A View of Life in Chin State

Sam Stubblefield Reporter

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.