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Chin people
Mizo:Chin hnam or Burma Zohnahthlak
Tedim Chin:Chin nam
Hakha Chin:Chin miphun
Falam Chin:Chin phunpi
Chin people in Burma
Total population
1,500,000+ (2011)
Regions with significant populations
          Mizoram70,000-100,000 (2012)[2]
 United States70,000[4]
Lingua franca:
Burmese or Mizo
other Kuki-Chin languages
Christianity 80%[6]
Minority: 20%[6]
Buddhism, Folk religions
Related ethnic groups
Mizo people, Kachin people, Bawm people, Naga people

The Chin people (Burmese: ချင်းလူမျိုး; MLCTS: hkyang: lu. myui:, pronounced [tɕɪ́ɰ̃ mjó]) are an ethnic group native to the Chin State and Rakhine State of Myanmar.[7] Strictly speaking, the term "Chin" only refers to the 53 sub-tribes of the Chin ethnic group, divided and recognized by the Burmese government. They speak the Kuki-Chin-Mizo languages, which are often mutually unintelligible but are closely related.

The Chin are one of the founding groups of the Union of Burma, along with the Shan, Kachin, and Burmese.[8] The Chin speak a variety of related languages, and share elements of culture and traditions.[8] According to the British state media BBC News, "The Chin people... are one of the most persecuted minority groups in Burma."[8] These people predominantly live in the Chin State, Bago Division, Ayeyarwady Division, Magwe Division, Rakhine State and Sagaing Region of Myanmar, but are also spread throughout Burma, and Bangladesh and India as refugees.

During the era of British rule, the colonial government used the compound term 'Chin-Kuki-Mizo' to group the Kukish language speaking people, and the Indian government inherited this nomenclature.[9][10][11] Some Chin nationalists now consider that Chin would mean subtle Paite domination of Chin, Kuki and Chin identity, which other groups like Hmars, Chins (Chinmi), and Koms may not use.[12][13][14][15][16][17]


The word Chin (MLCTS: khyang:) is a pseudo-exonym, meaning it is a Burmese adaption of the Asho Chin word khlong or khlaung, which means "man" or "person." It is hypothesized that the Burmese called the Asho Chin, or Asho khlong, by the latter portion of their name when they first saw them. The beginning KHL- consonant cluster, which is needed to pronounce the name Asho Khlong, was absent from the Burmese language at that time. Therefore, they called them "khyang" and used the closest beginning sound combination, the KHY-sequence, to refer to them. They then used this name to refer to other groups in the area and, eventually, to all of the tribes residing in the Arakan Mountains and Chin Hills.[18]

History and politics

The newfound democracy of Chin State ended abruptly in 1962 with the onset of the military rule of General Ne Win in Burma (Center for Applied Linguistics, 2007). Ne Win remained in power until 1988, when nationwide protests against military rule erupted. These uprisings, commonly known as the 8888 because of the date on which they occurred, were met by an outburst of violence from the military government. The violent government response killed approximately 3,000 people in just a matter of weeks and imprisoned many more (Human Rights Watch, 2009). It was during this period of resistance to military rule that the Chin National Front (CNF) and its armed branch, the Chin National Army (CNA), gained momentum (Human Rights Watch, 2009).[19] In 2012, the Chin National Army organized a ceasefire with the Burma military. In 2015, the Chin National Army (CNA) signed a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).[20]



There are many sub-tribes among the Chin people. Dominant tribes of the Chin include Hakha, Tedim (Haidim), Asho and Matu. The word "Chin" comes from “Chinlung”, which is believed to be a cave, where their ancestors once lived. A Chin scholar, Lian Uk in 1968, define the term “Chin” and similar names as “people”, further stating that the name “Chinland” means Ourland. Chin people are scattered between three countries, namely India, Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh. Some of the Chin live in Rakhine State and most of them are Cumtu, Asho, Kongtu and Laitu. They are living in Myebon, Minbya, Ann, Thandwe and Gwa. Among them, the majority is Cumtu Chin. The Chin speak several languages, Kukish, Naga and Maraic languages; Ethnologue lists 49 languages in this group, of which 20 contain the word "Chin" in their name.[21]


Chin National Day

The Chin National Day is celebrated annually on February 20, which is the day the Chin people abolished the slavery system or chieftainship. The first Chin National Day was celebrated in 1951 at Mindat.[22] People display many traditional dance such as bamboo dance,[23] Sarlam (conquest dance), Khuangcawi(a lady is lifted by a crowd), Ruakhatlak/Cherua and many other dances from each group. One of the big events on Chin National Day is the traditional wrestling (Lai Paih).[24] There is also Miss competition from each town or city in Chin State. Other events, such as fashion shows and singing also take place in Chin National Day.[25] Traditional food, such as Sabuti/Sabaktui ( hominy corn soup) and Chang (rice cake) are served.

