Over 5,000 Myanmar nationals flee to India amid clashes – Here’s all you need to know

More than 5,000 people from Myanmar – including army personnel – have crossed into Mizoram over the past two days amid an intense gunfight. Locals breached the international border on Sunday evening after the People’s Defence Force attacked two military bases in Chin state and prompted retaliatory airstrikes. Meanwhile the Arakan Army launched a surprise attack against two Border Guard Police outposts in Rakhine State.

“Now there are as many as more than 5,000 people took refuge in two Mizoram villages along the Myanmar border. As many as about 20 are injured. Eight of them are taken to Aizawl for better medical treatment and the rest are being treated in Champhai,” the Mizoram Police said.

IGP Lalbiakthanga Khiangte also told ANI that one individual had succumbed to his injuries on Monday evening. As many as 42 Myanmar army officials have also crossed the international border, surrendering before the Mizoram Police. 

What does the India-Myanmar border look like?

Six districts of Mizoram – Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual – share a 510-km-long border with Myanmar’s Chin state. Zokhawthar on the Indian side is a mere 30 metres away from Khawmawi – separated by the border and the relatively small Tiau river.

How many Myanmar nationals are in Mizoram?

Officials on both sides of the border say that more than 5,000 Myanmar nationals have entered India this week. Thousands from from Khawmawi, Rihkhawdar and the neighbouring villages (in Myanmar) have now taken shelter in Champhai district of Mizoram. They join approximately 6,000 other Myanmar refugees who had already been living in Zokhawthar.

Data from the Mizoram Home Department indicates that there were 31,364 Myanmar nationals living in different parts of Myanmar as of last week. The majority of them live in relief camps, while others are accommodated by their local relatives and some live in rented houses.

What is the current situation in Mizoram?

Indian officials said they had alerted people living along the border areas amid the gunfire. However the situation appeared calm on Tuesday even as clashes continued elsewhere in Myanmar. 

“Since last night there has been no commotion. Now it is quite calm but we don’t know whether the Myanmar army will attack from the air. We cannot rule out air strike at present if the Myanmar government is willing,” Khiangte told ANI.

Reports quoting local officials indicate that some refugees had left for their homes after the situation normalised.

What is happening in Myanmar?

The military junta at the helm of the Myanmar government is currently facing its biggest test since taking power in a 2021 coup. Three ethnic minority forces had come together to launch a coordinated offensive in late October across the north. They have since captured several towns and over a 100 military posts amid an ‘ineffective’ response to the rebellion. The military-installed president said last week that Myanmar was at risk of breaking apart because of the situation.

The anti-junta offensive was launched on October 27 in the northeastern Shan state – along the border with China – and spread to two new fronts this week. It is led by the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army – who have collectively dubbed themselves the Three Brotherhood Alliance.

Fighting continues in several parts of the country and the Three Brotherhood Alliance has also blocked two vital trade routes to China and seized a vital border crossing.

Meanwhile the exodus to India is believed to have started after the People’s Defence Force – the armed wing of the rebel National Unity Government – attacked two military bases at Khawmawi and Rihkhawdar in Chin state. The Myanmar army had launched airstrikes in retaliation.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Updated: 14 Nov 2023, 06:57 PM IST

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