Thursday, February 20, 2014

As presented on this auspicious day,

Rev. Eddie N. Hang

Zomi Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee

United States of America

Burma, the country where we came from, is surrounded by Bangladesh on the West, India on the Northwest, China on the North to Northeast, and Thailand on the East to Southeast.

There are eight major ethnic groups in Burma: Bama, so-called Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Shan, and Yakhaing. The Bamas (Burmans) are the dominant group, comprising about 60 percent of the total population of .about 53 millions.

Burma fought three wars with the British: the first from 1824 to 1826; the second from 1852 to 1853; and the third from 1885 to 1886. Arakan (Yakhaing) and Tenasserim (Taninthaye) were annexed in the first Anglo-Burmese War; and Lower Burma, in the second Anglo-Burmese War. The annexed territories were designated as minor (a Commissionership) of British Burma of British India in 1862. Burma totally fell to the British with the annexation of Upper Burma in the third Anglo-Burmese War. A province of Burma was then created the following year 1886, to become a province (a Lieutenant-Governnorship) in 1897. And Burma began to be administered separately by the Burma Office under the Secretary of State for India and Burma, lasting until 1937.

The province of Burma, after 1885, was administered as:

Ministerial Burma (Burma proper)

Tenasserim Division (Toungoo, Thaton, Amherst, Salween, Tavoy and Mergui Districts)

Arakan Division (Akyab, Northern Arakan or Arakan Hill Tracts, Kyaukpyu and Sandoway Districts)

Pegu Division (Rangoon City, Hanthawaddy, Pegu, Tharawaddy and Prome Districts)

Irrawaddy Division (Bassein, Henzada, Theyetmyo, Maubin, Myangmya and Pyapon Districts), and

Scheduled Areas (Frontier Areas):

Chin Hills

Kachin Tracts and

Shan States.

The "Frontier Areas", also known as the "Excluded Areas" or the "Scheduled Areas", compose the majority of states within Burma today. They were administered separately by the British with a Burma Frontier Service, to be united later with Burma Proper to form Myanmar's geographic composition today. The Frontier Areas were inhabited by ethnic minorities such as the Chins, the Shans, the Kachins and the Karenni (Red Kayins).

The region where my people lived used to be designated as one of the Excluded Areas or Frontier Areas. The other two were Kachin Tracts and Shan States.

They were administered separately by the British with a Burma Frontier Service, The Frontier Areas were inhabited by ethnic minorities such as the Chins, the Kachins and the Shans. .

The dominant Burman group have been calling us Chins since the 13th century, without any concern if and how the people concerned would feel about it.

Bertram Sausmarez Carey and Henry Newman Tuck wrote a book together for the expressed purpose of assisting the Frontier Officers, both civil and military. On page 3 of the book, they wrote that

Those of the Kuki tribe we designate as “Chins” do not recognize that name.

Later on, they came to realize that

Yo is the general name by which the Chins call their race.

In spite of the fact that we did not identify ourselves as Chins, the British simply took on the name that the dominant Burmans had been used to calling us when they occupied Burma, and that is how we came to be known as Chins around the world.

However, we have never identified ourselves as Chins. The word Chin is a Burmese equivalent of the American “N” word to us.

We prefer to be identified as Zomi in our own term.

But if we are honest enough to accept the truth, we do not know exactly where and when we came from. The earliest history of what we know from oral tradition was when we lived at what was known as Ciimnuai.

Ciimnuai was first settled by Pu Mang Sum of Thawmte tribal clan. And I am proud to be a descendant of Thawmte. Tribal chiefs ruled and took tributes from the people one after another from that time on.

For various reasons, we spread out from Ciimnuai to which are now Cikha Township, Tedim Township and Tonzang Township in Chin State in Burma.

Chin State by the way is the Northwest part of Burma near the border between India and Burma.

When General Aung San, the architect of Burma’s independence, wanted to gain independence from Britain, he realized that without the participation of the Frontier Peoples, independence from Britain would hardly be achieved. He thus invited the so-called Chins, Kachins and Shans to Panglong to unite and sign an agreement to form the Parliamentary Union of Burma.

To make it short to the point, the Panglong Agreement was signed on February 12, 1947.

One of the tenets of the Agreement, Agreement number 7, guaranteed the rights and privileges of citizens of the Frontier Areas, which are regarded as fundamental in democratic countries.

Burma eventually became independent on January 4, 1948.

Under the leadership of Mr. Vumthu Maung, a public convention was held for three days from February 20 to 22, 1948, in Falam Town, and the abolishment of chieftainship and tributes-paying were officially announced to the public.

February 20 was later designated as Zomi National Day on October 9, 1950, by the Chin Affairs Council, and the first Zomi National was celebrated on February 20, 1951, in Mindat Town in Southern Chin State.

From that time on, Zomi National Day has been celebrated on February 20 every year.



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