Khonumthung News recently interviewed Chin National Front (CNF) spokesperson Salai Htet Ni, who is also the organization’s Joint General Secretary 2. He spoke about ongoing armed conflict in Chin State, humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), challenges regarding the distribution of food rations, and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
What preventative measures are the CNF taking in its headquarters and military camps, regarding COVID-19?
We are cooperating with village headmen, youth leaders and religious organizations in our territory. We keep a record of travelers in and out of our area. We try to minimize travel in our area. We are trying to take as many preventative measures as we can. We also are trying to take these measures in our military base camps.
Has the CNF already carried out medical checks on both Chin soldiers in the headquarters and in villagers living nearby villages?
A medical doctor and three nurses from Thantlang Township came to our headquarters and did medical checks on our soldiers. They already returned. Now we are doing self-isolation and lockdown in our camp. We have restricted travels in our territory both day and night.
Does the CNF cooperate with the Chin State government? Does the Chin State government provide medicine and medical equipment to the CNF?
No. The government doesn’t provide medical staff, medicine or medical equipment to us. I think the government’s healthcare is really weak. There are not enough medical doctors, nurses or medical staff in Chin State. I am happy to hear that the Chin State government is providing food rations [to those in need].
There has been talking that the Chin National Army—the armed wing of the CNF—will cooperate with the Burma Army and fight the Arakan Army (AA) in Chin State. Is there any truth to this?
No. It’s not true. It’s just a rumor. We don’t have any policy to cooperate with the Burma Army.
As we are all known, clashes between the Burma Army and the AA have caused many people to become IDPs in Paletwa Township, and the number is increasing every day. Many people are struggling to find food. What will the CNF do to help this situation?
Well, we will try our best for it. We are preparing to form the Chin IDPs Support Committee. Through the committee, we will provide humanitarian assistance to Chin IDPs. We want to urge the Chin State government, the Chin community inside the country and abroad, Chin CSOs [civil society organizations], and religious organizations to help these IDPs as a national duty.
Regarding the transportation of food rations, the Burma Army has blocked the transport of food within Paletwa Township. People are also afraid of both the Burma Army and AA troops. In this situation, how the CNF can help to solve the difficulties facing the people?
Well, we will work toward IDPs receiving food rations safely. At the moment, we are so worried that COVID-19 will infect IDPs. I would like to tell both the Burma Army and AA to consider the social difficulties of the local people rather than gaining strategic military positions.
The Burma Army frequently uses jet fighters and combat helicopters when they fight with ethnic armed organizations. What is the CNF’s opinion on this?
If they want to launch air attacks, they must consider how to create the fewest civilian casualties. According to the Geneva Convention, they should not use human shields in the fighting.
The government already declared the AA as a terrorist organization and an unlawful association. What is the CNF’s opinion about this?
I am not very clear about how the government set up the law for unlawful associations and terrorist organizations. I think media specialists will know more about it.
Three chief editors of media outlets have been charged with violating the counter-terrorism law. What is the CNF’s response to this?
I think journalists have been charged with violating the Unlawful Associations Act and the Counter-Terrorism Law under the NLD [National League for Democracy] government. What I can say is that media freedom is getting weakened under this government