The Chief Minister of Myanmar’s Chin state, Salai Lian Luai, has taken shelter in India’s Mizoram from the military coup-hit neighbouring country while 9,250 Myanmarese, including women and children, have already taken refuge in the bordering state, officials said yesterday night.
Bordering Bangladesh, Chin, a state in Western Myanmar, shares its western border with the northeastern state of Mizoram.
A senior official of Mizoram Home Department said last night that the Chin state Chief Minister came to Champhai town in eastern Mizoram on the night of June 14.
The official, on the condition of anonymity, said that 24 lawmakers, including Luai, of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), have taken shelter in different districts of Mizoram, especially in the bordering areas.
“The 9,250 Myanmarese nationals are provided shelter and food by various civil society, student and youth organisations and NGOs. Many of the Myanmarese are also being sheltered by the locals,” the official said.
A majority of those who have taken shelter in the bordering state belong to the Chin, also known as the Zo community who share the same ancestry, ethnicity and culture as the Mizos of Mizoram.
According to Mizoram police’s CID (Crime Investigation Department), around 9,250 Myanmar nationals, who fled their country since the military seized power in the neighbouring country on February 1, are currently staying in 10 of the state’s 11 districts with Champhai housing the largest number of around at 4,160.
Six Mizoram districts – Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual – share a 510 km long unfenced border with Myanmar.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga had earlier urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide asylum, food and shelter to those refugees who have arrived in the state since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1.
Referring to Union Home Ministry’s advisories to the Chief Secretaries of the four northeastern states bordering Myanmar and also to the Assam Rifles and Border Security Forces for taking action to prevent illegal influx from Myanmar into India, Zoramthanga said, “This is not acceptable to Mizoram.”
A Mizoram government delegation comprising the state’s Lok Sabha member C. Lalrosanga, Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena, the State Planning Board Vice-Chairman H. Rammawi had already met separately with Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and others in Delhi and persuade them to impress upon the government not to forcefully push back the Myanmar nationals sheltered in Mizoram.
Meanwhile, the MHA had earlier given directions to the chief secretaries of four northeastern states – Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur – sharing borders with Myanmar not to entertain Myanmar refugees. It also instructed Assam Rifles to seal the border and prevent entry from the neighbouring country, the statement said.
The MHA letter reiterated that the state governments and UT administrations have no power to grant “refugee” status to any foreigner and India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol. The four northeastern states share a 1,643 km unfenced border with Myanmar.
A one-year state of emergency has been declared in Myanmar where power has been transferred to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing after President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were detained by the military on February 1.