Chin villager

“The "forgotten" Chin people are subject to forced labor, torture, extrajudicial killings and religious persecution by the country's military regime, New York-based Human Right Watch said, adding that tens of thousands have fled the Chin homeland into neighboring India, where they face abuse and the risk of being forced back into Myanmar. "The Chin are unsafe in Burma and unprotected in India, but just because these abuses happen far from Delhi and Rangoon (Yangon) does not mean the Chin should remain 'forgotten people,'" the report said. [Source: Denis D. Gray, Associated Press, January 27, 2009]

"(The police) hit me in my mouth and broke my front teeth. They split my head open and I was bleeding badly. They also shocked me with electricity. We kept telling them that we didn't know anything," said a Chin man accused of supporting the insurgents. He was one of some 140 Chin people interviewed by the human rights group from 2005 to 2008. The group said the names of those interviewed were withheld to prevent reprisals.

A number spoke of being forced out of their villages to serve as unpaid porters for the army or to build roads, sentry posts and army barracks. "We are like slaves, we have to do everything (the army) tells us to do," another Chin man said. The report said the regime, attempting to suppress minority cultures, was destroying churches, interfering with worship services and promoting Buddhism through threats and inducements.

The suffering of the Chin, the report said, was compounded by recent food shortages and famine caused by a massive rat infestation in Chin State, already one of the poorest regions of Myanmar. "For too long, ethnic groups like the Chin have borne the brunt of abusive military rule in Burma," said the report, using the former name for the country.

Persecution of Chin Christians

Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said: “The Chins are now persecuted for their belief in Christianity and democracy by the most brutal and ruthless military junta in the world at present. Burma’s ruling military regime is systematically persecuting Chin Christians in order to replace Christianity with Buddhism and assimilated them into mainstream Burman culture. Evidence demonstrates that the military regime is using religious persecution as a tool of ethnocide against Chin Christians. [Source: Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, April 2005 ]

“In Burma more than 80 percent are Buddhist and Christians made only 4 percent in the country while in Chin state, Christians made about 90 percent of the population and religious persecution is a major concern in Chin state and among Chin Christians. It was not only a large number of Burmese soldiers that was brought into by the Burmese regime, in the name of “Hill Regions Buddhist Mission”, the junta brought in an army of Buddhist monks who were then dispatched to various towns and villages across Chin State. Protected by the soldiers, these Buddhist monks have considerable powers over the Chin population. In many cases, local people have pointed out that the monks are military intelligence operatives who are more powerful than local army commanders.

“The Chin Human Rights Organization reported about the monks stationed around Matupi Township as follow: The monks who live at Zakam, Rezua, Leisen, Vangvai and Tinsi villages rule the communities. Anyone who doesn’t abide by the monks orders is reported to the SLORC/SPDC army and he/she is punished by the army. The monks give judgment on all cases. For those who become Buddhist, they are free from any persecution such as forced labour, portering, extortion of money, etc. Whenever and wherever a monk visits, he is accompanied by the army and they arrange a porter to carry the monk’s particulars. The villagers were forced to build a Buddhist monastery and temple. But they refused, insisting “we are Christians”. Even though the army threatened action against them, they didn’t build it yet. Now the monks and army are holding a meeting to discuss this. Nobody knows what will happen.”

“Like all other freedoms, freedom of assembly is subject to severe restriction in Burma. This restriction does not exempt freedom of assembly in religious contexts. All gatherings and conferences, including celebrations of religious festivals, require prior authorization by the military regime. However, it is usually extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain such authorization for occasions with potentially large turnout. Citing the risk of security associated with such events, the regime arbitrarily limits the number of people who can attend an event. Moreover, organizations must apply directly to the Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs in Rangoon for permission, a process which involves a long waiting period. This time-consuming bureaucratic procedure creates uncertainties, and it often results in the event having to be cancelled or postponed. People suspect such kind of procedure is deliberately used to prevent Christians from conducting their religious affairs. [Source: Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, April 2005 ]

