Indian consulate in Sittwe relocates staff in view of situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, says MEA

Regarding the Indians who are travelling to Myanmar, they should observe proper safety protocols and take care of themselves while the embassy is there to take care of them, said the MEA spokesperson

Updated - April 13, 2024 01:47 am IST

Published - April 12, 2024 05:04 pm IST

India-Myanmar border in Mizoram.

India-Myanmar border in Mizoram. | Photo Credit: AP

In view of the ongoing conflict between the military junta of Myanmar and the Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) India has ‘temporarily moved’ the staff from its consulate in the port city of Sittwe in the Rakhine province, the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Randhir Jaiswal announced on Friday. The announcement came a day after the Myanmar military lost control of a major commercial centre to an armed group in the Southeastern part of the country near Thai border.

“India has temporarily moved staff from its consulate in Sittwe to Yangon in view of the fighting in Rakhine state of Myanmar. Our consulate in Mandalay remains fully functional,” said Official Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal confirming the removal of the Indian officials from the strategically important location. Shifting of the Indian diplomats from Sittwe has added to the prevailing regional anxiety over the intensifying internal military conflict in Myanmar.

Earlier in the weak, the junta lost control of Myawaddy located near Myanmar-Thailand border which fell to the forces of the Karen National Union. Myawaddy with nearly 200,000 people is one of the major towns to have been captured by the rebel forces that are fighting to dislodge the military junta. The junta is besieged by a multi-pronged insurgency that is targeting its control over the country’s major commercial and political centres.

In January, the junta’s soldiers were driven out from Paletwa in the north near Mizoram borders. Speculation had been rife about the threat to Sittwe since the fall of Paletwa to the Arakan Army which like the Karen National Union and the Chin National Front constitutes a part of the large array of anti-junta EAOs of Myanmar. Located along the Kaladan river, Paletwa township is important for India’s multimillion dollar Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP).

Sources in the anti-junta National Unity Government (NUG) had told The Hindu earlier that the fall of Paletwa was the prelude to a climax that was going to overwhelm the junta’s hold in Sittwe which is home to a deep water port and a strategic airfield of Myanmar. It is understood that the rebels will try to gain maximum territory ahead of the onset of the monsoon season in Myanmar. Members of the Arakan Army which has established control in most part of Rakhine, in late February met with the Rajya Sabha MP from Mizoram K. Vanlalvena. Mr Vanlalvena led a team to inspect the condition of the KMMTTP which aims to connect India’s Northeast with the Kolkata port through the port of Sittwe.

The significance of withdrawal of Indian diplomats from Sittwe can be measured by the fact that just a year earlier, the city had hosted Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal who had inaugurated the upgraded Sittwe port with Myanmar’s Deputy Prime Minister Admiral Tin Aung San. Officials maintained that India is keeping a close watch on the evolving situation in Myanmar indicating growing concern about the condition of the military junta. Over the last few months soldiers and civilians from Myanmar have often taken refuge in Bangladesh, India and Thailand. Recent reports suggest that a large number of Burmese citizens of Nepalese origin have fled Myanmar and taken refuge in Bangkok, Phuket and other major Thai cities seeking shelter from the conflict back home.

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