Mizoram awaits Centre’s direction on Myanmar refugees

State Home Minister declined to provide details or number of those seeking asylum because of the “sensitive” situation

March 09, 2021 09:10 pm | Updated 09:10 pm IST - GUWAHATI

A Chin refugee from Myanmar adjusts the dress of another refugee dressed as lady justice during a protest against military coup in Myanmar, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

A Chin refugee from Myanmar adjusts the dress of another refugee dressed as lady justice during a protest against military coup in Myanmar, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

The Mizoram government has declined to provide details or number of Myanmar nationals who have crossed over since March 1 seeking asylum after the coup in the neighbouring country.

The government is also awaiting instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on how to handle the foreign nationals who had fled fearing a military crackdown. The Tatmadaw, or Myanmar military, had taken over the country after a coup in February.

“There is no proper instruction from the Centre, and it is not fair. I am ready to help the people in my individual capacity and from the government on humanitarian grounds,” Mizoram’s Environment and Transport Minister T.J. Lalnungtluanga told The Hindu on Tuesday.

He represents the Champhai South Assembly constituency that has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis.

Mizoram’s Home Minister Lalchamliana declined to quantify the refugees who have trickled into the border districts of Champhai, Hnahthial, Serchhip and Siaha.

Also read: Process asylum pleas of Myanmar refugees in Mizoram, rights group asks NHRC

“We are officially not disclosing details and the number of people who came from Myanmar, as the matter is highly sensitive involving two neighbouring countries. We have communicated the details to the MHA,” he said.

Locals said more than 100 Myanmar nationals have entered Mizoram since March 1, mostly wading across the shallow Tiau river that flows along much of the State’s 404 km border with the coup-hit country. The border district authorities had initially put up some of the refugees in community halls, providing them food and security.

But they have since maintained silence on the whereabouts of the refugees. “The government has instructed us not to speak to the media,” Champhai Deputy Commissioner Maria C.T. Zuali said.

The China factor in India’s diplomatic relationship with Myanmar is believed to be the reason behind the instruction, particularly after the Myanmar border authorities wrote to their Mizoram counterparts to hand over at least eight police deserters “in order to uphold friendly relations between the two neighbour countries”.

Officials in State capital Aizawl said there have been no “fresh influx” since Monday evening. Tighter vigil along the border by the Assam Rifles personnel was one of the reasons, an official said.

The border trade routes have been closed. A gate on the bridge connecting Zokhawthar in Champhai and Rih in Myanmar, for instance has been shut keeping some asylum-seekers out. Some Myanmar people, presumably officers, had used this bridge to drive across three days ago.

But officials said the terrain has made it difficult to prevent people from entering through wooded stretches of the border. The affinity between the dominant Mizos of Mizoram and the ethnically related Chin refugees has also come into play.

Locals said members of Chin Pawlmi have been helping the refugees find shelter in villages, distributing the load among relatives and associates. The Chin Pawlmi is an organisation of the Chin people who have been living in Mizoram for business and work for decades.

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