03/30/2021, 15.48
INDIA
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Thousands of Myanmar refugees cause border tensions

by Nirmala Carvalho

Thousands of Myanmar refugees, including policemen, have fled to neighbouring India. In Manipur, state authorities have been forced by public opinion to rescind an order to turn back refugees. Some 3,000 Karen fled to Thailand because of air strikes, and are stranded at the border.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar's crisis is spreading to neighbouring countries, as more and more people flee army violence crossing into India and Thailand.

The situation is particularly tense in the Indian State of Manipur. The local government has been forced by public opinion to backtrack after asking border officials last Friday to “politely turn away” those seeking refuge in India after local authorities started setting up food and shelter camps for Myanmar citizens fleeing their homeland.

The State’s Home Department had instructed deputy commissioners in Chandel, Tengnoupal, Kamjong, Ukhrul, and Churachandpur to prevent Aadhar (identity) enrolment and take to safe custody the kits used in the procedure. Officials had also been asked to report on the situation by today.

In the letter withdrawing the order, the Home Department said that its order had been misconstrued.

“In order to avoid this misunderstanding I am directed to convey the decision of the government that it has decided to withdraw the letter dated 26.03.2021,” writes H Gyan Prakash, Special Home Secretary to the State government, in the letter. “The government has been taking all humanitarian steps . . . including taking them (refugees) to Imphal, to treat the injured Myanmarese nationals.”

Another 1,042 refugees have also reached neighbouring Mizoram in the past few weeks, including a number of police officers and firefighters who choose to desert rather than go against protesters. Local NGOs are offering assistance to refugees.

On 10 March, India’s Home Affairs Ministry wrote to the chief secretaries of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh and to the Assam Rifles guarding the Indo-Myanmar border to check the influx of people from Myanmar and  identify illegal migrants and deport them.

However, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga replied that, since the people of his state were ethnically related to Chin refugees from Myanmar, they could not remain indifferent to the suffering in the neighbouring country.

Meanwhile, Myanmar's ambassador to the UN, who is still loyal to the democratic government overthrown by the military, appealed to India and the governments of other neighbouring countries to accept refugees during the ongoing crisis.

On Myanmar's eastern border, about 3,000 ethnic Karen have fled to Thailand in the last few hours after Myanmar planes carried out air strikes against a village controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU). The military operation was retaliation for a KNU-led attack on an army outpost that left 10 people dead.

Karen groups have accused Thailand of turning back at least 2,000 of these refugees. Thai authorities have rejected the accusation, claiming that they are still at the border. Thailand's policy, said an official source, is to block them at the border, and deny them any contact with outside relief organisations.

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