Chin National Day celebration which exhibits Chin traditional clothing


There are several tradition dresses such as Matu, Falam, Tedim, Zo, Tapong, Zotung, Mindat, Daa Yindu(Kanpetlet), Mara, etc. The main colors use for these traditional dresses are red, green and black. Accessories such as bracelets, necklaces, hairpins and rings also play a huge role when it comes to traditional clothing as they complete the overall looks of the Chin. Chin people do not wear these clothes in daily life. They wear these on special occasions like Sundays, weddings, Chin National Day and any other important occasions[26]


Wrestling is a part of the Chin people's tradition.[27]

Chin United F.C. represents the Chin people in Burmese association football. The club play in the Myanmar National League.


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There are 31 different varieties of the Chin language, which are also spoken in India and Bangladesh. The largest varieties in three countries are:[28]

There are also many different accents among the same dialects. Many Chin people, especially students also speak Burmese, since it is the primary official language in Myanmar and it is taught in school.[28]


Traditionally, the Chin peoples were animists. However, in the late 1800s, the first Christian missionaries arrived in the Chin State, and began sharing the message of Christianity with indigenous people.[19] Due to the work of the Baptist Arthur E. Carson, their efforts were successful, and today the majority of Chin are Christians, with most belonging to Protestant denominations, especially Baptist.[29][30] Many Chin people have served as evangelists and pastors, ministering in places such as the United States, Australia, Guam, and India.

The Chin people's adoption of Christianity was not followed by the rest of Burma, and, since independence, the military government has persecuted the Chin people on religious grounds.[31]

Christianity grew from 35% in 1966 to 90% in 2010.[32]

Since the late 20th century, a group of Chin, Kuki, and Mizo peoples claim descent from Bnei Menashe, one of the Lost Tribes of Israel and have adopted the practice of Judaism.[33]

Human rights violations against Chin peoples

The Chin people in Myanmar are one of the minority ethnic groups that have suffered widespread and ongoing ethnic and religious persecution ever since General Ne Win overthrew the democratically elected government in 1962.[34] The predominant religion in Myanmar is Buddhism, however, the Chin people are largely Christian due to American missionary work in the 19th and 20th century. This has led to continuous attempts at forced assimilation.[35] There have been recorded numerous crimes against humanity in Myanmar's western Chin state, committed mainly by the Tatmadaw (members of the Burmese Army) and police; however, other agents of the military government and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) are also involved.[36] Despite continued persecution, little has been done on the part of the Chin people to speak out due to fear of reprisal, restrictions on travel, and the press imposed by the Burmese military regime.[37] In their oppression of the Chin people, the Tatmadaw consistently violate the rule of law.[38] The Chin people have been subject to forced labor, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and extrajudicial killings. Such treatment has incited a mass exodus of refugees who have left to neighboring nations such as India, Thailand, and Malaysia, even though doing so will risk further torture, detention, or even death.[39] India is the most common destination for Chin refugees, given its close proximity, yet Mizoram (the state in India with the largest Chin population) does not give them full refugee protection and they have no legal status there.[40]

Extrajudicial killings

The right to life is a non-derogable (not revocable under any circumstances), as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The articles in the ICCPR are binding on member states that have ratified the ICCPR, however, Myanmar is one of few states that have neither signed nor ratified it. Article 3 of the UDHR states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of a person[41] and article 6 of the ICCPR states that every human being has the inherent right to life and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life.[42] Myanmar has also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and article 6 states that parties to the Convention must recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.[43] Despite these international instruments prohibiting extrajudicial killings, they still occur to the Chins in Myanmar.

Extrajudicial killings are committed by the SPDC and the Tatmadaw in Chin state, and the killers are never brought to justice.[44] Human Rights Watch (HRW) has conducted several interviews with Chins who have fled Myanmar to produce a full report outlining the types of persecution that they face.[45] In an interview with HRW, a Chin pastor described an incident that he witnessed in 2006 in Falam township. He stated that the SPDC was searching for members of the opposing Chin National Army (CNA) throughout the entire town, but when no information was given, they beat the village council headman and ultimately shot him dead.[46] The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) documented that between 2005 and 2007, sixteen extrajudicial killings occurred with four of them being children.[47] Also between 2006 and 2010, seven Chin men were killed because they were suspected of supporting the CNA and four Chin women were raped before being murdered.[48]

Arbitrary arrests, detention and attacks

Under section 61 of the Myanmar Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, a person who is arrested without a warrant must not be detained for more than twenty-four hours.[49] Section 340 states a person who has proceedings against him or her has the right to legal representation.[50] Also, article 9 of the UDHR states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.[41] Despite the presence of legal structures and international law, the rule of law is not followed in Myanmar and arbitrary arrests, detention, and attacks are still carried out by the Tatmadaw and SPDC.

