Thirteen Chin youth organizations are calling for legal action against officials who ordered a young Chin woman to be hastily buried on a lonely roadside after her body was returned to Burma following a tragic accident in Malaysia.
The youth organizations released a joint statement on October 7 demanding that the Chin State government create an independent inquiry, which includes Chin elders, to investigate.
Salai An No Bik, chair of Central Chin Youth Organization, questioned why Mai Shui Lay Tiel’s body was prevented from reaching the town. “Many Bamar (aka Burmese) people serve in the Thangtlang Township COVID-19 Control and Response Committee. They don’t understand the customs, culture and traditions of Chin ethnic people. We condemn what they have done…If they don’t respond to our demands, youth in 9 townships (in Chin state) will stage demonstrations against them.”
Mai Shui Lay Tiel, 21, fell eight stories from a building in Malaysia on September 29. Her body was flown to Yangon International Airport before being sent to Chin State via Mandalay. The COVID-19 Control and Response Committee stopped it from reaching Thangtlang town for burial by family and friends. Instead, she was buried on the side of Hakha–Thangtlang road.
After Chin media outlets broke the story, many on Facebook criticized the committee. Authorities allowed Mai Shui Lay Tiel’s family to exhume her body and bury her in the cemetery in Thangtlang town on October 6.
According to Chin tradition, cultural rites overseen by the deceased family and community must take place before a burial. Because Mai Shui Lay Tiel’s body was buried on the side of a road it shows the committee doesn’t respect Chin customs, the joint statement said.
The youth organizations want the COVID-19 Control and Response Committee to include Chin leaders, youth and members from community-based organizations.
The organizations that released the joint statement are Thangtlang Youth Association, Thangtlang Sianghleirun Chung Khar, Central Chin Youth Organization, Chin Literature and Culture Committee (Universities – Yangon), Zomi Siamsin Kipawlna – Myanmar, Chin Student Union (Kalay), Falam Phunsang Tlawngta Pawlkom, Lairawn Zirsang Pawlkom (Kalay), Zo Khangno Kipawlna (Tonzang), Zo Youth Organization (Tonzang), Mindat University Student’s Union, Hakha University Student’s Organization and Falam Mino Pawlkom.