International

Myanmar citizens flee to India to escape violence

London, Apr 10 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 4/10/2021 1:48:03 PM IST

Myanmar nationals have been fleeing the country amid violence against civilians in the aftermath of a military coup. Many who live close to the border are seeking refuge in India, reports BBC Hindi’s Raghvendra Rao.

It was on her third attempt that Makhai finally made it to India. She used a dirt track through the forest to cross. Others have come via an underground storm drain that connects villages on both sides of the border.
Unlike the previous two attempts, this time Indian security forces didn’t stop her.
The 42-year-old, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, fled her home in Myanmar, in the border district of Tamu, earlier this month, along with her sisters and her daughter. They crossed into the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur. It was the only thing they could do to save themselves, Makhai said.
“I had a chance to escape now,” she said. “If I waited longer, another chance may not have come my way.”
Myanmar, also known as Burma, is in the grip of violence. In February, the country’s military overthrew the democratically elected government and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In the weeks since, it has crushed protests against the coup. Rights groups say the military has killed more than 600 people, including 43 children. Makhai says soldiers have been breaking into houses and raping and killing civilians.
Witnesses have recounted stories of people being killed in the streets and even in their homes - including a six-year-old who was allegedly shot dead during a home raid as she ran to her father.
Army spokesman Brig Gen Zaw Min Tun said in a recent interview that the army would never have shot a child inside their home - and if it did happen, they would investigate the incident. But reports of such atrocities by the security forces are widespread and have sparked an international outcry.
“Ever since the violence began, we are scared to live in our homes,” Makhai said. “We have spent so many nights hiding in the forest.”
The Manipur government recently told officials in border districts to “politely turn away” refugees from Myanmar - and then retracted the order after a public backlash. In a second order, the state government said it was taking “all humanitarian steps”, including treating injured refugees from Myanmar.
But unauthorised immigration is a politically charged issue in India, especially now as regional elections are under way in West Bengal and Assam - two states that have historically seen a huge influx of refugees.

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