Ethnic Zomi Group Rebuked for Giving 'Hero Award' to Military Chief

By Zarni Mann 5 December 2018

MANDALAY — The Zomi Student and Youth Organization (ZSYO) is criticizing a local Zomi group in Chin State for bestowing the Chin Hero Award on the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar military on Tuesday.

The Zomi Organization of Tedim Township handed the award over to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw.

“It is such a shame for Chin people to award and praise as a hero the person who is most responsible for human rights abuses in ethnic regions. It is unacceptable. Moreover, everyone knows the commander-in-chief is wanted by the ICC [International Criminal Court]. The act of the Zomi Organization of Tedim Township is intolerable,” ZSYO head Ko Kim Tuang told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing is in fact not wanted the by ICC, though several rights groups have urged the UN Security Council to refer him and other senior Myanmar military leaders to the court for their roles in a crackdown on Rohingya communities in northern Rakhine State last year that the UN itself has described as ethnic cleansing. The military has also been waging a civil war against a number of ethnic armed groups across the country for the past several decades and is regularly accused of torturing and killing suspected members.

“In reality the Hero Award is for people who risk their lives to protect the people and the region against enemies who threaten peace and stabilities, not for people who threaten their own people,” Ko Kim Tuang said.

“We will do everything to denounce the act of that organization and declare that the Hero Award awarded to  Snr. Gen. Min Aung Haling does not represent all the Chin people,” he added.

The Zomi Organization of Tedim Township said the general deserves the honor because he is the most powerful person in Myanmar responsible for the country’s security and stability.

“He is taking responsibility for the security of the country. That is why we decided to award him with the Hero Award,” said U Kap Kim Pao, the group’s general secretary.

The award comes with a framed certificate and a traditional Tedim sword. The group said it also took the opportunity to give the general an early Christmas and New Year prayer and blessing.

“We have been criticized and heard a lot of disagreement. Everyone has the right to disagree,” U Kap Kim Pao said. “Because we were able to meet with him [the general] for the very first time, we honored him with this award. If we get the chance to meet with President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, we will honor them with the award too.”

The Zomi Organization of Tedim Township said the meeting helped improve relations between the military and Chin people, who include the Zomi, and that Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing promised to visit Chin State and help develop the region.