Myanmar citizens flee to India to escape violence

A Myanmar girl who fled to India with her mother.

This young girl sneaks into India across the border with her mother

Myanmar citizens have fled the country in the aftermath of a military coup in violence against civilians. Many people living near the border are trying to evacuate to India, BBC Hindi Raghvendra Rao reports.

It was her third attempt for Makai to finally arrive in India. She crossed using a dirt track in the woods. Others came via underground storm drains that connect the villages on either side of the border.

Unlike the previous two attempts, this time Indian security forces did not stop her.

A 42-year-old woman, renamed to protect her identity, fled her home in Myanmar’s Tam border district earlier this month with her sister and daughter. They traveled to Manipur, northeastern India. That was all they could do to save them, Makai said.

“I had a chance to escape now,” she said. “If I had been waiting longer, I might not have had another chance.”

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is on the verge of violence. In February, troops overthrew a democratically elected government and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In the weeks since then, it has crushed protests against the coup.

According to rights groups, the military killed more than 600 people. Includes 43 children. Makai says soldiers have invaded the house and raped and killed civilians.

The Indian border guard on the border between India and Myanmar.

The border between India and Myanmar was closed during the pandemic

Witnesses tell the story of people who were killed even in the streets and homes- Including a 6-year-old child allegedly shot dead Searching for a house when she rushed to her father.

In a recent interview, Army spokesman Brig Gen Zaw Min Tun said: The army would never have shot a child in their house-and if that happened, they would investigate the case.

However, reports of such atrocities by security forces are widespread, causing international protests.

“We have been scared to live at home since the violence began,” Makai said. “We spent so many nights hiding in the woods.”

Manipur Government Recently, he told border officials to “carefully keep away” refugees from Myanmar. -After that, the order was withdrawn due to public opposition. Second, the state government said it had taken “all humanitarian measures,” including the treatment of injured refugees from Myanmar.

However, unauthorized migrants are a politically criticized issue in India, especially as local elections are underway in West Bengal and Assam.

Myanmar citizens crossing the border on dirt tracks.

People cross borders with dirt tracks and forest covers

Two other women who traveled to India with Makai told the BBC that they would consider returning only if the situation improved. Their husband and other men in the family are still in Myanmar.

“Men can fight as needed. For us women, if the army suddenly knocks, it’s hard to escape,” said Winnie, who was also renamed. She ran away from Tam with her teenage daughter.

They rely on their neighbors in the More district of Manipur until they can safely go home. Located along the border between India and Myanmar, More is in a state of intense action as all official routes between the two countries are blocked.

For years, India and Myanmar have implemented free-movement regimes that allow locals on each side to travel up to 16 km (10 miles) on the other side and stay there for up to 14 days. The arrangement was suspended in March 2020 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Both people wanted the border to reopen this year, but the February coup shattered their hopes.

Women who sell milk from Tam in Myanmar to More in India every day.

Tam’s women go into leaks every day and sell milk

It does not prevent many Myanmar citizens from still risking unauthorized journeys across porous borders.

“It’s hard to come to India. Indian security forces often stop us, but we can manage to sneak in,” said a trader who comes to More every day to feed about 20 households. Said. “Everything is back home and closed-there are bomb firings and explosions.”

The opposition to the coup in Myanmar has moved many troops to other areas, weakening border protection. The Indian army is less deployed along this border, greatly reassuring those traveling daily.

After selling their products, these Myanmar citizens rush back to their side of the border using dirt tracks and bushes. Some believe that security forces on both sides are blind to this move.

Two young Myanmar citizens, about 100 km (62 miles) from Moret in Manipur’s capital, Imphal, were injured by a bullet that they said they had suffered during a clash between protesters and troops on the night of March 25. I was recovering at a public hospital.

“Myanmar soldiers were trying to plunder the jewelery story in Tam. They fired when locals opposed and protested. I was shot,” said one of the injured men.

“Police have long come to deal with protests, but this type of violence is unprecedented,” others said. “The situation began to worsen when the army began firing on people.”

On the night of the clash, the men were taken to the hospital from Tam to More. But unlike women who left home in Myanmar, men want to return to their families as soon as possible.

Closing the India-Myanmar Friendship Bridge connecting the two countries.

The currently closed “Bridge of Friendship” has made it easier for people to move across national borders.

Members of the local Kuki Student Association take turns taking care of the two men and bringing home-cooked food. “The More health center was not equipped to deal with their injuries, so they were taken to Imphal,” said Janggoulen Khongsai, vice president of the organization.

The Kuki are a hill tribe living in the border areas of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, enabling close cross-border relationships among the people living in this area. This explains why the people of Moret sympathize with refugees despite orders opposed by the authorities.

“We accept them for humanitarian reasons,” said Philip Consai of the More Youth Club. His members have provided food and water to those stranded at the border before they were finally turned back. “Let the government do the job, we do our job.”

The influx of refugees from Myanmar is expected to increase. And many in More feel that India needs to stand up and do more to help the people on the other side during this difficult time.

People fleeing Myanmar are at risk of being sent back every day.

Profile Myanmar

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent of the United Kingdom in 1948. Much of its modern history was under the military junta.

  • Regulations began to be relaxed after 2010, free elections were held in 2015, and the following year a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was established.

  • In 2017, Myanmar troops responded to a deadly crackdown on police attacks by Rohingya militants, driving more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims across the border to Bangladesh. The United Nations later called it “an example of an ethnic cleansing textbook.”