, the term "Mizo" gained popularity during Mizoram's fight for statehood in the 1960s. The terms "Chin" and "Mizo," however, is not accepted by everyone as a common ethnic name within Chin State and Mizoram State, respectively. Some prefer to be identified by their ethnic tribes (e.g., Asho, Cho (Sho), Khuami (M'ro), Laimi, Mizo (Lushai), Zomi (Kuki)), which exist in both Chin State and Mizoram State.

[21]When the bamboo flowers it produces a fruit, which attracts rats. When the fruit supply is exhausted, the rats turn on farmer's crops, destroying their harvest. This phenomenon occurs every 50 years and started to affect parts of Mizoram and Chin State in 2006. For more information on this phenomenon, see section below entitled "Flowering Bamboo and Famine."  

[22]Human Rights Watch interview with N.K.T., a long-time resident and teacher in Mizoram, Champhai, Mizoram, India, October 2005 (estimating that 80,000 Chin live in Mizoram); Human Rights Watch interview with P.H.L. Saiha, Mizoram, India, August 2006 (putting the population at 70,000); Human Rights Watch interview with Colin Gonzales of UNHCR's partner agency Socio-Legal Information Center (SLIC), New Delhi, India, January 31, 2005 (reporting 62,000 Chin in Mizoram). See also U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, "World Refugee Survey- 2008," 2008, http://www.refugees.org/countryreports.aspx?id=2143 (accessed July 22, 2008) (reporting a population of 75,000 ethnic Chin in Mizoram State, India); Julien Levesque and Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, "Tension in the Rolling Hills: Population and Border Trade in Mizoram," Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, April 2008, http://ipcs.org/IPCS-ResearchPaper14.pdf (accessed July 22, 2008) (estimating 75,000 to 100,000 Chin in Mizoram State).

[23] The Indian External Affairs Minister, Narasimha Rao, issued strict orders not to turn back any refugees from Burma seeking shelter in India.

[24] In Mizoram, a camp in Champhai was established around mid-October 1988. The camp housed 200 refugees at its height. Another Mizoram camp located in Saiha was established around the same time and housed about 20 refugees. The Saiha camp existed only two to three months before merging with the Champhai camp. On June 1, 1995, the Mizoram government issued Order 37 to close the camp.

[25] In April 1995, Indian security forces attacked a CNF camp in Mizoram and arrested the vice president and a soldier of the CNF. Both were killed in Indian custody. Indian security forces attacked and destroyed additional CNF camps in Mizoram in 1997, 1999, 2002, and 2005, including CNF's headquarters in Mizoram, "Camp Victoria." In June 2005, Indian security forces arrested and deported to Burma 12 members of the Chin National Confederation (CNC). Aung Zaw, "Chins Feel the Pinch," The Nation, March 2, 1997; "Indian Army Attacked Burma Rebel Camp," Mizzima, July 3, 1999; "State Govt Arrests 12 CNC members," Newslink, June 10, 2005; "Indian Government Started to Crack Down Camp Victoria," Khonumthung News, June 21, 2005. 

[26] Mungpi, "India, Burma agree to expand border trade," Mizzima News, October 17, 2008.

[27] Matthew Smith and Naing Htoo, "Energy Security: Security for Whom?" Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, vol.11, 2008, pp. 217-58; Renaud Egreteau, "India and China Vying for Influence in Burma-A New Assessment," Indian Review, vol.7, no.1, January-March 2008, pp. 38-72.

[28] "CNPC and a Myanmar gas consortium sign natural gas purchase and sale agreement," PetroChina press release, December 26, 2008. For a background to these projects, see "Burma: Targeted Sanctions Needed on Petroleum Industry," Human Rights Watch news release, November 18, 2007 (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/11/18/burma-targeted-sanctions-needed-petroleum-industry).

[29]Sihmui camp, located 20 kilometers from Aizawl, Mizoram, housed 120 Chin, and Vombuk camp, located in Saiha, Mizoram, housed 75 Chin. A UNHCR partner group provided food and basic necessities for only two months. The Mizoram government ordered the camps shut in October 2004.

[30]Myanmar: New Threats to Humanitarian Aid; Asia Briefing No. 58, International Crisis Group, Yangon/Brussels, 8 December 2006.

[31] "Humanitarian Situation UPDATE April 2007," Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar, 2007.

[32]Chin Development Initiative, "Facts about Chin State and its People," unpublished document, March 2006.

