India faces threat of bigger influx of refugees from Mynamar

by K.S. Tomar

Due to hunger for power and lack of intense international pressure (zero from Russia and China), Army rulers in Myanmar are resorting to killings of demonstrators who seem determined to overthrow the military regime, which had staged a coup d’état on February 1 and snatched the power from an elected government.

India is facing a new refugee problem as citizens of Myanmar and even some policemen have crossed over to Mizoram, which has made arrangements of their food and shelter on humanitarian grounds. Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga has called “not acceptable” the Centre’s order to prevent illegal immigration from Myanmar and ensure speedy deportation of refugees, and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide them asylum.

The Manipur Government, however, has withdrawn its letter issued on March 26 to five deputy commissioners to ‘Politely Turn Away’ Myanmar refugees. Now the state government has been taking all humanitarian steps to help refugees, including taking the injured to Imphal for treatment.

America and European Union have imposed sanctions against army rulers who have ignored such pressure while ruthlessly quelling the violence by opening  fire on thousands of demonstrators who have come out on the streets.

The violence and killings by the army has become a daily tragedy but there is no let up in the anger and determination of people to oust the Junta Regime in Myanmar. The military seized control of the South East Asian country after an election which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide, weakening the control of army generals.

Myanmar’s military has arrested civilian leaders, including Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and trying them by military courts. A year-long state of emergency has been imposed. The army alleged that election fraud had been committed though the electoral commission dismissed the army’s complaints.

Mizoram CM  Zoramthanga recently held a virtual meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister-in-exile Zin Mar Aung of the National League for Democracy, which took place despite New Delhi’s reluctance to accommodate the Myanmarese refugees. Center has asked the border states Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as Assam Rifles to identify Myanmar refugees and to not permit them to stay in India. .

India does not have a national policy on refugees as it  is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The government  had circulated  a Standard Operating Procedure to all states and union territories in 2011 to deal with foreign nationals who claimed to be refugees.

 Human rights officials have stressed the need for enhanced intervention of the international community to stop the bloodshed. UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews emphasized the dire requirement of “robust, coordinated action,” as “words are not enough” to protect lives of people of Myanmar who desperately need the world’s support.

Experts believe that protestors are adopting ‘Three Finger Salute’ to oppose the army coup, as seen in the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins. It was first used by the protesting medical workers. Later, it was adopted by youth protesters, after which it became a regular occurrence across all massive protests in Yangon. It has become a symbol of protest by the subjugated and oppressed people of Myanmar.

International pressure on the junta has increased with new US and European sanctions. But Russia’s deputy defense minister Alexander Fomin attended the parade in Naypyitaw, having met senior junta leaders which encourage military rulers to continue their repression. Army commander in chief of Myanmar, Min Aung Hlaing,  describes Russia as a ‘True Friend’.

On the other hand, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand simply  sent representatives to Myanmar to be part of the parade, described as a part of diplomatic protocol.

 The writer is a senior journalist and national columnist based in Delhi.

Image courtesy of (Photo courtesy Deccan Chronicle)

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