While Myanmar takes baby steps towards democracy, 33 Myanmarese rebels released last year from West Bengal jails are relocating to the Netherlands with United Nations support because they see no hope of returning to their country.
Now in Delhi after the government of India granted them refugee status for one year, they spoke to Hindustan Times about their fears of returning home.
“We are going to be settled in the Netherlands. The Hague (the Netherlands’ administrative capital) has agreed to the proposal by the United Nations to settle us. If we return now, the military government (in Myanmar) will kill us,” said Dynyalin, one of the 33, on the phone from Delhi. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is making all arrangements for their relocation, tentatively in June.
On February 11, 1998, the Indian Army, in a joint operation with the Navy, arrested 36 rebels near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Initially they were believed to be arms suppliers for Northeast rebels.
However, as the trial progressed, it became clear the “arms smugglers” were not India’s enemies but rebels belonging to the National Unity Party of Arakan (NUPA) and Karen National Union (KNU), fighting Myanmar’s military junta.
The NUPA was on friendly terms with the Indian intelligence agencies. However, the legal grind was slow and three of them died in jail. Now they are preparing for a new life by learning Dutch, apart from English and computers.
“We are taking regular tuition in Dutch. We are also learning English, Hindi and computers,” Dynyalin added.
Though the group is happy about Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory in the elections in Myanmar, they are not attaching much importance to it. “We think that the military government is making a show of democracy,” Dynyalin added.