A number of Chins who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch describe the abuses in detail. One Chin man recalls back to the year 2000 when he was 16 years old. He was approached by the Burmese police and Tatmadaw who were accusing him of being connected to the CNA, even though he told them he was not and had never even contacted anyone from the CNA or other opposition groups before. The police and Tatmadaw refused to believe him, and beat him with the end of their guns until the man's head was split open. They also used electricity from a battery to torture him and would only stop if the man would tell them information about the CNA.[51] For the Chins that are unlucky, they will be confined and locked up in detention facilities. These facilities are inadequate and unsuitable for anyone to be detained in. When interviewed by the Human Rights Watch, former innocent prisoners gave detailed descriptions of the harsh conditions inside detention facilities and stated that they were overcrowded, unsanitary, and infested with insects.[52] Furthermore, prisoners are only given gruel to eat and no water to drink, which gave some prisoners no choice but to drink the dirty toilet water.[53]

Forced labor

Myanmar has been a part of the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 1948 and in 1955, it ratified the 1930 Forced Labour Convention (No.29).[54] Article 1 of the Convention states that each member of the ILO which ratifies this Convention undertakes to suppress the use of forced labour in all its forms within the shortest possible period.[55] As a member state of the ILO, Myanmar has an obligation to honour the provisions contained under the eight core Conventions outlined in the ILO, which includes prohibition of forced labour.[56] The Convention on the Rights of the Child also protects children from economic exploitation or any labour that is likely to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development, or likely to interfere with the child's education.[43] The Myanmar government properly responded to its obligations, and in 1999 it issued Legislative Order No. 1/99, which states that whoever unlawfully compels any person to labour against the will of that person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term of one year, or with a fine, or both.[57] In 2007, the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), which records and reports violations of forced labour in Myanmar collected approximately 3500 cases of forced labour mainly involving the Chins in Chin state.[58] Despite the legal structures set in statute, the military government fails to enforce the law and continuously turns a blind eye to forced labour that the Chins still presently endure. In June 2006, the SPDC Minister of Information stated that the Tatmadaw were doing everything legally and that forced labour was never used.[59]

Forty-four Chin people interviewed by Human Rights Watch gave statements that they experienced forced labour themselves, and another fifty-two reported they were forced to porter for the Tatmadaw.[60] One of them remembered that the Tatmadaw would call him to work for months, building houses for the SPDC or erecting fences for the army camp. Nothing was provided for him and he had to bring his own tools and equipment. There was no payment, and if he did not show up to work, the Tatmadaw would beat him.[61] Forced labour disrupts the livelihood of the workers and prevents them from doing their regular jobs to support their families. Another Chin woman told the HRW of times where she was forced to porter more than ten times for the Tatmadaw. She would do it for days on end and would have to carry thirty-kilogram bags for up to twenty miles at a time. If she did not keep up the pace with the Tatmadaw, they would beat her and the other porters too. One time, she even refused orders, but the Tatmadaw replied by saying "you are living under our authority. You have no choice. You must do what we say" and beat her again.[62]


In 2011, there is a research project regarding the human rights violations and health in Chin state. The researchers use "multistaged household cluster" sample and heads of household are interviewed on the health status, access to health care, food insecurity, human rights violations such as forced labor and forced displacement during the last 12 months. In the research data that they state that in 618 households, there are 568 cases of people suffering any forced labor. In 597 households, there are 468 cases of people forcing to do build bridges, roads, and buildings. There are also 36 cases of household member being imprisoned or detained.[63]

Universal Periodic Review of Myanmar

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Myanmar had a section for the protection and promotion of human rights in Myanmar.[64] It summarized that Myanmar provided legal provisions under section 348 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, concerning the guarantee of non-discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion, poverty, birth, or other status. It states that capital punishment is prescribed under the law to be imposed only for the most serious of crimes and to only be carried out pursuant to the final judgment of a competent court. Further, the UPR states that the Penal Code of Myanmar prohibits torture, degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest, and that arrest of anyone must be done in accordance with procedure established under law. Additionally, it states that Myanmar provides the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. The summary seems to be contradictory to the real-life experiences of the Chin people.