“In rural areas, local army commanders often issue direct orders forbidding worship services, as well as Christmas and New Year celebrations. The following is transcript of radio broadcast by the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma on December 23, 2002. “The SPDC frontline troops summoned people from Haka and Thangtlang Townships in Chin State and told them they were not allowed to hold any Christmas ceremonies and prayer meetings. They went from village to village and told them if they wanted to hold any ceremony they were to hold it in a simple and discrete manner at their homes. Although the chairmen of the village Peace and Development Councils and pastors argued that Christmas is a very auspicious feast for Christians and requested them to allow Christmas celebrations, the column commander of the SPDC forces refused. He also said that if the chairmen and pastors deliberately held any such Christmas feast in defiance of the order, the village chairmen and pastors would all be arrested and recruited as porters. They also threatened to dislocate people.”

“Since the military government came to power in 1962, the Christians in Burma, especially non-Burman nationalities have mostly been unable to print the Holy Bible in their own language inside Burma. Chin Christians, for instance, printed the Bile in the Chin language in India, and smuggled it into Burma in the 1970s and 1980s. Even the Holy Bible in Burmese, which was translated by Rev. Judson in the 1820s, never received permission to be reprinted from the Censor Board of the Burmese government, or at least the Old Testament never did. Only the New Testament, together with Psalms and Proverbs, once received permission to be printed during the entire period of the Burmese military regime, that is, from 1962 to present. The CHRO received a report in the year 2000 that, in the month of June 2000, the SPDC officials in Tamu ordered 16,000 copies of the Bible to be burned in Tamu, Sagaing Division that borders India. These Bibles, which were seized in 1999 by the Burmese Army, are in Chin, Karen and other ethnic languages.

Forced Conversion and State Sponsored Expansion Of Buddhism in Chin State

Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said: “Since 1990 the military government authorities and security forces have promoted Buddhism over Christianity among the Chin. Until 1990 the Chin generally practiced either Christianity or traditional indigenous religions. The Chins were the only major ethnic minority in the country that did not largely support any significant armed organization in active rebellion against the Government or in an armed cease-fire with the Government. Since 1990 government authorities and security forces, with assistance from monks of the Hill Regions Buddhist Missions, coercively have sought to induce Chins to convert to Theravada Buddhism and to prevent Christian Chins from proselytizing Chins who practice traditional indigenous religions. This campaign, reportedly accompanied by other efforts to "Burmanize" the Chin, has involved a large increase in military units stationed in Chin State and other predominately Chin areas, state-sponsored immigration of Buddhist Burman monks from other regions, and construction of Buddhist monasteries and shrines in Chin communities with few or no Buddhists, often by means of forced "donations" of money or labor. [Source: Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, April 2005 ]

“Along with other methods to Burmanize the Chin, the Burmese military government has converted many Chin Christian families through coercion. The government rewards people who convert to Buddhism by exempting them from forced labor, fiving them ration and monthly allowance. The government also entice Chin Christian children by offering them government scholarship as part of the border area development program. Parents often entrust their children and enrolled them in the program. However, chindlren are later found to be in Buddhist monasteries with their head shaven to become vonice Buddhist monks.

A 40-year-old Chin Christian from Matupi Township recounted how he was converted to Buddhism, recruited and trained to be part of a campaign against Christians. “I was invited to attend social welfare training by the [SLORC (now SPDC)] authority from Matupi on 27/2/95. When I arrived at the place, the authority told us that it is to attend Buddhist hill tract missionary training run by a Buddhist monk named U Razinn at Mindat. As we are Christian, we said we didn’t want to go. But the monk persuaded us saying, ‘it is no problem if you are Christian, it is just religious training’. So 5 other persons and I took part in the 10 day training. In the training, we were taught the 17 facts of how to attack and disfigure Christians.” [Source: Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, April 2005 ]

