A View of Life in Chin State

Myanmar, Burma, Chin, Chin State, ethnic, photos, moutains

The river valley in Chin State known to locals know as Timit, seen from the road from Hakha to Thantlang. (Photo: Sam Stubblefield)

Chin State is often described as Burma’s most impoverished and isolated state. Chin people are keen for development with can improve their standard of living—namely better roads, an expanded electricity grid, increased agricultural production and higher-quality education—while at the same time remaining cautious about possible detrimental impacts from development.

It is clear that things are changing in the state. The Chin National Front has negotiated three ceasefire agreements with the government since January 2012. Previously unpaved and seasonally impassable roads are being widened and paved. The requirement for tourists to hold special permits before traveling in the state was dropped in early 2013. Foreign investors are coming to the state looking for business opportunities.

Yet many problems persist. The vast majority of the people in Chin State are Christian, and complaints of religious-based discrimination are still common. Refugees and migrants continue to flow out of the state into neighboring countries including India and Malaysia. High unemployment, especially among the youth, persists. Concerns over environmental degradation are being raised where foreign investment projects have been started—for example the Mwe Tuang nickel mining project in the north and the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit and Transport Project in the south.

Photography of Chin State usually features K’Cho women with facial tattoos, and while this type of tattooing is undoubtedly a unique (and quickly vanishing) cultural practice, it is far from representative of the state as a whole. These photographs—taken in December 2013—provide a snapshot of daily life in Chin State.

5 Responses to A View of Life in Chin State

  1. Sam,
    I was there from October 31, 2013 to December 7, 2013. The highway to Hakha from Monywa is terrible and unpaved. I left Burma in 1992. The condition of the road at the time I left Burma and today are the same. The road is not even worthy to be called as one of Union Highways. The villages have their own mini-hydro powers while Hakha still lacks reliable electric power. Every night, the capital of Chin State is covered by darkness after 10:00 pm. Since CNF is not the government, its effort to help the Chin people and the Chinland is almost invisible. At the same time, the unwise and centralized USDP government is unable to uplift the life of the Chins even though it has been four years in power. The government system is still the relic of former military dictatorship which makes the development at the speed of a turtle.

  2. Chin State has been labeled as the poorest state in the Union of Myanmar. The governments of Myanmar for generations believe that the Chinland is poor and the Chins are supposed to live poor life. The governments never think or try to change the life of the Chin people. This time, we would like to ask the government to leave us alone. We the Chin people around the world are ready to build our land. We the Chin people live in Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. We are ready to build it. What we need from the Myanmar regime is to give us autonomy to have self determination. We have plans and resources to serve our land and to uplift it from the poorest state to the best state in the Union of Myanmar. We do not ask the Myanmar regime to help us. We just ask the government to leave us alone to build our land as we want.

  3. The view of Chin Hills is not actually beautiful. With full of blank patches on every mountain due to practice of slash and burn cultivation methods for a long time and the wildfires ,especially in summer.
    Climbing is everyday job..anywhere we go.Rice is scarce,we are unable to produce enough for ourselves. Alcoholism becomes a big a problem in the society.
    Sunday is the most wonderful day.Wearing good clothes and go
    to churches .Nothing to do at night ..some study under candlelight.. other family members are sitting around the burning firewood to keep warm to kill the time. Around 9:30 at night the whole Chin Hills fall asleep.We just say each other Mang tha..Have a nice dream.

    • “Rice is scarce, … Alcoholism becomes a big problem in the society.”

      This problem is not specific to Chinland. It is also true in many parts of Burma. People don’t have enough to eat, but somehow manage to get enough alcohol to be drunk. In the US, people buy alcohol with food stamps or exchange them for drugs. Social decays is not dependent on poverty. A man makes his own choice consciously or unconsciously to lie down or stand up.

  4. The poor had been made poorer by the military dictatorship. We all need to respect each other and allow each other to live in peace. Hundreds of thousands of Burmese soldiers brought more nightmares to the ethnics, not peace. Peace is more valuable than wealth.

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