Chin people

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Regions with significant populations

2+ million Myanmar, India, Bangladesh 14,000+ in USA, 70,000+ in Malaysia,

15,000+ Australia, Europe, rest of Asia
Lai, Matu, Cho (Müün), Kuki, Siyin (Sizaang), Zo, Zopau, Dai, M'Kaang, Yinduu Daa, Mizo
Majority: Christianity
Minority: Animism and Buddhism

The Chin (Burmese: ချင်းလူမျိုး; MLCTS: hkyang lu. myui:, pronounced: [tɕɪ́ɴ lù mjó]) are an ethnic group in Burma.[1] The Chins are found mainly in western part of Burma (the Chin State) and numbered circa 2 million.[citation needed] They also live in the nearby Indian states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur and Assam.[2]

History and Politics[edit]

The Chin people are of Tibet-Mongolian origin. The Chin probably came to Burma, especially the Chindwin valley in the late 9th or 10th century AD.

Most Chin people moved westward and they probably settled in the present Chin State thought to be around 1300-1400. The Chin people do not have factual records of their history as the Chin practice oral traditions.

"The British first conquered Burma in 1824, established rule in 1886, and remained in power until Burma’s independence in 1948. The 1886 Chin Hills Regulation Act stated that the British would govern the Chins separately from the rest of Burma, which allowed for traditional Chin chiefs to remain in power while Britain was still allotted power via indirect rule (Human Rights Watch, 2009). Burma’s independence from Britain in 1948 coincided with the Chin people adopting a democratic government rather than continuing its traditional rule of chiefs.Chin National Day is celebrated on February 20, the day that marks the transition from traditional to democratic rule in Chin State (Center for Applied Linguistics, 2007).

The new-found democracy of Chin State ended abruptly in 1962 with the onset of the military rule of General Ne Win in Burma (Center for Applied Linguistics, 2007). Ne Win remained in power until 1988 when nationwide protests against military rule erupted. These uprisings, commonly known as the 8-8-88 because of the date on which they occurred, were met by an outburst of violence by the military government. The violent government response killed approximately 3,000 people in just a matter of weeks and imprisoned many more (Human Rights Watch, 2009). It was during this period of resistance to military rule, that the Chin National Front (CNF) and its armed branch, the Chin National Army (CNA), gained momentum (Human Rights Watch, 2009)." [3]

The name "Chin"[edit]

The name "Chin" is disputed. During the British era, the British used the compound term 'Chin-Kuki-Mizo' to group the Kukish language speaking people, and the government of India inherited this.[4] Missionaries chose to employ the term Chin to christen those on the Burmese side and the term Kuki on the Indian side of the border.[5][6] Chin nationalist leaders in Burma's Chin State popularized the term "Chin" following Burma's independence from Britain.[7]

More recently Chin has been rejected by some for Zomi, though the Zomi are also one small Northern Kukish language group.[8] Some Zomi nationalists now consider that Chin would mean subtle Paite domination Chini-Kuki-Zomi identity, which other groups like Hmars, Zou/Zo Hmal, Koms may not coopt.[9][10]

The term Mizo can cause confusion, particularly following the emergence of the Zomi National Congress.[11][12]


Elderly Chin woman in the Lemro River valley, note the facial tattoos

There are many tribes among the Chin people, such as Yinduu (Daa), Kaang, Ukpu (chin pon), Zo, Thai, Tedim/Sim (who prefer to call themselves Zomi, as the word "Chin" is not in their own language; note the resemblance to Mizo of the neighbouring Mizoram state in India). Major tribes of the Chin include Asho, Chro/Cho, Khumi, Zomi, Laizo, Laimi,[13] Matu, Mara, etc. They are related to the Kukis of Nagaland, Manipur and Assam. For want of a more acceptable common name, they are usually called the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people, bringing together the three most common names for them, whether given by outsiders or themselves.[14]

There are also tens of thousands of Chin people in Mizoram State, India, mainly in the area of the Lai Autonomous District Council, formerly part of Chhimtuipui District, and a sizable population live in Churachandpur district of Manipur, consisting of smaller tribes like the Hmar, Paite,((Vaiphei people/Vaiphei)) Simte, Zou, Gangte and others. Bawn tribe in Southern Mizoram State and Pakistan are descendants of the Lai tribe. This Chin/Mizo/Zomi/Kuki people are scattered into three countries: Burma, Pakistan, and India. The Chin speak several Kukish languages; Ethnologue lists 49 languages in this group, of which 20 contain the word "Chin" in their name.[15]

Chin traditions[edit]


Chin language has approximately between 40 - 45 dialects among Chin Tribes. There are also so many different accent among the same dialects. Many Chin people also spoke Burmese Language since Burmese language is the first official language in Myanmar. The most spoken language are Tedim (among Norther Chin), Hakha and Falam (Central Chin), and Mindat (among Souther Chin). Some of the Dialects are so distinct that people from Northern Chin have a hard time to understand Southern Chin's language.[16]

Attempts to unify[edit]

The realisation that these are of one and share common dialectical root and customs even though separated by international and state boundaries brought about movements for unification of the occupied territories and of the people. One of the first movements being the MNF (Mizo National Movement) which ended with the formation of the Mizoram State in India. Another complicated matter among the Chin-Mizo-Kuki is the acceptance of a common name.

Religions and Practices[edit]

In around late 1800’s, Frist Christian missionaries arrived in Chin State.[17] The majority of Chins are Christians, with most belonging to Protestant denominations, especially Baptist.[18]

Traditionally, the Chin were animists. Due to the work of Arthur E. Carson a Baptist missionary, many converted to Christianity. Many Chins have served as evangelists and pastors, ministering in places like the United States, Australia, Guam and India.

