South Asia

Rally in Myanmar Demands Removal of Manipur Armed Groups From Region

A member of an armed group belonging to Manipur’s Meitei community is accused of killing a popular schoolteacher in Tonzang.

New Delhi: Tedim township in Myanmar’s Chin state, which borders the northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur, witnessed a huge rally of residents on November 30, demanding that the country’s army remove the camps of the armed groups belonging to Manipur’s Meitei community, and the cadres be expelled from their area.

The rally, jointly organised by 28 Zomi civil society groups including the Zomi Student and Youth Organisation (ZSYO), had over 500 protesters, who gathered to demand justice for the killing of a popular female school teacher in Tonzang area on November 17 night by a member of a Meitei armed group.

Locals said that the group has set up bases in the area since 2004, after a raid by the Indian Army led it to vacate its camps in Sajik Tampak in Manipur’s Chandel district.

It is believed that at least six armed groups under the umbrella group CORCOM has been taking shelter in the area. According to a report in The Irrawaddy, “A Tonzang resident, who requested not to be named, said that about 40 members of a Meitei insurgent group are living in Tonzang Town and estimated that 1,500 Meitei insurgents are living in the jungle.”

The militant who allegedly shot dead 27-year-old Dim Lun Mang, an ethnic Chin and a teacher at the Tuival Zaang village primary school in Tonzang, has been identified as M. Isaba Binod from Imphal (Manipur). According to the area’s residents, he shot at her after she complained that he was playing music too loudly and demanded that it be stopped at once.

He has since been in hiding.

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A Tedim resident, speaking to The Wire on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the rebels from Manipur “regularly pay huge amounts of cash to the security forces in Myanmar as protection money. In return the Burmese army stays away from the rebel bases. The peace-loving people of the Chin state are caught in between.”

He said, “These groups are also allowed to cultivate opium in the area. Local politicians, religious leaders and officials have been urging the government for years to drive out the Meitei rebel groups from our area and stop the practice of cultivating poppy seeds.”

A joint statement released by the 28 groups also stated that there has been an increase in the area of poppy fields controlled by the armed groups from Manipur. The Irrawady said, “Pau Kim Taung of ZYSO estimated that opium plantations cover some 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) in these areas and said that most of the workers are low-income local farmers.”

He said, “We feel insecure because we have armed people in our region and they are not our own ethnicity,” adding, “We are afraid of them and whatever happens, we dare not raise our voices. Also, the recent killing of the teacher is not the first such case. In 2009, the PLA [People’s Liberation Army of Manipur] commander also shot a Tonzang villager to death.”