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Burma: Chin National Front (CNF); its size, aims, fundraising, supporters, treatment by authorities

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 19 April 2000
Citation / Document Symbol BUR34203.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Burma: Chin National Front (CNF); its size, aims, fundraising, supporters, treatment by authorities, 19 April 2000, BUR34203.E, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to Mondes Rebelles, the Chin National Front (CNF) was founded in 1987 with approximately 200 combatants (1996, 201), although a 1997 report states that it had "300 men under arms" (The Nation 2 May 1997). Mondes Rebelles further states that the CNF had received discreet support from India since the late 1980s, although The Nation suggests that a warming of India-Burma relations had led not only to the withdrawal of support, but overt action against CNF camps located on Indian territory (The Nation 2 May 1997). According to a 1998 report, the CNF was levying a 20% "safe passage" charge on arms smuggled through Chin territory destined for Assamese rebels in India (The Statesman 15 Apr. 1998). Similarly, a 1999 report states that the CNF was facilitating the transportation of arms through the Naga Hills to rebels in Northeast India (Bangkok Post 7 Oct. 1999). In December 1999 the CNF were accused of plotting the assassination of the wife of Indian President K.R. Narayanan and CNF members were reportedly being investigated by Indian intelligence (DPA 3 Dec. 1999).

The CNF joined the National Democratic Front (NDF), a union of ethnically‑based liberation organizations, at the NDF's Second Congress in March 1989 (FreeBurma n.d.). Delegates of the CNF also attended the Third and Fourth Congresses of the NDF in 1991 and 1997 respectively (ibid.). According to the Minorities at Risk Project, the CNF were also members of another union, the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB), formed in November 1988 (13 Aug. 1999). The DAB is part of a larger alliance, the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) (FreeBurma n.d.).

According to Mondes Rebelles the CNF was led by John Khaw Kim Thang in 1996 (1996, 201). However, the Minorities at Risk Project cites an August 1996 report which claims that the "founder and former president" of the CNF was in the custody of the Burmese authorities, without, however, naming the person (13 Aug. 1999). According to a 2 May 1997 report in the Bangkok newspaper The Nation, the CNF was led at that time by Thomas Tang No.

Several sources indicate that, unlike many other Burmese armed opposition groups, the CNF has repeatedly rejected the cease-fire conditions demanded by Burmese authorities (Mondes Rebelles 1996, 201; Minorities at Risk Project, n.d.; BurmaNet News 22 July 1998) and in June 1999 entered an alliance with other groups still in armed opposition (AFP 16 June 1999).

Detailed information regarding CNF activities and the treatment of CNF supporters could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to a Risk Assessment by the Minorities at Risk Project:

As of the late 1990s, the Chin National Front remains one of the few ethnic groups in Burma that has not reached a ceasefire agreement with the military junta. In July 1998, the CNF rejected the government's preconditions for talks which included a surrender of arms. Chin organizations have participated in various meetings that brought together the country's ethnic groups and opposition political forces. In June 1999, the Chin National Front and groups representing four other ethnic groups formed an alliance to coordinate their military and political campaigns against the Burmese government.

Specific information on the militant activities of the CNF and any other Chin rebel organizations is not readily available. But reports indicate that the CNF has been active in areas bordering India during the mid-1990s. Burmese opposition politicians report that conditions in Chin state have worsened in recent years. The Burmese army has increased its presence in the region and reports note various human rights abuses including the use of forced labor. The Chin peoples, who are largely Christian, are also reported to be subject to various forms of religious discrimination including restrictions on attending church services and the construction of religious structures. Christian graveyards have been desecrated and the Chins have been forced to build Buddhist monasteries. Buddhism is the state religion of Burma. There are some 110,000 Burmese refugees in India from Chin State and Sagaing Division (where many Christians reside). They reportedly fled due to governmental repression and harsh economic conditions.

Along with many of the country's other ethnic groups, the Chins seek an end to military rule and the establishment of a democratic federal union. They have supported the efforts of the National League for Democracy to convene a parliament which was mandated by the 1990 elections. It is not clear what portion of the Chin population supports secession instead of autonomy within Burma. As long of the military maintains power, the status of the Chins is unlikely to change in the near future (n.d.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

Agence France Presse (AFP). 16 June 1999. Mae Sot. "Myanmar Ethnic Minorities Form Anti-Junta Alliance." (NEXIS)

Bangkok Post. 7 October 1999. Dinesh Sharma. "Arms Smuggling: Indian Rebels Rely on Thai Weapons." (NEXIS)

BurmaNet News (Listserv, in English). 21 July 1998. "Chin National Front Blames Rangoon for Failure of Talks." (BBC Summary 22 July 1998/NEXIS)

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 3 December 1999. "Myanmar Rebel Group Threatens Indian President's Wife." (NEXIS)

FreeBurma. n.d. "The 3rd Congress of NDF." [Accessed 12 Apr. 2000]

_____. n.d. "The 4th Congress of NDF." [Accessed 12 Apr. 2000]

_____. n.d. "About the National Council of the Union of Burma." [Accessed 12 Apr. 2000]

Minorities at Risk Project. 13 August 1999. Min Oo and Deepa Khosla. "Zomis/Chins in Burma (Myanmar)." [Accessed 12 Apr. 2000]

Mondes Rebelles: Acteurs, Conflits et Violences Politiques. 1996. Edited by Jean-Marc Balencie and Arnaud de la Grange. Paris: Editions Michalon.

The Nation. [Bangkok, in English]. 2 May 1997. Aung Zaw. "Chin Rebels - Delhi Siding With Rangoon in Hostilities." (FBIS-EAS-97-122 2 May 1997/WNC)

The Statesman [India]. 15 April 1998. "N-E Ultras Enter Tie-up to Smuggle Arms." (NEXIS)

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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