A small group of individuals from Mizoram claimed that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel, that of Bnei Menashe tribe; some have since resettled in Israel.

Global Chin community[edit]

Because of the current situation in Burma, thousands of Chins are scattered in Europe, United States and Southeast Asia. American Baptist, British Anglican and Swedish Lutheran church groups helped relocate thousands of Chin people.

Global Chin News, World News in Chin, World and Chin-Burmese News in Chin, Chin Cable Network, Chin News Channel, Chinland Today and Chin Articles and News, are some well known Chin media websites that broadcast daily news in Chin languages.

Chin Refugee[edit]

"It is estimated that at least 60,000 Chin refugees are living in India while more than 20,000 Chin refugees are living in Malaysia. Several thousands more are scattered in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand (Chin Human Rights Organization, 2010).

The majority of Chin refugees entering the United States are Christians who are either young, single males or young couples (20-40 years old), some with children. Most are uneducated and come from villages. Many are pushed to leave by their parents for fear that they will be forced by Burmese government to take part in dangerous or difficult jobs that range from road paving to human mine sweeping – it has been documented that civilians forced to porter in Burma’s conflict areas are sometimes sent before the troops so that they will detonate mines (Online Burma/Myanmar Library, 2010). The government is known to treat ethnic groups and non-Buddhists more harshly than the predominant Burmese ethnic group (68%) and Buddhists (89%) (CIA World Factbook, 2009). "The Chins are a double minority" explained one refugee interviewed for this profile. Because of this discrimination, some Chin refugees may not want to be called Burmese.

The Chins who flee from Burma usually enter the United States directly from Thailand, Malaysia, and India. For most leaving Burma, the trip is illegal, dangerous, and expensive. There are brokers involved who charge approximately $1000 per person to transport refugees across the border. If those fleeing are caught by either the Burmese government or the government of the country they are trying to enter, they face imprisonment that may include harsh treatment such as being beaten. Those in refugee camps (located mainly in Thailand) are told that it will be easier to gain entry into the United States if they have children, thus many young, new parents (sometimes still in their teen years) are entering the United States and need jobs immediately in order to support their young families."[19][20]

Famous Chins[edit]


  1. ^ Head, Jonathan, Burma's 'abused Chin need help', BBC News, Jan 28, 2009, accessed Jan 28, 2009
  2. ^ Chin Cultural Profile
  3. ^
  4. ^ Violence and identity in North-east India: Naga-Kuki conflict, page 201, S.R. Tohring, 2010 "... for these tribes including • the Kuki/ speaking tribe such as: 'Chin', 'Mizo', 'Chin-Kuki-Mizo', 'CHIKIM', 'Zomi', 'Zou', 'Zo'. ... During the British era, the British rulers used the term 'Chin-Kuki-Mizo' and the Government of India seemed to follow ..."
  5. ^ Sachchidananda, R. R. Prasad, Encyclopaedic profile of Indian tribes, Page 530 1996
  6. ^ Pradip Chandra Sarma, Traditional Customs and Rituals of Northeast India: Arunachal ... Page 288 Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture "chose to employ the term Chin to christen those on the Burmese side and the term Kuki on the Indian side of the ... The Mizo of today's Mizoram are the descendants of Luseia, and the Zomi of Manipur are from the Songthu line, and thus all ..."
  7. ^ Amy Alexander Burma: "we are Like Forgotten People" : the Chin People of Burma Page 16 2009 "... within Chin State, Chin nationalist leaders popularized the term "Chin" following Burma's independence from Britain."
  8. ^ History of Zomi T. Gougin - 1984 "In Burma the people like to renounce the term Chin in favour of Zomi. Zomi is becoming more and more popular in Churachandpur district of Manipur adjoining the Chin State of Burma as group identity in repudiating Chin and Kuki. The term ..."
  9. ^ B. Datta-Ray Tribal identity and tension in north-east India Page 34 1989 "Now to accept the term Chin would mean subtle Paite domination in the matter, which the other groups like the Hmars, Zous, Anals and Koms may not coopt. A Zomi leader categorically stated that 'Chin' is a Burmese word which literally ..."
  10. ^ Keat Gin Ooi - Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East ... - Volume 1 - Page 353 2004 "Until recently, there appeared to be a consensus that the term Chin was not an identity that any of these peoples would ... Some promote the terms Zo and Zomi, stating that they are derived from the name of the mythic common ancestor of all ..."
  11. ^ Ramamoorthy Gopalakrishnan - Socio-political framework in North-East India Page 149 1996 "Later, the term 'Mizo' created a lot of confusion particularly when the Zomi National Congress emerged. ... But the problem arose with the use of the term 'Chin' (it is not given due recognition in the List of Scheduled Tribes in Manipur)."
  12. ^ Chinkholian Guite - Politico-economic development of the tribals of Manipur: a study ... Page 8 1999 "Conceptual Meaning and Various Interpretations of the Terms — Chin, Kuki and Mizo (a) Chin The term Chin is the name given to this Zo/Zou tribes (formerly known as Chin-Kuki-Mizo) group of people in Myanmar (Burma). They are mostly found in the ..."
  13. ^ Alexander, Amy (2009). Burma: "we are like forgotten people": the Chin people of Burma : unsafe in Burma, unprotected in India. Human Rights Watch. p. 13. ISBN 2-564-32426-6. 
  14. ^ Ethnologue report for Kuki-Chin. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  15. ^ Ethnologue report for Kuki-Chin. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Chin Cultural Profile
  19. ^
  20. ^

External links[edit]