THE CHIN COMMUNITY In Malaysia
According to the UNHCR, there are over 22,520 Chin refugees living in Malaysia.
The Chin people are an ethnic group from Myanmar, from a region bordering India and Bangladesh.
Under the military junta that governed Myanmar since the 1960s, the Chin people endured forced assimilation and repression of their culture that resulted in violent confrontation. During the late 1980s to the 1990s, the increased militarization of the Chin state forced civilians into hard labor, leading many to flee to Malaysia.
Their struggles weren't over after making the perilous journey across borders.
Once a refugee arrives in Malaysia, they are greeted to a country that offers them little protection and restricted opportunities, although more stable from where they first came.
A key issue that Chin refugees and other refugee communities in Malaysia face is that government classifies them as illegal immigrants. This means that refugees in Malaysia have no legal protection and are barred access to their most basic rights. Even a registered UNHCR card only guarantees minimal protection.
Here are only a few of the hardships you would encounter as a refugee living in Malaysia:
You are forced to look for work under-the-table, and are often treated and paid poorly.
You are constantly at risk of arrest and deportation by the authorities, who will often extort you in exchange for your protection.
Children of refugees cannot attend government schools and are considered stateless, leaving them vulnerable and with little opportunities.
In June 2018, the UNHCR began to phase out protections of the Chin community, claiming that they no longer needed it as the situation back in the Chin state was less volatile. However, repatriation is not an option for most Chins. Many would have lost their citizenship due to a loss of documentation, as well as the fear of being embroiled within other conflicts in the surrounding states.
After media coverage, greater public awareness and scrutiny on the situation, March 14 2019 saw the UNHCR announce a reversal of the policy and recognized that the community still needs protection.
Here at INKAA we are dedicated to promoting dialogue about social issues.
We want to amplify unheard voices and support our makers with sustainable incomes and opportunities.
We invite you here to read about the stories beyond the headlines. These are the stories straight from the lived experiences of Chin refugees: what brought them to here, what their lives in Malaysia are like and the aspirations they have for the future.
Click on the posts below to learn about the people behind the your lovingly crafted items from INKAA.
Mang Tha, which means ‘sweet dreams’ in Burmese, is a refugee women-led empowerment group in Kuala Lumpur. It aims to improve the lives of the women, and also to create safe spaces for self-empowerment training and programmes.
The income generated through product sales benefits 30 to 45 women, and eventually contributes towards their families and communities’ well-being. It also provides funding for training, language classes, emergency fund and other activities.