‘The Fortunes of Chins Should be Decided by Chins’

Paul Sitha stands in front of the CNF’s hornbill flag (Photo: Project Maje)

The Chin National Front (CNF), an armed group from western Burma, held its first ever talks with the country’s government in January of this year. Project Maje, which documents human rights and environmental issues in Burma, recently interviewed CNF Assistant General Secretary 1 Paul Sitha ahead of followup meetings scheduled for late April.

Question: In the January ceasefire agreement, where is the territory or special area for CNF?

Answer: We call it a “peace agreement,” not a “ceasefire”―that can be broken easily. The CNF territory is in Thantlang Township, Tlapi Dawa Village Tract. And in Tiddim Township there is Bukphir Village Tract. And in Paletwa Township, Para, Pathianthlang and Konpyin. And we are to get liaison offices in Thantlang, Tiddim, Matupi.

Q: Who decided on those places?

A: Before our representatives went to Hakka [the Chin State capital] for the talks, we had a meeting and we decided on those. Because they are our strategic places.

Q: How connected are these areas?

A: They are quite far apart. If we go on foot, it is very far. It’s not connected. These are the liberated areas.

Q: Are there other conditions for the agreement?

A: They said we [the CNF] can travel, without uniform, throughout Burma. Before we went to Hakka for the January meetings, we talked with the Ethnic Nationalities Council about if we really need peace or not. Say we need peace―there should be a give-and-take policy. Now, we are not a winner. The Burma government are also not the winner. From this we will not go directly to Naypyidaw for more talks. We will [hold a] council with our people, six months to one year, and then after the desire of the people is known, we are going to go there.

Q: Did the idea of meeting with all the ethnic nationalities come up during the CNF negotiations?



A: No. Our current Union issues and Chin issues are not the same. Our Chin issues should be discussed at the state level. After that, Union issues should be discussed at the UNFC [United Nationalities Federal Council] level in Naypyidaw.

Q: How are relations between the CNF and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) these days?



A: We got the basic military training from the KIO, and we have some agreements. We are from one descendent. They are quite good to us.

Q: What is the CNF’s source of income?

A: From 1991 to 2008, we used to ask for a donation―a “home tax,” we called it. In 2008 we stopped collecting home tax [because of the Mautam hunger crisis]. Now it comes from donations from refugees in third countries.

Q: What would be required for people from Chinland to be able to go back to their homeland?



A: They are also thinking, wait and see the situation first, if it’s safe or not. It’s not about the economy. If it’s a democratic country, if Thein Sein restores human rights and democracy, maybe people will start being interested in returning then. The refugees, I’ve told them, it’s not your country where you are living―Malaysia, US, Canada. You have one responsibility, which is Chinland.

Q: The CNF has always promoted ethnic unity among the people called the Chins, but your people have always had inter-ethnic differences. How do you work on overcoming that?



A: We don’t accept using local terms only. Because we do not have a common language. So CNF policy is that “Chin” can be like a house for all Chins. If we still use individual names we will not be united. If you put “Chin” at the top, it is the umbrella of all Chins. If we cannot use a common name, we will be always be like this. Our population is very small, so it is important [that we agree on this].

Q: What are the current goals of the CNF in these changing times?



A: It was and is to strive for internal self-determination. Not external. The fortunes of Chins should be decided by Chins.


20 Responses to ‘The Fortunes of Chins Should be Decided by Chins’

  1. Hi.

    1) CNF is not popular in Chin State. It is only popular in Hakha-Thangtlang tracts, and even in that place not everyone is happy.

    2) CNF stop home tax because another Chin outfit ZRA told them not to but now it says because of Mautam crisis, just to make them look good.

    3) Majority of Chin people has experienced and belive CNF to be not truthfull, nepotism, feudalism, extremely sectarian, deciets, agressive etc

    CNF/CNA is hakha home business.

    thanks

  2. and i forgot to put this . . . Zo(chin) population is 2.5 million people in the world. CNF/CNA represents at most Hakha/Thangtlang one lakh of the population and Paul Sintha is very very very very unpopular outside of CNF/CNA, very unpopular in a negative ways.

