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Give safe passage to Myanmar journalists: Manipur scribes’ forum

Young demonstrators flash the three-fingered symbol of resistance during an anti-coup mask strike in Yangon, Myanmar recently.   | Photo Credit: AP

A forum of Manipur journalists has appealed to the State government not to send back three of their Myanmar counterparts who fled the military junta and have taken shelter in border town Moreh.

The All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) also asked the government to give the three journalists a safe passage to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in New Delhi for seeking official refugee status under the international convention on refugees.

Also read: The Hindu Explains | Why do the Centre and the Mizoram government differ on Myanmar refugees issue?

“As a journalist body, we are alarmed by the prevailing situation in Myanmar, especially by the fate of the media and mediapersons in the country,” a statement issued by AMWJU president Bijoy Kakchingtabam said.

The three journalists from Mizzima, a multimedia news organisation in Myanmar, crossed over to Moreh a few days ago. Manipur-based journalists said the trio had been apprehensive about being pushed back into Myanmar by the Indian security forces.

“The union appeals to the Manipur government to make necessary concessions to allow the journalists to come to (State capital) Imphal and all facilities be extended to them so that they can proceed to Delhi to seek the protection of the UNHCR,” the statement said.

After the coup in February, the Myanmar military had revoked Mizzima’s licence, arrested several of its journalists, raided its office in Yangon and froze its bank account.

The AMWJU alluded to a letter by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the north-eastern States bordering Myanmar not to let “illegal migrants” from that country in. “That letter is with reference to illegal migrants but the Mizzima journalists at Moreh are obviously refugees seeking asylum within India due to prosecution in their country,” the union said.

Myanmar lawmakers

More Myanmar nationals are fleeing to adjoining Mizoram than Manipur. Officials in Mizoram capital Aizawl said a majority of some 2,200 people who have crossed over are police and fire service personnel and teachers.

Among them are 14 lawmakers from ethnic minority groups in Myanmar. A few of them are members of that country’s Parliament while the others represent a lower House equivalent to the Assembly of a State in India.

“People are coming in every day, but we cannot turn them away on humanitarian grounds. Many are hiding in the jungles along the border waiting for an opportunity to cross over,” V.L.T. Bawihtlung, president of Mizo Zirlai Pawl (students’ union), said.

Six Mizoram districts — Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual — share 510 of the 1,643 km land border that India shares with Myanmar.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 2:51:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/give-safe-passage-to-myanmar-journalists-manipur-scribes-forum/article34332636.ece

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