Hundreds of Myanmar refugees denied entry into India after fleeing deadly police crackdown

Hundreds of Myanmar refugees were denied entry into India over the past week before the Indian authorities on Tuesday reversed a fiercely criticised decision to deny them refuge and aid.

On Monday, a leaked government memo in India’s north-eastern state of Manipur said that Myanmar citizens fleeing the deadly police crackdown against pro-democracy protesters should be “politely turned away” unless they were badly injured.

The notice, which was addressed to the authorities in five border districts of Manipur, also instructed local governments to forbid NGOs from providing food and shelter to refugees.

“The Manipur Police and the Assam Rifles [an Indian Army unit] were deployed along the border and they stopped hundreds of people from entering into India over the past week,” said Montu Ahanthem, convener at the Manipur Alliance for Child Rights, who has been supporting Myanmar refugees.

At least 700 Myanmar refugees had still managed to avoid patrols and enter Manipur, said Mr Ahanthem, and were hiding out despite heavy rainfall in fear of deportation.

International outrage over the leaked memo prompted the Manipur government to issue a new notice on Tuesday, promising to take “all humanitarian steps” to protect the refugees. It did not provide any further detail.

Over 1,000 Myanmar refugees, some of them police officers, have also reached the Indian border state of Mizoram, according to an Indian state department official.

The Indian government did not reply to a request for comment from The Telegraph.

There were conflicting reports from Myanmar’s border with Thailand after the Thai government denied it was forcing back more than 2,000 refugees who had fled junta airstrikes, contradicting reports from aid agencies and a local official who said there was policy to deny them entry.

A barricade made by protesters on an empty street during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, March 30 2021

A barricade made during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, March 30 2021

Credit: Shutterstock 

Mark Farmaner, head of Burma Campaign UK, told Reuters thousands of people had been forced to return to the Ee Thu Hta displacement camp inside Myanmar. Another activist group gave the number as 2,009.

Video shot by a Karen villager showed refugees boarding boats under the watch of Thai soldiers. However, Thichai Jindaluang, governor of Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, backed by the foreign ministry, said the authorities would “continue to look after those on the Thai side while assessing the evolving situation and the needs on the ground”.

Dave Eubank, leader of the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), told The Telegraph that some 12,000 Karen people had fled their homes in northern Karen state and gone into hiding after the strikes.

Photos provided by the FBR showed rocket debris and villagers sheltering in the open caves, with Mr Eubank warning that the timing of the airstrikes during the night revealed the military had upgraded its capabilities with external assistance.

A further six people were killed by airstrikes in Hsaw Hti township in Karen State on Tuesday, according to Mr Eubank. He said bombings over the weekend killed Saw Ta Blut Soe, a five-year-old child, and two men aged 27 and 46.  

More Stories
Dr Richard Freeman found guilty of ordering testosterone for unnamed cyclist