[33]Human Rights Watch interview with Z.K., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 12, 2008. See alsoDr. Salai Tun Than, "Development of the Hill Region through an Integrated Farming Village Project," in Chin Forum Magazine (Thailand: Chin Forum, 2008), p. 59.

[34]Chin Development Initiative, "Facts about Chin State and its People."

[35]Human Rights Watch interview with S.N.T., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 11, 2008.

[36]Human Rights Watch interview with B.U.T., Lunglei, Mizoram, India, March 4, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with K.Z.T., Champhai, Mizoram, India, March 12, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with S.N.T. and S.K., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 11-12, 2008.

[37]According to the survey, out of 53 Chin respondents, 84.9 percent said forced labor was a factor contributing to their flight from Burma, 81.1 percent said food insecurity, and 75.5 percent said forced labor. Andrew Bosson, "Forced Migration/Internal Displacement in Burma with an Emphasis on Government-Controlled Areas," Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), May 2007.

[38]Chin Human Rights Organization "More Communities Flee Famine Affected Area," Rhododendron News, Vol. XI, No. II, March 16, 2008.

[39] Chin Human Rights Organization, "A Critical Point: Food Scarcity and Hunger in Burma's Chin State," July 2008, http://www.chro.org/images/stories/File/pdf/chro_report_critical_point.pdf (accessed September 29, 2008).

[40]Human Rights Watch interview with L.R., Saiha, Mizoram, India, March 7, 2008.

[41] Human Rights Watch interview with the Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee, Aizawl, Mizoram, India, March 9, 2008.

[42]"Efforts to Help Victims of Famine Underway," Chinland Guardian, March 6, 2008. Chin Human Rights Organization, "Food Relief Hampered for Famine Victims in Western Burma," Rhododendron News, Vol. XI, No. II, April 2, 2008.

[43]Human Rights Watch interview with S.T., Aizawl, Mizoram, India, March 9, 2008.

[44]Chin Human Rights Organization, "Food Scarcity and Hunger in Burma's Chin State," July 2008, http://www.chro.org/images/stories/File/pdf/chro_report_critical_point.pdf (accessed September 29, 2008).

[45]At the time of writing, the following organizations are operating in Chin State-Care International, Country Agency for Rural Development, World Vision, Merlin, Population Services International, Groupe de Recherche et d'Echanges Technologiques (GRET), and Stromme Foundation. The UN Development Program (UNDP), the World Food Program (WFP), and the International Crescent/Red Cross are also operating in Chin State.

[46]Chin Development Initiative, "Facts about Chin State and its People."

[47]Human Rights Watch interview with S.H.T. and Z.K., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 12-14, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with L.M. and C.K.H., Champhai, Mizoram, India, March 11-12, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with T.Z.U. and L.R.N.K., Saiha, Mizoram, India, March 6-7, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with L.M., A.B.P.T., N.S., and L., Aizawl, Mizoram, India, March 2, 2008.

[48]Chin Development Initiative, "Facts about Chin State and its People."

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with M.V.T.I., R.D., and T., Aizawl, Mizoram, India, October 17-18, 2008.

[50]Human Rights Watch interview with M.V.T.I., Aizawl, Mizoram, India, October 18, 2008; R.D., T., B.L., and L., Aizawl, Mizoram, India, March – October 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with M.V., K.S.L., and B.R.L., Saiha, Mizoram, India, March 7, 2008.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with M.V., A.B.P.T. and L., Aizawl, Mizoram, India, March 2, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with T.K.L., Champhai, Mizoram, India, March 11, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with Z.K., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 12, 2008.

[52] LIB 89 was responsible for northern Chin State and LIB 50 was responsible for southern Chin State.

[53]According to the Chin Strategic Study Group, Chin State, Burma, April 2008, the battalions stationed in Chin State as of April 2008 include infantry battalions (IB) number 304 based in Matupi township and number 550 based in Paletwa township , and light infantry battalions (LIB) 16, 34, and 110 based in Paletwa township; LIB 50 and 140 based in Thantlang and Matupi townships; LIB 89 based in Rih; LIB 228 based in Tonzang township; LIB 266 based in Hakha and Thantlang townships; LIB 268 based in Falam and Thantlang townships; LIB 269 based in Tiddim and Falam townships; and LIB 274 based in Mindat and Kanpalet townships.

[54] Images Asia, Karen Human Rights Group, and Open Society Institute Burma Project, "All Quiet on the Western Front? The Situation in Chin State and Sagaing Division, Burma," January 1998, http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs/Western_Front.htm (accessed July 28, 2008).