“The 17 points to attack Christians by the regime is as follows: 1) To attack Christian families and the progress of Christians. 2) To criticize against the sermons which are broadcast from Manila, Philippines. 3) To criticize God as narrow-minded and egotistical who himself claimed that “There is no god except eternal God”. 4) To criticize Christian ways of life as corrupted and inappropriate culture in Burma. 5) To criticize the preaching of Christians wherever it has penetrated. 6) To criticize Christianity by means of pointing out its delicacy and weakness. 7( To stop the spread of the Christian movement in rural areas. 8) To criticize by means of pointing out “there is no salvation without purchased by the blood of Christ”. 9) To counterattack by means of pointing out Christianity’s weakness and overcome this with Buddhism. 10) To counter the Bible after thorough study. 11) To criticize that “God loves only Israel but not all the races”. 12) To point out ambiguity between the two testaments. 13) To criticize on the point that Christianity is partisan religion. 14) To criticize Christianity’s concept of the Creator and compare it with the scientific concept. 15) To study and access the amount given in offerings. 16) To criticize the Holy Bible after thorough study. 17) To attack Christians by means of both non-violence and violence.”

Myanmar Regime Targets the Chin Clergy and Kills Pastor Zang Kho Let

Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said: “The Chins are now persecuted for their belief in Christianity and democracy by the most brutal and ruthless military junta in the world at present. Burma’s ruling military regime is systematically persecuting Chin Christians in order to replace Christianity with Buddhism and assimilated them into mainstream Burman culture. Evidence demonstrates that the military regime is using religious persecution as a tool of ethnocide against Chin Christians. [Source: Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, April 2005 ]

“During the past decade, according to Chin Human Rights Organization reports, the Burmese military regime, detained at length, killed or physically abused many Chin Christians. The following incidents is one grave example how they treated pastors; In August 1993, the Burmese troop arrested and they (the Burmese Army) interrogated Pastor Zang Kho Let. When the Pastor’s answers did not pleased the interrogators, the army personnel beat him with rifle butts or sticks that eventually broke almost all of his bones after two days of interrogation. They cut open his mouth to the neck and told him “We cut open your mouth so that you will no longer preach”. In the two days that they tortured him, Pastor Zang Kho Let never admitted to using the church fund to help the resistance movement or that he was involved in helping the armed resistance. The soldiers, Non Commissioner Officer NCO’s, and officers tortured the pastor with the intent to kill but he was still alive after two days of their inhuman brutality. When the torturers reported to their Commanding officer, Colonel Thura Sein Win, on the condition of the pastor, the colonel ordered them to tighten a plastic bag over his head. (Thura is an award given for bravery, like the torture of the preacher.)

“After Pastor Zang Kho Let died, they dragged his lifeless body out of the school building and shot him. With a bullet wound in his body, the Burmese army unit claimed that they shot the pastor because he was trying to escape. The soldiers brought the dead body of Pastor Zang Kho Let back in the school building and placed together with the leaders of the village community, who were arrested to witness the gruesome state of the body. They were told to feel the bones, which were all broken. They were told, “If you do not tell us the truth and if you do not admit that you helped the rebel, you will face the same fate.”

“The headman of the village, Zang Kho Ngam, farmers Ngam Khai, and Thawng Kho Lun admitted to helping the resistance movement in order to escape torture and death. Nonetheless, they were tortured. It took seven days for the three of them to die; they died a slow death. The soldiers cut and burned their skin. They poured salt directly into their open sores. The soldiers zealously repeated the torture that they had just meted out to Pastor Zang Kho Let. When the two farmers died, the soldiers again dragged the bodies outside of the school building and shot. The Burmese Army buried the headman Zang Kho Ngam alive.

Prohibition of Construction of Chin Churches, Forced Labor and the Desecration of Chin Crosses

Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said: “Several Chin Christian churches and infrastructure under construction in the 1990s were forced to stop by the military authority. Those who persisted in constructing their church building had been threatened or punished by the army. CHRO reports that; when the Burmese army ordered to stop construction of Salvation Army Church in Khampat, the pastor of the church ignored the order by resuming construction of the church. He was humiliated and badly beaten up by the army that he was hospitalized for several days. [Source: Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, April 2005 ]

“The military regime reportedly ordered to stop construction of the following churches and Christian infrastructure; Chin Christian centenary building in Hakha – the capital of Chin State; United Pentecostal Church in Hakha; Zomi Theological dining hall in Falam; Church of Jesus Christ in Falam; hostels (both men and women) for Chin Christian College in Haka, Baptist Church in Farhual, Salvation Army church in Khampat, and the Assembly of God’s Church in Kalaymyo, Evangelical Baptist Church in Myoma Quarter, Faith Bible Theological Seminary in Lawibual Quarter, Sakollam Baptist Church, and Lawibual Baptist Church, Lai Baptist Church in Rangoon were prohibited by the authority.

