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340 Myanmar refugees, driven out by rebels to India, repatriated

Myanmar’s Rakhine state has since 2012 witnessed ethnic violence that has made more than 200,000 Muslim Rohingyas flee the country.

india Updated: May 25, 2017 21:42 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
The Myanmar refugees who were repatriated on Thursday.(HT Photo)

Some 340 refugees from Myanmar, who had crossed over to Mizoram less than a week ago to evade ethnic cleansing by an insurgent group in that country, have been repatriated.

Officials of the Assam Rifles, which guards strategic stretches of the 1,643 km India-Myanmar border, said the Myanmar nationals – mostly women and children – were sent back on Wednesday to “avert a major refugee crisis that could have lingered in Mizoram”.

The refugees, ethnically similar to the Mara tribe in southern Mizoram’s Saiha district, arrived in waves on May 19 and 20 from Ralie village in Myanmar’s Chin district. People of Khaikhy and Lungpuk, two villages in Saiha district, had provided them shelter.

Refugees from Myanmar who were repatriated on Thursday. (HT Photo)

Khaikhy and Lungpuk fall under the 1,445 sq km Mara Autonomous District Council, one of three such tribal councils in southern Mizoram.

An agreement between Delhi and Naypyidaw (Yangon) enables people of Myanmar to travel up to 15km from the international border in India. Border residents of Indian states too can travel the same distance inside Myanmar.

“Officers of Assam Rifles and district administration negotiated with Myanmar officials for the safe return of the refugees. The repatriation on Wednesday was accordingly organised at International Boundary Pillar Number 15,” a Colonel in the 1st Assam Rifles battalion said.

Refugees from Myanmar who were repatriated on Thursday. (HT Photo)

“The repatriation is a huge relief,” Mizoram’s home minister Lalzirlilana said, lauding the paramilitary force and the district officials for handling the situation compassionately.

The Assam Rifles had provided medical and humanitarian assistance to the refugees besides taking care of their security.

District officials said one Chebei, the head of Ralie village in Myanmar, had come to the border to take back the villagers. Ralie is close to the India-Myanmar border as well as the boundary between the Chin and Rakhine states of Myanmar.

Officials sign documents for repatriation of the refugees from Myanmar. (HT Photo)

Rakhine has since 2012 witnessed ethnic violence that has made more than 200,000 Muslim Rohingyas flee the country. The majority Buddhist Arakanese people have allegedly been behind the ethnic cleansing.

Arakan Army, the insurgent group responsible for making the Ralie villagers take refuge in Mizoram too belong to the Arakanese stock.

Chebei, district officials said, conveyed his gratitude to the Assam Rifles, members of the autonomous council and Rachu, his counterpart in Lungpuk village.

First Published: May 25, 2017 21:39 IST