Mizoram CM, Myanmar foreign minister in exile hold talks on refugee influx

Mar 21, 2021 11:53 PM IST

Zin Mar Aung was named the acting foreign affairs minister three weeks ago. She is not the foreign affairs minister in the present military regime.

Amid the influx of refugees from the neighbouring country to the state following a military coup, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga on Sunday held an online meeting with Myanmar foreign minister in exile Zin Mar Aung.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga during the online meeting on Sunday. (Zoramthanga/Twitter)
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga during the online meeting on Sunday. (Zoramthanga/Twitter)

“Had a fruitful meeting (online) this morning with Zin Mar Aung, hon’ble foreign minister, Myanmar. Our thoughts and prayers are with Myanmar in these trying times,” Zoramthanga tweeted on Sunday.

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Zin Mar Aung was named the acting foreign affairs minister three weeks ago by a committee comprising elected lawmakers of Myanmar from the overthrown National League for Democracy (NLD). She is not the foreign affairs minister in the present military regime.

Although no official statement was issued by the CM’s office on details of the meeting, it is learnt that the two leaders discussed the fallout of the military coup in Myanmar last month and the influx of refugees to Mizoram through the border.

As per reports, since the military coup last month, over 500 people from Myanmar, including policemen and families, fled fearing persecution and entered Mizoram through the state’s 510-kilometre-long boundary with the neighbouring country. These refugees are staying in villages along the border.

Also read: ‘No choice’ - Fleeing coup, Myanmar police refugees in India seek asylum

Earlier this month, the Centre had directed Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur - four states that share a border with Myanmar - to stop illegal infiltration and deport Myanmarese nationals who enter India.

On March 18, Zoramthanga had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the Centre’s directives were “not acceptable” to Mizoram.

“I understand that there are certain foreign policy issues where India needs to proceed cautiously. However, we can’t ignore this humanitarian crisis,” the CM wrote. He added that the areas in Myanmar bordering Mizoram are inhabited by the Chin community with whom Mizo people have ethnic ties and have close contacts from even before India became independent.

“Mizoram cannot just remain indifferent to their sufferings. India cannot turn a blind eye to this humanitarian crisis unfolding right in front of us in our own backyard,” Zoramthanga mentioned in his letter. He added that as the largest democracy and Myanmar’s immediate neighbour, India needs to do more in the matter.

“I therefore strongly urge you to intervene so that the political refugees from Myanmar are given asylum and provided food and shelter here in the country,” the CM said.

On Friday, a high-level team from Mizoram, including two MPs from the state, called on the Union minister of state for home Nityanand Rai in Delhi and discussed issues concerning relief measures for Myanmar refugees in the state.

According to a state government release, the team pressed on the minister to extend help and support to the Myanmar refugees “who are victims of violence and brutality under military rule in Myanmar” while ruling out the possibility of deporting the refugees back till the situation in the neighbouring country returns to normal.

“Members of the team requested the central government’s intervention for providing necessary relief measures to refugees staying in Mizoram and expressed hope that India will take a more proactive role and raise a stronger voice in support of people fighting for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar,” the statement read.

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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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