As Myanmar Military Escalates Crackdown, Mizoram Sees Influx of Refugees

The Assam Rifles has also revealed that it has apprehended three people who were transporting explosives into the Indian side.

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New Delhi: With the escalation of the Myanmar military’s attacks on several civilian areas in Chin state, there have been reports of a rise in the number of refugees fleeing into the Indian border state of Mizoram, aside from news about transportation of “war-like stores” from across the border to the northeastern state.

An Indian Express report, quoting government sources and local non-governmental organisations which are helping the displaced persons, said more than 2,000 people would have entered Mizoram from the Chin state of Myanmar between January 5 and 20.

Additionally, on January 20, Assam Rifles, in a joint action with the Mizoram police, arrested at least three people – including a Myanmarese national belonging to the Chin National Front, the political organisation backing a pro-democracy civilian resistance movement in the Chin state. They were transporting explosives into the Indian side, the Mizoram Post reported.

M.C. Lalramenga, president of the Young Mizo Association’s Tuipuiral unit in Champai district that borders the Tiddim town of Myanmar, told the Indian Express that at least 50 refugees crossed over to the Indian side in the past two weeks due to the renewed violence. “Among those who crossed over were four people with injuries apparently caused by a bomb explosion. One of the four succumbed to the injuries, while three remain in the ICU of a private hospital in Aizawl,” Lalramenga said.

Government sources have, however, put the number unofficially at more 2,000. “These days, every day refugees are arriving in the border villages. We are trying to ascertain the number, but it is quite difficult,” a government source was quoted as saying in the report. According to the source, the highest influx had taken place in the Hnahthial area of Mizoram that borders the Chin town Falam. The report said over 1,000 people crossed over to the Indian side to escape the violence. 

Mizoram shares a 510-km long border with the Chin state. In July-August of 2021, at least 15,000 displaced persons from the Chin state had crossed into Mizoram. The pro-democracy civilian resistance group the Chin Defence Force the armed group Chin National Front were then engaged in a fierce fight with the military, referred to as the Tatmadaw.

The Young Mizo Association, the largest civil society body of the Mizos, has set up camps for the displaced people within the northeastern state and had also raised donations from the public for their upkeep. The Chins of Myanmar have common ancestry with the Mizos, the reason why chief minister Zoramthanga had also refused New Delhi’s orders to push them back to the conflict-ridden country.

According to the Mizoram Post report, an Assam Rifles officer said the unit and the state police “carried our an operation near Zawgling, a border village in south Mizoram’s Siaha district on Thursday (January 20)” The report said the team intercepted a mini truck carrying into Mizoram 2,500 kg of explosives and 4,500 metres of detonators. 

The report stated that one of the arrested persons was a member of the Chin National Front. The Chin National Army, its armed wing, has been fighting the Myanmarese army seeking self-rule since the 1980s. 

On January 19, the Chin National Front had joined hands with two other ethnic political groups – the Karen National Union and Karrenni National Progressive Party – to urge the United Nations and ASEAN to declare an internationally enforced military no-fly zone to protect civilians from air attacks. As per a report in The Irrawaddy, the plea of the three political groups through a joint statement had come in response to the UN special envoy for Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer’s proposal for an UN-ASEAN humanitarian aid programme to coordinate and deliver assistance to the affected communities through all existing channels. Heyzer had made the proposal on January 19 at a virtual discussion with the current ASEAN chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

While the Chin National Front was founded in 1988, the Karrenni National Progressive Party has been in place in the Karen state since 1957. The Karen National Union is Myanmar’s oldest ethnic political group, in existence since 1947.

The Irrawaddy report said, “Since late March (2021) when the military regime begun lethal crackdowns on peaceful anti-coup protesters, the junta has been facing increasingly intense attacks from PDFs (people’s defence forces) and EAOs (ethnic armed groups) including the KNU’s two armed wings, the Karen National Liberation Army and the Karen National Defense Organization, the Kachin Independence Army, the Chin National Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation army and the Karen Army.” 

It said, “Meanwhile, the junta is continuing its atrocities including arrests, torture, massacres, arbitrary killing, using civilians as human shields, shelling residential areas, looting and burning houses and committing acts of sexual violence, especially in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin, Shan, Kayah and Karen States.”