Appalling conditions in Naga Hills Region under Burmese junta

A majority of the Naga, estimated to be about four million live on the Indian side, in Nagaland. The Naga in Burma is in the minority with an estimated population of over 200,000.

The Naga in Burma live in Homemalin Township, Khamthi Township, Leshi Township, Lahe Township, Namyun Township and Pangsau sub-township of Sagaing division and Shing Bwe Yang sub-township in Kachin State.

The people in the Naga Hills Region under the Burmese military junta have never got favours from the regime. Their neglect by the junta is appalling. Some of these people are forcibly recruited into the army. Their religious practices are controlled by the Burmese authorities.

After 1990, there has been religious persecution in the Naga Hills Region. Since the majority of Naga people are Christians, the Burmese military regime has been planning to develop the region under the military. The Buddhist religious organizations are keen on persuading the Naga people to convert to Buddhism.

In some villages, the Burmese junta has been burning churches. The people have been ordered by the Burmese authorities to convert to Buddhism and are being threatened by the authorities.  Villagers who don’t want to change their religion have to run away from their villages.

According to locals in the Naga region, the people tried to negotiate with the Burmese authorities to stop the religious persecution in the region twice in the past, but there has been no progress. The situation is said to be bad.

In every village in the Naga region, the population is half Buddhist and half Christians. The Burmese regime has built temples in a village and put in place fake monks.

Monks staying at a temple in a village are imposters. They are just pretending to be monks. If there are 10 monks in a temple, half of them are soldiers. Some carry guns.

All the monks receive financial assistance and food. Normally, they get 60,000 Kyat (US $ 59) per month. They also receive rice but they sell the rice to for money. Because villagers donate food to them, they can afford to sell the rice, said a local.

All Christian churches in the region have to register with the Burmese authorities and it is mandatory to put up the registration sign board on top of their church.

Being Christians in the region they have to struggle a lot and the Burmese authorities even beat up Christian missionaries who graduated from India. They are not allowed to carry out any mission in the region, a local added.

Because of poor transportation and road communication, the children from the region can’t afford to go to school. Most villages have only a primary school and if the children want to go to middle or high school, they have to study in the township. Children who have finished primary school cannot go for higher studies. They help their parents in farming.

On the other hand, the Burmese Army forcibly recruits youngsters including those under18 years of age.

According to local people from Shing Bwe Yang Township, in September 2007, the Burmese Army recruited over 80 people into the armed forces. They were from the Shing Bwe Yang Township.

Ring Aung is a staff reporter of Kachin News Group (KNG).

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