It was very disappointing to learn about the Burmese military junta’s decision to integrate parts of Chin State territory to Sagaing division at a time when most of us are busy with the referendum. The SPDC decision is closely related to the referendum on the draft Constitution to be held on May 10.
Chapter I: Article 5 of the new Constitution states: “The territorial boundary of the state is as it is on the day this State constitution comes into force.” This means the regime wants parts of Chin territory to forever remain with the main territory of Burma.
The entire Chin population in the Union of Burma (UB) severely denounces and protests against the SPDC for taking the move without the consent of the native Chin people. The region to be integrated is where the best quality teak trees are in abundance and where nickel and chromites in large volume are waiting to be extracted.
It means the Chin State is being robbed of valuable forests and minerals without the consent of the Chin people who form an overwhelming majority here. Chin people are recognized as indigenous people of the world and any part of Chin territory is indigenous territory which, we believe, has special status in the UN protocol.
According to Professor Luce and other archeologists, anthropologists and historians, the Chin people were the only inhabitants of upper Chindwin and no mention has ever been made of Burmese settlements to the north, beyond Mon-ywa in Burmese stone inscriptions. This fact is supported by the name “Chindwin”, which literally means “within the Chin territory”. The Chin settlement is mostly along the west of Irrawaddy and in Chindwin even today.
The native religion of the Chin is very similar to Christianity. This similarity accounts for the rapidity with which the region adopted Christianity as its religion when the first Christian missionaries reached them. In fact, this is the only Christian state among the 14 provinces of the UB.
They were ruled by native aristocratic families and landlords in clearly defined principalities. They lived in the region west of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin, and also in Sagaing and Magwe Divisions in the Burma proper. The Chin population in those divisions is considerable. It may well be said Yaw-Kalay valley was not controlled by the Burmese kings at Mandalay. It was rather the Chin chiefs who collected taxes in those areas. The Burmese kings at Mandalay were not concerned with peace in the area.
Since the last century, the mountain range of Pone-taung-Pone- nya hs formed a natural boundary between Burmans and the Chins. The Chin people had tried to reclaim areas west of Pontaung-Ponnya, annexed by the British in 1896.
After Burma was annexed by the British in 1885, the British invaded and annexed Chin territory as an independent territory outside the Burmese kingdom in 1896. The British marked the Chin Hills as the boundary between the Chin country and Burma. The Frontier Areas Secretary HNC Stevenson under the British Governor who ruled Burma and the Burma Frontier Areas (the territories of Chins, Kachins, Shans) wrote in early 1980s that a large portion of Chin territory was added to the Burma’s territory at the time the British demarcated the boundary between them.
According to notification No. 423 issued on January 4, 1948 by the Home Affairs Ministry of the Government of the Union of Burma:
“In pursuance of the provisions of Section 196 of the Constitution of the Union of Burma (1947) and all other powers there unto enabling, the President is pleased to declare that with effect from the 4th Day of January 1948, the Special Division of Chins shall comprise the areas included in the Chin Hills District constituting of the Falam, Tiddim, Haka North, Haka South, and Kanpetlet sub-Divisions as defined by the political Department notification No. 44 dated 26th October1946 and the areas included Arakan Hill Tracts as defined by the political Department notification No. 57, dated the 6th November 1930.
This Chin Special Division according to its boundary demarcated above has been renamed Chin State in the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Union of Burma which was adopted in 1974. It is still officially known as Chin State though the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma is no longer in force in the UB.
It was a blatant act on part of the SPDC to loot part of Chin State territory. As one of the indigenous people of the world and as a constituent unit of the UB under Panglong Agreement, the Chins will defend it by every possible means.
Thus all Chins around the world and at home should vote “No” in the referendum so the military drafted constitution is rejected. This, and only this can save in our Chin state territory. – Khonumthung.
* Pu Lian Uk, currently based in USA is a Member of Parliament elected from Haka constituency in 1990 election in Burma and also a convener of Chin Forum.