Although most Chin families have been equally affected by the army’s use of forced labor, in many cases, forced labor is specifically directed against Christians in order to coerce them into converting to Buddhism. There are ample evidences that the Burmese military regime is using forced labor as part of its Burmanization program. The apparent theory is that by converting Chin Christians to Buddhism, an important Chin identity will be stripped away, thereby eventually assimilating them into Burman identity. Forced labor has also been used to discourage people from going to church by compelling them to work on Sundays and other Christian religious holidays.

“Evidence shows that the Burmese military regime has actively targeted Christian symbols in its campaign of Burmanization and ethnocide against various ethnic groups in the country. Christian crosses erected on the tops of hills throughout Chin State have been destroyed. Many of them replaced with Buddhist pagodas and statue of Buddhist monks. Since the early 1980s, Chin communities in various villages and towns have erected wooden crosses on mounts and hill tops beside their villages and towns to symbolize their faith in Christianity, and to remind themselves of the fact that Christianity has played an important role in shaping their modern society and culture. In some cases, however, the erection of these crosses were in response to what the Chin regarded was the State-sponsored importation of Buddhism into Chin State with the construction of pagodas and temples in certain urban centers which began in the 1970s.

Chin Insurgency

The Chin National Front (CNF), a group advocating democratic government, was formed in 1988. Punishment for being a member of this group is 10-15 years in prison, depending on the size of bribe that the family can afford. According to its website, its armed wing, the Chin National Army (CNA), fights the government of Myanmar. The group claims to seek a Federal Union based on self-determination, ethnic equality and democracy. The Chin people are one of the four founding members (Chin, Kachin, Shan, and Bamar) of the Union of Burma. [Source: Wikipedia]

The CNF was founded by the Chin people in March 1988, following unsuccessful attempts at armed resistance. The founders were Pu Tial Khal, Pu Lian No Thang and Pu Roenga. Pu Tial Khal was President. Pu No Than Kap was directed to join the National Democratic Front (NDF) to KNU headquarters soon after it was founded. Pu No Than Kap became CNF President until he was expelled. The CNF has stated that they are not based on a class of people, a religious belief, a region or an ideology but works for the Chin people. The group has been described as small in number and largely ineffective.

Human Rights Watch said CNF insurgents have committed abuses, including the extortion of money from villagers to fund their operations. Abuses ny the Myanmar military and police have been directed at perceived CNF supporters. "(The police) hit me in my mouth and broke my front teeth. They split my head open and I was bleeding badly. They also shocked me with electricity. We kept telling them that we didn't know anything," said a Chin man accused of supporting the insurgents. He was one of some 140 Chin people interviewed by the human rights group from 2005 to 2008.

Chin Refugees

There are Chin refugees in Thailand, Malaysia and India. Of the many sub-groups of Chin, the largest group that has resettled in the United States is the Hakha Chin. Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said: “About 60,000 Chin refugees have fled to India about 12 thousands more are now taking refuge in Malaysia since the 1990s when the military junta began sending thousands of troops to Chinland. Thousands of Chin families have made their way to Rangoon and elsewhere to escape conditions at home, becoming internally displaced persons or IDPs. However, life is no better for those fleeing the country or those trying to find security elsewhere inside Burma. Most of the refugees living in India and Malaysia are not recognized as refugees by the host governments and are considered ‘illegal immigrants.’ [Source: Salai Bawi Lian, Executive Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, April 2005]

On Chin that might be deported from the United States because of U.S. anti-terrorism laws, Darryl Fears wrote in the Washington Post, “ In central Florida, Lam Kim, 47, is fighting deportation. Kim fled Burma after soldiers ransacked her parents' house and found letters from the Chin National Front thanking her for a donation. The organization, which the Bush administration has labeled a terrorist group, is fighting against the Burmese military junta. Kim, who uses a pseudonym, said she gave the money to help the group feed people in her ethnic group. She was jailed for two years after arriving in the United States in 2004, and her asylum request was rejected by an immigration judge. "If I go back to Burma," she said softly over the telephone, "I have to give my life. I am not terrorist. I say it not fair." [Source: Darryl Fears, Washington Post, January 8, 2007]

