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More than 170 Myanmar refugees arrested in the Indian state of Manipur since January

Authorities in India’s northeastern state of Manipur have detained at least 170 refugees from villages along the Myanmar border since the start of the year, according to refugees and an aid group, prompting others to flee. take refuge in the jungle or return home to avoid arrest.

Salai Dokhar, the founder of India For Myanmar, a group that helps Myanmar refugees, told RFA Burmese that a special commando arrested the 170 refugees in January and February during door-to-door raids in 17 villages in Lawngtlai district. from the municipality of Moreh.

“Indian authorities have been searching and collecting population data on each and every house for about a month. We think they have a plan to do something once they have the statistics,” Dokhar said.

“As they are checking household members with the list they have, many people have fled. Many war-torn refugee schools have been closed. We are having such difficulties. News has spread that there are more arrests as well.”

Since the February 1, 2021 military coup in Myanmar, more than 60,000 people have crossed the border into India, according to India for Myanmar. More than 10,000 are in Manipur.

Indian authorities have repeatedly attacked the refugees, the organization says, noting that the operation was the fifth time in two years that police tried to detain them.

no safe harbor

The latest efforts to round up the refugees have forced many to seek refuge in the jungle and even cross the border into the Tamu township of the Sagaing region, where they face becoming victims of Myanmar’s post-coup conflict, Dokhar said. to FRG.

According to India for Myanmar, the 170 refugees have been held in Manipur’s Imphal prison since their arrest. The group said it is compiling a list of those arrested so far in March.

A Myanmar citizen in Manipur, who declined to be named for security reasons, told RFA that Indian authorities have ordered village managers in the state not to accept Myanmar refugees.

“The village chiefs ask (the refugees) to flee because they cannot help them when the authorities come to arrest them. Therefore, the refugees do not dare to stay in the temporary shelters they have built and run away when (the police) arrive,” he said.

“When (the police) find empty shelters, they ask why they are empty, whether they were refugee houses from Myanmar and the whereabouts of the owners. They order the village heads not to let the refugees stay and to take them back to where they came from.”

‘A helpless situation’

Another refugee in Moreh, who also declined to be named, told RFA that although they had fled to India seeking safety from Myanmar, they have been struggling to make a living as the authorities persecute them.

“We fled here to save our lives as our place of origin in our country is too dangerous to live. But it is very difficult to earn a living here. We have to look for random jobs for wages,” they said.

“We came here for safety, but the Indian authorities also arrested us here, and some of us have even died… refugees like us are helpless.”

In this February 25, 2023 photo, people gather at the coffin of a 32-year-old Chin refugee, who died in Imphal prison in India. Credit: Photo/Citizen Journalist

Lann Kho Chun, a 32-year-old refugee of ethnic Kuki-Chin from Myanmar, died suddenly on February 25 while in custody at Imphal prison. His case remains under investigation.

Aid workers told RFA that conditions in Imphal are poor and the refugees held there need medical and other assistance.

‘We will come back’

One worker condemned the Manipur government’s “lack of humanity”, noting that the refugees “did not leave our country for fun”.

“The military junta rules our country without law and citizens like us have to flee here from their atrocities because we don’t want to die. But if we have to face more dangers here, our lives will no longer be worth living,” the worker said.

“We don’t want to live here forever. Once the situation in Myanmar is stable again, we will return.”

RFA’s attempts to contact the Myanmar Embassy in New Delhi and the Indian Embassy in Yangon regarding the arrest of refugees went unanswered on Friday.

The arrests come as Lt. Gen. Soe Win, vice chairman of the junta, and Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Vinay Kumar held a meeting on March 7 in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw where they discussed issues related to stability and security. cooperation in Myanmar. -Border region of India, according to a recent announcement from the board.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Matt Reed.

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