Days after armed forces in Myanmar carried out a coup, some of the police personnel and civilians of the southeast Asian country crossed over to India and sought refuge in Mizoram. The police officers and their family members fled to India to avoid taking orders of shooting at civilians from the new military junta rulers in Myanmar.
According to the reports, more than 20 Myanmar citizens, including at least eight Myanmar police officers, have crossed over to India and have taken refuge at Lungkawlh village of Serchhip district in Mizoram. However, the locals claim the number is much more, as the villagers of the border areas of Champhai and Serchhip districts told the media that at least 50 people comprising unarmed police personnel and civilians from Myanmar have crossed over to the mountainous state since March 3. The government is yet to confirm the identity of some of these people who have crossed over to India.
A report by Eastmojo quotes an unnamed official saying that 11 of the intruders are police officers. The refugees have been houses in community halls for the time being, with further instructions awaited from the central govt.
As per the locals, the Myanmar police officials said they fled from their country after disobeying their superior officers’ orders to shoot at the civilians in the Chin state. The refugees have come into at least three border districts of Mizoram — Champai, Serchhip and Siaha. Champai shares a porous border with the Chin State of Myanmar, with the Mizo and Chin communities sharing ethnic roots.
According to the locals, all the intruders belong to the Chin ethnic group, to which the Mizo community of Mizoram belongs.
The security and the civilian administration in the North-Eastern states had anticipated the possibility of an influx of refugees into Mizoram soon after the Myanmar army carried out a coup against the elected government in the country.
According to reports, although Assam Riffles have clear instructions to not allow any unauthorised intrusion from Myanmar, they have taken a step back fearing clash with locals. “The Assam Rifles personnel are now observing and monitoring the situation and not controlling the refugees,” a source in the force said.
Officials waiting for orders from Delhi, SOP in place to handle refugee crisis
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga has said that his government will provide food and shelter for the refugees. He said, “Our brothers and sisters in Myanmar are currently facing problems because of the military coup, and we welcome those who are forced to flee into Mizoram for their physical safety. The government is mindful that they could face hunger and so has sanctioned funds accordingly”. The CM also added on Friday, “We have learnt that several refugees have crossed over to Mizoram. We will provide shelter and relief to those who seek refuge in the state till their return to their country.”
Deputy Commissioners of Serchhip Champai districts informed media the district authorities have been providing food and shelter to the people who came from across the border. Both DCs said that the entire matter is under investigation, and has been communicated to the higher authority and they are awaiting further instructions.
Meanwhile, the senior bureaucrats in the state capital Aizawl are awaiting directions from the centre. They have now prepared an SOP on how to get the refugees registered. The Deputy Commissioners have been asked to collect information of those arriving based on a performa the government has prepared.
As Myanmar citizens are entering Indian territory following the crackdown, the local organisations have demanded proper facilities for the refugees who are expected to arrive at the border in the coming days. Mizoram shares a 404-km-long porous international border with Myanmar.
Following the coup, the Indian security forces had intensified vigil along the 1,643-km-long Indo-Myanmar border.
In the meanwhile, the External Affairs ministry said that they are ascertaining facts in the matter. Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “As of now, we are ascertaining the facts. We will revert once we have more details on this.” He further added, “We are keeping a close eye on the situation in Myanmar. We are in talks with our partner countries on this. We have said that the issue must be resolved peacefully.”
On February 1, Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup against the democratically-elected government. The Myanmar military arrested most of the leaders and elected representatives of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD). Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the National League for Democracy to a landslide win in the 2020 elections has also been arrested.
In a broadcast on its own television, the military declared a one-year state of Emergency. The coup came ahead of the scheduled opening of Myanmar’s newly elected lower house of Parliament.
The military had alleged that the general elections held in November 2020 were not legal and full of “irregularities”. Calling the elections rigged, the Army had invalidated the results, that was swept by NLD. The military had demanded that the United Elections Commission (UEC) of Myanmar to prove at a special session that the elections were free and fair.