On Chin refugees in Malaysia trying to make a living there, Reuters reported: “Hunched over sewing machines, a group of Myanmar women refugees are stitching together a livelihood after fleeing persecution from the junta back home. Their simple but modern take on traditional Burmese fabrics draws a steady flow of orders online and visitors to a crowded shop lot in a working class district within the Malaysian capital. With a little cash, these women have become the financial backbone of the ethnic Chin community, whose numbers in Malaysia have grown to 39,000 people in 10 years as the military campaign of forced labor and razing of villages continues in Myanmar. [Source: Reuters, April 20, 2010 ///]

Life in Malaysia, however, is not easy either. Classified as illegal immigrants under Malaysian laws, the refugees cannot find jobs and get access to basic education and healthcare. They run the risk of arrest and deportation. “My husband is working but he is afraid of the local authorities. He won’t get any pay this month, so it is difficult for our family,” said Ma Dwang, a 35-year-old mother of three. “I can earn some income and with that money our family survives, but we cannot afford new clothes.” Around her, women were cutting out fabrics and piecing together elaborate shawls, bags and table runners. They each earn 200 to 300 ringgit (US$62 to US$93) a month, just enough for basic food and medical items as well as some savings. ///

Chin Refugees After the February 2021 Myanmar Coup

After the the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar thousands of people fled Chin state into neighboring India. In December 2021, Reuters reported: “After the first police defectors trickled into India's Mizoram state in early March, followed by Myanmar lawmakers and thousands of others seeking shelter, the mountainous border province has become a buffer zone for Chin guerrillas. Mizoram authorities estimate around 12,900 people have crossed over from Myanmar, including 30 ousted state and federal lawmakers, according to a senior Mizoram police official. Some of the lawmakers and leaders have been helping the resistance, and as fighting intensifies they are seeking to unify and support the rebels. [Source: Devjyot Ghoshal and Chanchinmawia, Reuters, December 11, 2021]

As of August 2022, the number of refugees from Myanmar in India has reached 50,000 of which over four-fifths were Chin, according to Chin organizations. The Irrawaddy reported: The junta has torched thousands of homes in Chin State with only Sagaing and Magwe regions seeing more arson attacks, according to Data For Myanmar. In Thantlang alone, over 1,000 houses were burned down by junta troops. The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) reported that 50,698 refugees from India had reached India by August 24, including about 4,000 ethnically Bamar refugees and former government staff who had joined the civil disobedience movement. [Source: The Irrawaddy, August 24, 2022]

Most ethnically Chin refugees are in Mizoram state in northeast India, according to the CHRO. Salai Mang Hre Lian of the CHRO said the refugees are mainly being supported by communities in Mizoram, the Chin diaspora and some Christian organizations. The United Nations is not able to officially support them. “It is really difficult for refugees to make a living but they are trying their best to cope,” he said.

Mai Zing Zing, 24, is an ethnically Chin refugee who fled six months ago with her 16-year-old sister to the state capital Aizawl. She protested against the regime and fled amid numerous arrests of young activists. “We left our parents in Hakha. I can’t find a job as my degree from Myanmar is useless in India. There are many refugees around the town. Many continue to fight the junta in Chin State,” she said. “Support for the refugees gives moral support to their relatives in Chin State who are still fighting the junta.”

