By Lalnun – More than 20 Chin civil society organizations released a joint statement on Wednesday distancing themselves from a decision by the Tedim-based Zomi Organization to give Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing the prestigious Chin Hero Award.
The statement declared that the 22 signatory organizations did not support the decision to honor the head of the Burmese military, which has been waging war with ethnic communities for decades. Also known as the Gal Hang Pah Tawi Na Award, the Chin Hero Award is the highest such honor that can be delegated by Chin people in Tedim and Tonzang townships.
The groups behind the joint statement noted that December, which marks the month of Christmas, is a time for gift giving, prayer, and good deeds, and that the award was not given in this spirit.
“Many people give presents during the Christmas period. For Christmas, they gave the Chin Hero Award to Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing. But this has nothing to do with [Christmas],” said Kim Tuang, of the Zomi Students and Youth Organization (ZSYO), which signed the statement.
He added that the award is intended for an individual who defeats an enemy in a “just war” and pointed out that Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing has come under international scrutiny for widespread reports of human rights abuses committed by the Burmese military throughout the country.
The granting of this award could be damaging to Burma’s peace process, national reconciliation, and unity among ethnic people, the joint statement said.
“Armed conflicts are still happening in Kachin, Shan and Karen areas. On the other hand, we are giving the Chin Hero Award. They should not give this hero award at this moment,” said GS Mang, director of joint statement signatory group Area Peace and Development Forward (APDF). “From an ethnic perspective, it is not good for us. According to Zomi Chin tradition, the granting of the Hero Award is not like this. Therefore, I don’t accept it,” he explained.
In addition to ZSYO and APDF, groups that undersigned the statement included the Chin Ethnic Peasants Union (Tedim), Chin Land Affairs Network, Dimzang Zomi Youth Association, Kindness Youth Association, Leilum Youth Association, Mwetaung Area Development Group, Myanmar Zomi Media Council, New Step, Sakollam Social Service, Tedim CSOs Network, Tedim Youth Fellowship, Teltui Vontawi, Tonzang Youth Association, Women of Indigenous Network (Tedim), Zomi Literature and Culture Association, Zomi National Council of Myanmar (Yangon), Zomi Social Society, Zomi Youth Association (Tedim), Farmers and Agriculture-Based Labor Organization (Tedim) and Disabled People’s Organization (Tedim).