Chin Groups Call for Govt to Expel Manipuri Armed Groups From Myanmar

By Lei Lei 2 December 2019

Residents of Tedim Township in Myanmar’s Chin State held a protest on Sunday calling for the expulsion of Manipuri armed groups from the state as the presence of militant groups has worsened the security situation in the area.

The protest, led by the Zomi Student and Youth Organization (ZYSO), was held after an ethnic Chin female teacher was recently shot and killed by an ethnic Meitei person in Tonzang Township. The Meitei, often known as Kathe in Myanmar, are the majority ethnic group in the Indian state of Manipur, which shares a border with Chin State.

Meithei armed groups have been taking refuge in Chin State for years and their presence has increased since the mid 1990s. They now control remote parts of Tonzang Township and the Kabaw Valley area of Sagaing region, beyond the administrative control of local governments.

In conjunction with the protest, 28 ethnic Zomi civil society organizations issued a joint statement calling on the government to no longer allow Meitei armed groups to operate in Chin State. The Zomi are a subset of the Chin ethnic group.

”We don’t hate Kathe. The armed groups are living in northern Chin state and Sagaing Region illegally,” said Pau Kim Taung, a leader of ZYSO. “We speak out as we are concerned about our security. There is no hatred against them, based on neither race nor religion,” he said.

The groups said the protest was focused on achieving peace in the region as well as preventing problems due to illegal armed groups.

The protest was also aimed at promoting the safety of government staff assigned at the border area as well as advocating for the government to enforce Section 42 (b) of the 2008 Constitution, which says that no foreign troops are allowed to be deployed in Myanmar.

The joint statement by 28 Zomi civil society groups claimed that the state has seen a large increase in opium farming in the areas controlled by Meitei armed groups. Pau Kim Taung of ZYSO estimated that opium plantations cover some 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) in these areas and said that most of the workers are low-income local farmers.

A Tonzang resident, who requested not to be named, said that about 40 members of a Meitei insurgent group are living in Tonzang Town and estimated that 1,500 Meitei insurgents are living in the jungle.

“Corcon is the head armed group which was formed by six Kathe armed groups,” he said. “It’s a huge organization.”

“We feel insecure because we have armed people in our region and they are not our own ethnicity,” said Pau Kim Taung. “We are afraid of them and whatever happens, we dare not raise our voices. Also, the recent killing of the teacher [in Tonzang] is not the first such case. In 2009, the PLA [People’s Liberation Army of Manipur] commander also shot a Tonzang villager to death.”

Local residents claim that members of a Meitei insurgent group with Chin national identity cards are also living in Tamu Township, in Sagaing region. The locals are concerned for their security as they have heard rumors that the Meitei armed groups are not afraid to use their guns, even in internal quarrels with one other.

Translated from Burmese by Zaw Zaw Htwe