219 Rakhine Buddhist refugees living in Mizoram sent to Myanmar
More than 200 Rakhine Buddhist refugees living near a border village in Mizoram since 2017 have been sent back to Myanmar despite non-cooperation from the authorities in the neighbouring country, officials have said.
In November 2017, more than 1,500 Rakhine Buddhists crossed over to Mizoram as fighting raged between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military. Arakan Army, an insurgent outfit, is fighting for a confederate status for Rakhine state.
The refugees, who mostly came in boats, took shelter in four border villages in Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district — Laitlang, Hmawngbuchhua, Zochachhua, and Dumzautlang.
“The push back of 219 persons has been completed today (Tuesday). They were sent back in Maruti Gypsy vehicles and on foot. Their houses have been destroyed,” deputy commissioner of Lawngtlai Shashanka Ala said.
Lawngtlai is a district in south Mizoram, which shares a border with both Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Ala said Myanmar authorities had promised to provide boats to take them back through the Sekulh Lui river in a flag meeting held on June 30. However, they backed off at 6am on Tuesday and conveyed they would not extend any support.
Subsequently, the officials said they had to fall back on ‘Plan B’ and the refugees were sent back through Laitlang in Mizoram to Varang in Myanmar. Most of the refugees belong to Varang and nearby villages in Myanmar’s Chin state, the officials said.
An official, who was present during the push back. said the refugees were crying and trying to convey that they should be allowed to stay back.
Mizoram government employees and Assam Rifles personnel were involved in Tuesday’s operation. The official claimed they did not have to use force to send them back. Rations for 15 days were given to refugees who were sent back.
Most of the 1,500 Rakhine refugees were sent back in phases and officials said that more than 200 people had stayed behind and sent back on Tuesday.
Most of these refugees were either helping the locals on Jhum or shifting cultivation or working as construction workers on the 87km road connecting Lawngtlai town and Zorinpui, a proposed border crossing point with Myanmar part of the ambitious Kaladan multi-modal transport project.
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