China small arms bazaar fuelling NE militants, Maoists
Small arms wielded by Northeast militants and Maoists invariably find their way in from Yunan province of southern China through the Chin people in Myanmar. Rahul Karmakar reports.
Small arms wielded by Northeast militants and Maoists invariably find their way in from Yunan province of southern China through the Chin people in Myanmar. But forces handling security this side of the India-Myanmar border have “no reasons yet” to suspect Beijing’s official involvement in the gun-running racket.
Chinese copies of weapons such as the American M-16 rifles and Russian Kalashnikovs – AK-47s and AK-56s – are cheaper but almost as lethal. These fuel the clandestine arms bazaar straddling Yunan, northern Myanmar and the notorious Golden Triangle comprising Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
Druglords and militias controlling the Golden Triangle dovetail their narcotic trade with gun-running. While northern Burmese guerrillas representing ethnic groups such as Kachin, Wa and Shan relay this two-in-one trade, the Chins inhabiting southern Myanmar reportedly push arms and narcotic substances through Mizoram. They also pump in fake Indian currencies sourced from Bangladesh and Pakistan.
“There have been quite a few seizures of small arms and drugs in recent months,” said Lt Gen NK Singh, chief of the army’s 3rd Corps based at Rangapahar near here. “Most of those involved were Chins, who have the advantage of looking like the Mizos of Mizoram and speaking a similar language.”
The northeastern states bordering junta-ruled Myanmar – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram – fall under the jurisdiction of the 3rd Corps. Several battalions of the Northeast-specific Assam Rifles (paramilitary) also police these states.
Among the recent seizures were several M-16 rifles and Chinese walkie talkies from a house in Mizoram capital Aizawl on July 31. The house was rented by a woman named Lalnempuii, a resident of Tahan village in Myanmar. Some 70 assault rifles confiscated from militants in Assam’s North Cachar Hills were also traced to a Chin arms smuggler named Lalliana in September.
Officials said Champhai and Saiha areas of southern Mizoram are the preferred drug- and gun-running routes along the border with Myanmar followed by Moreh in Manipur. “A 10 km stretch at Moreh is being fenced to check clandestine activities along the India-Myanmar border. Plans are afoot to fence other strategic stretches too,” the 3rd Corps commander said.
The security agencies are also monitoring ‘free move’ passes/clearances issued by local police or gaonburahs (village heads) to those residing within 40 km of either side of the Indo-Burma border. Bona fide Indian and Burmese residents within this 40 km are allowed into each other’s country primarily for trade for a specific period of time as per a 1047 agreement between New Delhi and Rangoon (now Yangon). This agreement was modified in 1968.