Tuesday 5 September 2023

India pushes back hundreds of Myanmar refugees fleeing fighting

Source RFA, 22 Aug
About 300 are sheltering in tents along the border and need food and supplies.sharethis sharing button
India pushes back hundreds of Myanmar refugees fleeing fightingBurmese civilians flee escalating armed conflict in Kampat, northwestern Myanmar's Sagaing region, near the Indian border, July 24, 2023.
 Citizen journalist

India has pushed back at least 300 hundred Burmese refugees who spilled across the border while fleeing fighting between Myanmar's military and rebel forces, forcing them to shelter in makeshift tents near the border, refugees and aid workers said. 

More than 1,000 residents of Tamu township, in northern Myanmar's Sagaing region, fled to India's Manipur state in July and August to escape the hostilities, only to have Indian soldiers turn them back, the sources said.

The hundreds of refugees living in tents in Indian villages near the border are facing food and supply shortages, a refugee from Tamu who was among them told Radio Free Asia.

Indian troops drove the Burmese refugees out of the villages after two or three days, forcing them to seek shelter near the Myanmar side of the border, he said.

"We are currently in need of rainfly sheets to build tents and many other supplies," he said.

Burmese and Indian authorities. meanwhile, have shut a key border crossing in the area.

Altogether, about 5,000 Burmese refugees from Tamu township have sought shelter in Manipur state due to the fighting, said Salai Dokhar, founder of India For Myanmar, a group that helps Burmese refugees in India. 

They are among about 50,000 Myanmar citizens who have fled to India since the military ousted Myanmar's democratically elected government in a February 2021 coup.

Bombings force villagers to flee

Junta troops conducted nighttime aerial bombings of Boke Kan village in Tamu township on Aug. 18, prompting more than 500 residents and others from nearby communities to flee to adjacent Manipur.

Similarly, on July 22, over 700 residents from Khampat, a 2,000-home township located about 8 kilometers (5 miles) southeast of the border with Manipur, fled across the border and into India because of a battle between junta forces and the resistance fighters.

Manipur authorities have been collecting biometric data from Burmese refugees, raising fears that the data could be shared with the junta, RFA reported earlier this month.

Thang Sei, an official from the Burma Refugee Committee Kabaw Valley, which is helping the Burmese refugees, told RFA that more than half of the refugees returned to Myanmar after a few days when fighting in Tamu stopped.

They went to the town of Kalay and other villages in Sagaing, but since junta troops continue to clear the Tamu area, it is still impossible for refugees to return to their homes there, said the refugee who is sheltering on the border.

Neither the Indian Embassy in Yangon nor the Myanmar Embassy in New Delhi, India, responded to RFA's requests for comment on the refugees.

The Indian government should reconsider its decision to expel Burmese refugees, said Salai Dokhar.  

"When Burmese people want good relations between Myanmar and India, this kind of action by India directly destroys our hopes for the future," he said. "That is why Indian officials need to review the way they handle Burmese issues."

Translated by Myo Min Aung for RFA Burmese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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