States such as the United States of America, Jordan, New Zealand, Poland, and others have made recommendations to Myanmar concerning its human rights violations.[65]


Global Chin diaspora

Given their persecution in Burma, thousands of Chins are scattered throughout Europe, the United States, and Southeast Asia. American Baptist, British, and Swedish Lutheran church groups have helped relocate thousands of Chin people.

Global Chin News, World News in Chin, World and Chin-Burmese News in Chin, Chin Cable Network, Chin News Channel, Chinland Today and Chin Articles and News, are some well known Chin media websites that broadcast daily news in Chin languages.

Chin refugees

It is estimated that at least 60,000 Chin people refugees are living in India, while more than 20,000 Chin people refugees are living in Malaysia. Several thousands more are scattered in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.[66]

The Chin people who flee from Burma usually enter the United States directly from Thailand, Malaysia, and India. For most leaving Burma, the trip is illegal, dangerous, and expensive. Many of those who have little money fled through boats, cars, or walk. Other who have more money went through airplanes.[67] There are brokers involved who charge approximately $1,000 per person to transport refugees across the border. If those fleeing are caught by either the Burmese government or the government of the country they are trying to enter, they face imprisonment that may include harsh treatment such as being beaten. Those in refugee camps (located mainly in Thailand) are told that it is easier to gain entry into the United States if they have children; thus, many young, new parents enter the United States and need jobs immediately in order to support their young families.[19][68]

Mizoram response to Chins seeking refuge

Chins have restricted freedom of movement and their travel is limited by the SPDC which makes it difficult for them to escape persecution in Myanmar.[69] They are left with no choice but to leave, without travel documents, to nearby states. Chins mainly travel to the Indian state of Mizoram and seek protection there. As of 2011, it is estimated that 100,000 Chins were living there.[70] Initially, Mizoram welcomed the Chins. However, as the persecution worsened in Myanmar, the Mizoram population became less generous in terms of the protection it gave and its attitude towards Chins. However, this attitude has completely reversed beginning from the 21st Century, with people from both areas helping each other through disasters with a newfound realisation of shared identity.[71]

Previously, though some could flee from persecution in Myanmar, they faced a new problem when arriving in Mizoram. There they do not have legal immigration status and are subsequently treated as illegal aliens. As such, the Chins that arrive at Mizoram are placed in a "protracted, urban refugee situation" which is defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a situation where refugees find themselves in a long-standing and intractable state of limbo. Their lives may not be at risk but their basic rights and essential economic, social, and psychological needs remain unfulfilled after years of exile.[72] They face challenges related to livelihood, food, shelter, and healthcare. For some refugees, survival may be more difficult when compared to their former lives in Myanmar. Local integration is extremely challenging for Chins since they do not speak the local language and are not used to the regional culture and practices. Thus, many Chin live and do informal work on the outer margins of the community.[73] As a result of not having any legal immigration status, many Chins have reported being arrested, detained, and fined for being foreigners. Some Chins are victims of labour exploitation and crime but do not report it to the police for fear of deportation.[74]

The Young Mizo Association (YMA) is a voluntary association in Mizoram whose mandate is to provide community service, which includes "conservation of Mizo culture and heritage".[75] In the past, it has issued orders forcing Chins to leave Mizoram because they do not want foreigners in their country. This breaches the international principle of non-refoulement because if Chins were to be sent back to Myanmar, persecution and suffering would be inevitable for them. One interviewee who spoke to the Human Rights Watch recalled that members of the YMA carried sticks and went to each of the Chins' houses to ensure that they left Mizoram. The police also arrested Chins who did not leave and confined them in jail.[76]

The change in attitude of Mizoram is clearest during the 2021 Myanmar coup when the military overthrew the Myanmar government. Fearing persecution, more than ten thousand Chins fled to Mizoram. In stark contrast to previous years, the Mizoram government took them in and protected them despite direct orders from the Indian government to prevent refugees from entering India. Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga sent a letter to the Indian government stating:[77]

Myanmar areas bordering Mizoram are inhabited by Chin communities who are ethnically our Mizo brethren with whom we have been having close contacts throughout these years even before India became independent. Therefore Mizoram cannot remain indifferent to their suffering today. India cannot turn a blind eye to this humanitarian crisis unfolding right in front of us in our own backyard.

This sentiment was shared throughout the state. The Young Mizo Association built refugee towns and supplied the refugees with food, clothes and money donated by people from all over Mizoram.[78] On the request of Young Mizo Association, Mizoram allocated money for the refugees, which included lawmakers and even the chief minister of Chin state, Salai Lian Luai.[79]

Notable Chin people

See also


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