Chin Fight Against After the Myanmar Military After the 2021 Coup

After the the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar, more than a dozen so-called Chinland Defence Force (CDF) opposition groups took up arms in Chin State, sources told Reuters. They described an expanding network of fighters whose knowledge of local terrain was a major advantage and said the groups had established supply chains, food stockpiles and weapon depots and linked up with a long-established ethnic group called the Chin National Front (CNF) to train in combat and better coordinate operations. [Source: Devjyot Ghoshal and Chanchinmawia, Reuters, December 11, 2021]

The CDF Hakha, with some 2,000 volunteers, is run by a 21-member council that oversees command stations, smaller camps and supporting units, two of the rebels said. CNF spokesman Salai Htet Ni told Reuters the group had helped train Chin youth and protesters in basic guerrilla warfare after the military coup. "Our unity and public support is our strength," said a 32-year-old fighter from Chin's capital Hakha. Before he took up arms, the fighter from Hakha said he was a postgraduate student of history who joined widespread public demonstrations against the February coup. Like the four other fighters Reuters interviewed in Mizoram, he said his decision to join the resistance was triggered by the military's suppression of peaceful protests that demanded civilian rule be restored.

“Groups of young protesters in Hakha began stockpiling food including rice, oil and noodles and medical supplies in multiple locations in the jungle surrounding the township of around 50,000 people, two of the fighters said. In April, some CDF groups met in Camp Victoria, the CNF's headquarters, to coordinate armed resistance against the Tatmadaw, according to the fighter from Hakha. The CNF, which has a military wing, has become pivotal to the resistance, providing training and other support to several CDF groups across the state, said two fighters and a senior leader of the National Unity Government (NUG). The NUG, effectively a shadow government, comprises pro-democracy groups and remnants of the ousted civilian administration. It has held talks with foreign officials, including from the United States.

“In the early months of the resistance, nearly 2,000 volunteers from Hakha were sent to Camp Victoria for combat training under the CNF, the two fighters said, a level of coordination not previously reported. The NUG wants to bring all armed resistance groups under a single command with the assistance of the CNF, said the Chin lawmaker and senior NUG leader. CNF's Salai Htet Ni said the group and the NUG had agreed to work together, with the CNF "taking a leadership role in Chin State's defence and military warfare."

“Financial support for the rebels in Mindat has mostly come from the Chin diaspora and the NUG, said an ousted Chin lawmaker, who declined to be named. Through multiple routes, including from India, the lawmaker said food, clothes, medicine and equipment were reaching the rebels each month. Weapons and explosives were the hardest to procure, according to the lawmaker, the NUG leader and three of the fighters.

Fighting in Chin State After the 2021 Coup

By May 2021, three CDF fighters said they were taking on the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) in several parts of Chin State, a 36,000 square kilometre province with nine major townships. From Champhai, India, Reuters reported: “The former boxer said he and his comrades were perched on a hillside near the town of Mindat, preparing to ambush a patrol of soldiers when the troops opened fire and a bullet smashed into his forearm. "I tried to run but I got shot again in the upper arm," Za Latt Thwey, who requested that he be identified by the name he uses as a boxer, told Reuters near a safe house in India's Mizoram state, which borders Myanmar. An Indian orthopaedic surgeon's note said the 25-year-old had suffered a gunshot wound and an X-ray showed where his bone had been shattered.

“That skirmish in mid-May was part of what seven people involved in the rebellion, including five fighters, said was a growing popular resistance to Myanmar's military in Chin state. Their accounts include previously unreported details of how the rebellion there began and expanded. Outside Mindat, Za Latt Thwey said he was among the guerrillas, some trained by the CNF, who targeted Tatmadaw patrols. In cellphone footage taken by fighters, and shown to Reuters by Za Latt Thwey, small groups of young men could be seen perched on wooded hillsides firing homemade guns and automatic rifles.

“Across Chin violence has escalated in the last four months as the Tatmadaw clashes with a rising number of rebel groups, according to analysis from the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO). "We have never had this kind of crisis before in Chin," said CHRO's Salai Za Uk Ling. Once a thriving settlement of some 10,000 people, the hilltop town of Thantlang is now virtually deserted, surrounded by soldiers who set alight more than 500 buildings since early September, according to two former residents and the CHRO.

“Pa Hein, 55, who said he was among the last people to leave the town in late September, told Reuters by telephone that he saw Tatmadaw troops ransack shops and set buildings on fire. The Myanmar military has denied the accusations, and blamed insurgents for instigating fighting in Thantlang and burning homes.

