Yesterday (February 1st) marked the 62nd anniversary of Chin National Day, which is a celebration of independence from the British rule in 1948. The event is celebrated with the community coming together for dances, wrestling, singing and great food.
The Chin are also active in our community, over here in the States. In December of 2009, at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, a Burma Awareness week was held to educate students and the community about the current situation in Burma. It included panel discussions, a screening of the popular documentary film, Burma VJ, chantings by Burmese monks from the Saffron Revolution and traditional performances by a local Chin youth group.
Chin National Day, an event aimed at promoting national solidarity is sure to leave many Chins questioning the future of Burma. With looming 2010 elections and a new constitution that restricts the role of ethnic minorities in the country’s political process, while ensuring continued power for the military, these are indeed very dangerous and uncertain times for all people of Burma.
In addition, the track record of human rights violations and war crimes by the Burmese military continues to worsen. For example, many locals are being forced to construct 45 miles of the Hakha-Gangaw road before the end of summer. Workers are not compensated, and those unable to work must pay a 30,000 kyat fine. The military has also forced all locals in Thantlang township to pay 1000 kyat for the renovation of a military camp. For many Chin facing food shortages due to famine, these extra burdens really make it hard to get by. On a whim, the military havs also forcibly taken land from farmers, and in other instances, demanded farmers to cultivate rice and gave a huge portion of the yield to the army.
Despite the hardships and the pains, Chin folks brought with them unity, happiness and compassion to the national day event. They celebrated this special day, their spirits unbeaten, unwavered and with an eye to a brighter, democratic and freer Burma.