Hundreds of Myanmar refugees in India trigger fears of mass exodus

By Sangzuala Hmar

Aizawl, India, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of Myanmar citizens, including police officers, have in recent weeks sought refuge in neighboring India after the recent coup, with the authorities of India’s northeastern border states calling for the establishment of refugee camps to deal with the possibility of a massive exodus.

However India’s central government has urged the local government to try and stop the influx.

With around 1,600 kilometers of shared borders, India has become a destination for many Burmese people fleeing the military repression after the Feb. 1 coup, in which around 150 people have been killed amid a wave of protests.

A large number of the refugees have arrived in the northeast Indian state of Mizoram, which shares 510 kilometers of its border with Myanmar and has historical and cultural links with the people of the neighboring country, dating back to even before the arrival of the British in the subcontinent. .

The Mizoram representative in the upper house of the Indian parliament, K Vanlalvena, on Wednesday told EFE that the number of people to have crossed the border from Myanmar into the province may have crossed 400.

He said that establishing an exact number of refugees was difficult as they feared the repression of the Myanmar military and prefered to remain in the region unreported, with the help of locals.

“The need of the hour is to set up proper refugee camps in Mizoram to ensure the safety and rehabilitation of the refugees,” Vanlalvena said.

The lawmaker said that he anticipated the influx to continue and even a “mass exodus” was possible as violence intensified in Myanmar.

C Zaikunga, the president of the Young Mizo (ethnicity) Association in the Lungkawlh village, situated in the Serchhip district, told EFE that the locals considered refugees from Myanmar as part of their family.

“The Myanmarese military juntas are using an iron hand to curb the pro-democratic movement. Even though we are divided by the international border they (refugees) still are our kins, we cannot turn them away,” said the leader.

He reported that 19 refugees, including 10 police officers, had taken refuge in the village.

The influx continues despite the Indian ministry of home affairs urging Mizoram and other northeastern states such as Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur to stop the irregular entry of Myanmar citizens from across the border.

The ministry insisted that India was not part of the 1951 Refugee Convention of the United Nations, and the four states were not authorized to grant refugee status to any foreigners.

Last week nonprofit Human Rights Watch urged the government ot offer protection to Myanmar citizens fleeing their country as well as stopping the ongoing deportation process of around 170 Rohingya refugees recently arrested in the northern Jammu and Kashmir region.

Around 40,000 members of the persecuted community in Myanmar, including 17,000 registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, have been living in India in a legal vacuum.

On Feb. 1, the Myanmar military, headed by General Min Aung Hlaing, overthrew the democratic government led by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under arrest.

Since then, the country has witnessed widespread citizens’ protests against the coup, with the military responding with severe repression and violence. According to the UN, at least 149 people have been killed by the Myanmar security forces since the coup. EFE-EPA


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