“After he was shot, Za Latt Thwey said he tried for months to find a safe route to the Myanmar city of Mandalay, but eventually deemed the journey too risky. In early November, he collected money from family and friends and undertook a five-day journey, mostly by motorcycle, to cross into India. "I can't box anymore," Za Latt Thwey said. "But I need my arm to be fixed so that I can continue my normal life, so that I can farm."

Offensive Against the Chin After the February 2021 Myanmar Coup

In October 2021, the Myanmar military launched a a major operations in Chin state, destroying scores of homes and churches. The United Nations and local media reported a buildup of heavy weapons and troops and an attack on the village of Thantlang. "We are also deeply concerned over the Burmese security forces’ intensification of military operations in various parts of the country," the U.S. State Department. It accused security forces of gross human rights violations which it said laid bare the regime's disregard for peoples' lives and welfare.[Source: Reuters, November 1, 2021]

Reuters reported: “Witnesses, aid groups and local media have reported burning down of houses and an exodus of people from Thantlang town in Chin state. Salai, a member of a local anti-junta militia, said the army fired artillery into the town on October 29, starting off a fire in some houses. Soldiers then set fire to houses, Salai said, adding he could see from a hill overlooking the town. "We saw the smoke and we knew that some of our homes were on fire. There was nothing that we could do about it, just to watch the burning," he told Reuters. Drone footage the next day showed 164 houses and two churches were destroyed, he said.

“A local elder in Thantlang, who manages camps of displaced people, said only one family was left in the town. "The home is where our heart is. People here worry that the rest of the homes will be burned down by them. This is our biggest worry." News portal DVB quoted Thantlang politician Salai Dokhar as saying blazes were ongoing and 270 homes had been torched.

An aerial photo taken shows smoke and fires in the town of Thantlang, “One person appears to have been trying to crawl to safety. Two others are locked in a haunting embrace on the ground. A few of the corpses have their hands tied.

Retaliatory Attack Against the Chin in December 2021

In December 2021, Los Angeles Times reported: The charred remains of the 11 villagers in northwestern Myanmar tell the grisly story of their final moments. They were rounded up and beaten by soldiers hunting down resistance fighters. Some, if not all, were shot before they were trapped inside a hut next to a betel farm and set alight. “We saw the smoke, but we thought the soldiers were just burning houses. Then someone close by came screaming and crying, saying, ‘My friends are being burned,’” said Ko Sia teacher in the village, Don Taw. “I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I don’t know how the junta could do such a thing.” The Dec. 7 killings were reportedly in retaliation for a nearby bomb attack on a military convoy by guerrilla fighters, who have used land mines and improvised explosive devices to kill a growing number of soldiers.. [Source: David Pierson, Kyaw Hsan Hlaing, Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2021]

“The burned victims ranged in age from 14 to 40 and included four 17-year-olds, according to a list of the dead released by Myanmar’s shadow civilian government. The oldest victim was paraplegic. The incident underscores the deepening crisis in Myanmar and the weakening chances of a diplomatic solution with a government increasingly terrorizing its own people. "We are appalled by the alarming escalation of grave human rights abuses in Myanmar," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, last week.

“The rights group said 200 soldiers were involved in the operation in the Hlaing Thar Yar industrial zone, firing indiscriminately on anti-coup protesters armed with only rocks, slings and Molotov cocktails. “We weren’t able to help those who were injured because they would shoot at us if we tried,” said one witness about the March 14 massacre. “Some people who tried to help went forward anyway and they were shot in the head and died.”

“Ko Sithe teacher in Don Taw, thought soldiers had come to clear land mines when they approached his village the morning they burned the 11 people. He was sitting at a tea shop around 7 a.m. when he saw about 100 soldiers on foot followed by two military trucks. The soldiers began shooting toward the village. Ko Sithu fled for cover. No more than 10 minutes later, he saw smoke rising in the distance. When he returned in the afternoon after the soldiers had left, he saw the remains of the burned victims. They were students and betel farmers. “We are not sure whether all of them were tied up or not, but we are sure that at least two or three people were tied,” said Ko Si35. “Some of them looked like they struggled a lot to escape.” A body of a woman with a gunshot wound to the head was also found near the scene.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy,,, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2022

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