    • ZoMang. CNF is popular in around the world about their reputation of really fight for Chin People and they are Chin Heroes. I don’t know who are ZRA, until today majority Chin People never heard this word? all Chin People’s the only Hope is CNF and they come from many Chin Tribes, not HAKHA. eg. khumi,cho,mindat,kanpalet,matu,mara,zotung,zophei,senthang,falam,tidim, etc. no one believe you. OK

  3. Yes, there are a few narrowminded Chin tribe who want to be known as “Zo” and they are closely working together with the regime, they do not invovle in democratic revolution either. If they really do not want to be a part of their fellow Chin brothers, they should go to Naypyidaw and register it instead of argueing each other, but the Burmese will still call them “Chin.” They should be ashamed of themselves.
    All the Chin tribes- Haka, Falam, Mindat, Matu, etc — will accept the term “Chin” by which we are known to outsiders. And we are really Chin, we come from China as legend says. The Kachin are our brothers and they call us “Chin”, not “Zo.” The Burmese call the “Arakhan” as “Arakhan” because they are “Arakhan.” That can’t be wrong. But the Burmese call “Tai,” “Shan,” and they accept it. The Shan will never say “No, No, we are Tai.” That’s how supposed to be. The Burmese (Bamar) are our neigbors since prehistoric periods and we live like brothers too. The reason they call us Chin is because we are Chin. It’s not derogatory either.They did not make up the term either.
    The Chinese do not call themselves “Chinese” either, so is Japanese, and so is Korean. But they accet the term “Chinese” and “Japanese” as interenationally known.

  4. Debates have been sporadically and nonsensely ongoing among some Chin educated people and hypocrites whether the term “Chin” is derogtive or not, because the all the individual Chin tribes have their own tribal name: Haka, Tiddim, Falam, Laizo, Lai, Khami, Matu, Cho..etc. Those who don’t want to be called themselves as “Chin” will opposed the Chin National Front, which is the leading armed resistance group for self determination of the Chin people. As Burma is approaching to the path of democracy, the Chin National Front- which signed up peace agreement with the Burmese Government- will be very influential in politcal fields.
    As a result, those hypocrites will have no room to raise their voices. These people were hiding behing the screen while the battle cry is sounding out there, but when the peace come, they are ready to come out. They don’t want to shed their blood for any cause.
    I met many Chin National Front leaders in Thailand and Mizoram. They do not fight for vanity nor for their personal wealth, but sacrifice their lives for the well being of the Chin and their country Burma.
    To sacrifice in times of need is indeed heroism. To quack like a duck in times of peace is a coward.

  5. I know Paul Sitha. I met him at the office of Burma Issues, Bangkok. He is a great diplomatic man who speaks several languages, and he who abandoned his beloved parents and home sweet home to work for his people. A freedom fighter will fight for freedom forever.

  6. To Mr. Zomang:
    I don’t know you are a Chin or a Burmese spy. If you are not Chin, then you should not discuss the Chin issues. The Chin issues will be determined by the Chin, not Zo or Mizo or Zomi. Is that clear enough?
    Keep in mind that The Chin National Front works for all the Chin people, and they are influential. Check the youtubes:their meetings, their statements and their activites.
    Check the Chin Supreme Council members and ask them any issues, they are always ready to answer any questions.
    They are not sectarians, but there are some radical people who want to divide the revolutionary forces.
    Due to the work of the CNF and the Chin Human Right Organization,thousands of Chins are accepted as refugees and now enjoying a better life in third countries.
    Even if we are so poor and have no money to donate, we should not bite the hands that feed.
    If the CNF don’t collect tax, the Arakhan Liberation Army will collect tax in the Chin State. Now they will set up their liason office in the southern Chin State.
    Will that be fair?

