Thousands of people fleeing military crackdown in Myanmar have entered states in northeast India, raising fears among officials the region could become a staging post for pro-democracy activists and fuel instability.
Three Indian states – Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland – are currently home to around 16,000 people from Myanmar, civil society groups and government officials estimate, and that number is expected to increase in the coming months, the news agency reported on Thursday. Reuters.
In Mizoram, where the largest number of people from Myanmar have sought refuge, authorities are closely monitoring pro-democracy fighters joining refugees crossing the unfenced and densely forested border marked by the Tiau River.
“We are monitoring this very closely,” a state government adviser told Reuters. He said some Myanmar fighters had already crossed the border with the support of the Indian population but had since returned.
“We will never allow them to train in Mizoram,” the adviser said. “If you disturb the Mizoram, there will be a problem for the refugees.
In early May, a group of at least 50 people from Myanmar held a training camp in Mizoram, a state police official and resistance member told Reuters.
The camp in Champhai District in Mizoram did not involve the use of weapons and was dismantled after Indian paramilitary troops carried out investigations, the resistance member said, declining to be named.
“All the young people have returned to Myanmar,” said the resistance fighter.
At least 850 people have been killed in the unrest in Myanmar since the country’s generals staged a coup in February, toppling the civilian government led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Some of the fiercest fighting has taken place in Chin state, which borders India, during clashes between the military and local militias.
An ousted deputy from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) told Reuters that some resistance fighters in Chin state had obtained arms from India and from the Arakan army, an ethnic militia in Myanmar’s Rakhine region, fueling an underground arms trade in the region.
“Of course, these people want to fight the junta. What they will try to do, in my opinion, is to get arms from this side (India), ”said the Mizoram police official with knowledge of the training camp.
India’s 1,600 km (1,000 mile) border with Myanmar has also long harbored armed groups opposed to the New Delhi regime. They operate on both sides of the border and take advantage of narcotics imported from Southeast Asia, Indian security officials say.
“It is a genuine concern that if the rebels cross it will give oxygen to the insurgents in Naga and Manipur,” a high-level government source in New Delhi told Reuters, referring to the some two dozen groups. insurgents operating along the border.
A Burmese military spokesperson did not respond to Reuters calls for comment on the situation along the border.
The Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred questions regarding the situation in the eastern region to the Interior Ministry, which did not respond to emails and messages.
Avinash Paliwal, senior lecturer in international relations at SOAS University in London, said the influx and fighting along the Burmese border created the most serious security situation in the Indian Far East, often called the northeast, in three decades.
This could affect India’s relations with the coup leaders and endanger some $ 650 million of New Delhi’s investments in Myanmar port and highway projects.
“The whole connectivity agenda, the balance between China, drug crime and counterinsurgency strategies have become complex,” Paliwal said.
“The migrant crisis in the northeast could take a different turn, politicized or even militarized in the future,” he added.
In Mizoram state, where some 15,000 Myanmar people are seeking refuge, authorities have written to India’s foreign ministry seeking assistance in setting up eight refugee camps, according to a June 1 letter. consulted by Reuters.
In neighboring Manipur, some of the 1,000 people who fled Myanmar have taken refuge in makeshift camps in forested areas even as the heavy monsoon rains begin, human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam said.
Loitongbam and a member of the Naga Students’ Organization in Myanmar said there was a food crisis in the border areas of that country, with a shortage of staples like rice.
“Besides the violence, the economy is also collapsing there. So more people will come, ”said Manipur-based Loitongbam. “People have to find a way to survive. “