Enote 08 – Meeting with Chin HelpersJanuary 23, 2004
News from the Foundation and the Border
Liz and I arrived at Don Maung airport, Bangkok, just after midnight Sunday morning January 18, after a thirty hour trip from Syracuse. Up at eight to start a very busy three days of interviews: 3 engineering students at Thammasat, 2 business majors at Bangkok University, 5 at Mahidol, 8 at Mission College, and 4 at Assumption University. Finally a bit of rest on the plane to Aizawl, but with a stopover in Calcutta, one of the most difficult and dirty cities I have been in.
All of this as preface to our visit with the Chin in Aizawl.
A Meeting with Refugees in Aizawl
The Chin refugees have had an uneasy relation with their Mizo cousins ever since they left Burma in substantial numbers in 1988. This tension was greatly exacerbated by a nasty incident this last summer which caused rioting in the streets and expulsion of several thousand refugees back in to Burma.
As a result, a small number of Chin who have great reason to fear return to Burma, are now living in two small camps in Mizoram, but they are still under daily threat of abuse and expulsion. This is, of course, directly contrary to UN rules on the treatment of refugees. But then Geneva proposes, and Aizawl disposes.
Mr. K. T. Chungnung, sitting to Liz's right in the picture, is the leader of Sihhmui one of the two refugee camps mentioned above. In trying to describe the tension that exists between the Chin and the Mizo, he told of an incident on December 28 in which a drunk Mizo entered a Chin house while several were gathered for a prayer meeting and started a fight. Before the fracas was halted, other Mizos came and several Chin men and women were beaten and stabbed.
Both the Sihhmui and Vombuk camps have been setup on a temporary basis, and have no education for their children. We are interested in trying to help these people who are obviously in great need. However the situation is complicated because the situation is still very unstable, and the appropriate response is not clear at this time. We plan to visit Sihhmui on Tuesday Jan. 27 and review the situation.
Visited three universities and over twenty students, and reviewed re-applications from them.
Met with Chin Education Committee, and talked individually with twenty-five students they have chosen for us to support.
Meeting with various Chin leaders, including the Aizawl Chin Education Committee, and five local Chin Women's Organizations to discuss our ongoing programs with them.
Planning for a trip to the River Kwai School with US donors who help to support that school. (This will take place shortly after our return to Thailand on January 29.)
Tom & Liz