  7. I respect Paul Sitha; not only as a Chin leader, but also as a person who has a humanitarian mind. He helped us a lot when we were trapped in Bangkok, he brought us to many non-governmental organizations, and instilled us with patriotism. He has a big humor too.
    He is also wellknown among many other ethnic political organizations. He was at that time an in-charge of Chin National Fron foreign affairs and an editor of any publications.
    I tried to meet him when I returned to Bangkok from Australia in 2002, but he was not there any more. He was promoted to a higher position which he is working at.
    It is sad to see some new generation who have no knowledge about revolution and how many students dedicated their lives for freedom.
    I’m not mentioning only for the Chin students, but also there are many admirable and honorable Bamar students (such as Beda and Johny etc), Karen Students, Kachin students who dauntlessly scrifice for the sole purpose of the freedom of Burma. Why should we forget them? Why can’t we understand and share their pains.
    Though we may be so frightened to sacrifice our lives, at least, we should respect them as a “hero.” Let us remember them as a hero.

  8. Zomang:

    What do u know about Paul Sitha, and what do u know about democracy, and what do u know about unity? What do u know about the history of the Chin? The Chin leaders has signed Panlong in 1947 under the name of Chin, not Zo. Our brothers Bamar, Kachin and other ethnic groups also call us “Chin” as a whole though different tribes have our own names.That is very acceptable and nothing to do with derogatory term. We love it.
    And what do u and ur Zo people do for the betterment of Burma and the Chin people? If u are not Chin, u have no business to dicuss about the future of the Chin either. And the Chin Naional Front includes many different Chin tribes, too: the president right now is from Zahau tribe, and Paul is Haka-Mara. Many army officers are Matu and Paletwa tribes known as Khumi. If u are a man and a real politician, please come to the CNF meeting and other ENC meeting in Thailand and present ur agenda. Any way, thank u for ur comments.

  9. Ko Zomang:

    I think you should go back to Burma and form your own Zo rebel group and liberate your people from the influence of the Chin tribes.

  10. I know only one organizaiton that really fights for the sef-determination of the Chins. They are the Chin National Front and their army.

  11. I was born in Chin State and got a degree in anthropology. The Chin State is most isolated and abandoned in Burma, but its ethno-tribal diversity is profoundly impressive.
    The Chin ethnic group is formed with around fifty tribes. Each one has their own unique culture, distinctive languges, and local names: some called themselves Lai,Matu, some called Zo, some called Mizo, some called Siyin, some called Mindat, some called Cho, some called Asho..etc. Lai may be majority:they live in Falam,Haka, Thantlang, Matupi areas.
    Some believe the name of the City “Haka” is the name of the tribe. Because there are many conjoined tribes of Haka: Haka-Mara, Haka-Senthang, Haka-Zotung, Haka- Zophei, Haka-Lautu..these Haka tribes are musculine, rough, interested in politics, and good at wrestling and fighting. The first Chin clonial revolution erupted from Sakta village in Haka region. The Lai tribe in Falam region are gentle, feminine, and beautiful. The Mizo tribe are sexy and artistic, the Zo tribe (mostly live in Tiddim areas) are quiet, educated, obedient to superior, and good at business. Siyin tribe mostly live abroad and they are most educated.
    Mindat tribes are the same as Haka tribe; good at fighting, Mindat and Haka tribes pretty much get along. Matu and Haka are sort of the same. Don’t be confused with Zo and Mizo, they are different tribes. Asho are the most assimilated in the mainstream of Burmese. My math professor is AshoChin.
    The Chin may be the most diverse and interesting ethnic group in the world. Right now I’m studying the ethnic diverity in Shan State. If we do not appreciate these beautiful, geographical diversities in Burma, we will lose the historical heritages,values, and civilizations in a few decades. The government should prescribe sociology in school curriculum.

  12. Hello,

    Most of the comments are from Hakha-Thangtlang people who are related with CNF/CNA. Its always nice to hear the stories on both sides.

    A CROW will never be a PEACOCK, We will never be Chin but ZO (Mizo,Zomi,Zo).

    I will end the conversation here.

  13. “The Fortunes of Chins Should be Decided by Chins”

    Kinda late to come to this conclusion isn’t it?

    You guys had been fighting WITH the Burmese as “mecernaries” from 1949 on against Non-Burmese Ethnic Nationals.
    And some of you Chins are still with the Burmese Army.

    If you Chins had not sold your souls to the Burmese Army then you probably would have had a FREE Chinland long before now.
    The same goes for the Kachins also.

    Now, LOOK where you all are now.

    Hopefully ALL Non-Burmese Ethnic Nationals will learn and not let the Burmese hoodwink us AGAIN.

    • Thra Mahn, you may be right with your own view but eight Chin Riflemen were ambushed and killed by Karen soldiers on their way home from Christmas party hosted by our brother and sister Karens in Okpho. It angered the Chins. Before that the Chins dearly loved the Karens. So the ugly history started there with tears.

  14. “Soul your soul to Burmese army” will be a little more metaphoric sarcasm than a metaphor.
    Serving in the Burmese military is not against patriotism. The Chins are one of the major ethnic groups of Burma, and of coure, they should serve in different civillian and governmental departments. Due to the hilly regions and the wilderness terrian with ancient forests covering the landscapes, the Chin forefathers natually became hunters and cultivators.
    Many Chin young men began to serve in military during the British rule. Serving the military was more incentive than slash and burn cultivation. As a result, each Chin family has its uncles, fathers,or grandpas served in the military. Once they retire, they would bring home military experiences along with a pension, knowledge and exposures to the mainstream and their other bretheren ethnic groups. What if they didn’t serve in the army, instead, spending times in their remote cultivation sites, what would they gain?
    As military men, they will take orders as a military duty, not as a hatred, vendetta or vengeance. These veterans earn a bad reputation due to the oppressive military regime. If not, they would be praised like American Marines. Isn’t it?
    To me, Paul Sitha’s statement is clear ad simple. The destiny of Chinland lies on the Chin people. There is no further connotation. There is still time. It’s not late. Burma is now on the wheels of change. The government is focussing on making peace with all the ethnic armed resistances through mutual trusts and understanding. A streak of sunshine is rising. Any change can likely be made through legal process.
    What we need right now is “unity and respect” among us, among all the Burmese citizens. If we do, I’m sure Burma can thrive as its neghboring countries in a few years.

  15. I am from Hakha. We call ourselves as “Laimi”. My friends from Tedim call themselves “Zomi”. My friends from Mindat call themselves “Cho”. My friends from Paletwa call themselves “Khumi”. people of the world call us “CHIN”. I am proud to be a CHIN. I am proud Chin National Front(CNF) is working for all of us.

  16. Hatred has no place in building a nation. In 1949, our brothers in Christ, Karens, invited the riflemen from Chin Battalion for Christmas party in Okpho Town. The Chin riflemen went to the party but on their way home from the Christmas party, the Chin riflemen were ambushed and attacked by the Karens. Eight of them lost their lives. That’s why Chin Rifles joined Mr. U Nu’s government. Till today, many Karens do not trust the Chins because of that incident. Actually, the Karens were the ones who started it. They did not care the Chins and the Kachins because they thought they could do whatever they wanted. Unfortunately, it is not happening. Therefore, we all need to stand up together for the same cause which is democracy and self-determination.

  17. Chintaung Maung Maung:
    Chin leaders had no knowledge about real politics at the time they signed Panglong Agreement with Burman leader Aung San. Neither was serving in Burma as well. Chin Riffles were amalgamated into Burma army only after independence in a later time. At that time, serving army might have been very beneficial for the Chins for those who did not care to be educated but it was definitely not the factor that helps change our societies. We Chin peoples struggle very much on our own. We may be poor but we know we are not indebted to any people, any nation including the Burman peoples and Burmese army. At the time of signing Panglong Agreement, Chins leaders knew they had a chance to be part of British empire under Colonial Scheme which would enable Chinland to be independent if they wish as many nations had done so. In my point of view, signing Panglong agreement was really stupid because many ethnic leaders did not even know they had no future in unity with Burma. In fact, it’s still the same, we have lost so much of our national identity because we united with Burma. We meet with dire consequences now. If it’s possible to turn the clock back to 1947, I would be the first who stopped them from signing Panglong Agreement even if it cost my life. Anyway, when those Chin soldier retirees from Burma army came back to Chinland, they came back home speaking Burmese, adopting different cultures and social practices; many did not even return to Chinland. There was nothing much so great about serving in Burma army.

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