RANGOON — A spokesperson for the Arakan Army (AA) denied on Tuesday his group had forced nearly 300 ethnic Chin to flee from western Burma to northeastern India, after an Indian newspaper reported the claims.
U Khine Thukha, spokesperson for AA’s western chapter, said allegations in The New Indian Express, which quoted a senior Assam Rifles officer who reportedly spoke to the refugees, were “based on groundless accusations.”
Refugees were threatened and pushed out of their homes in Ralie village, Chin State, and fled to neighboring southern Mizoram on May 19, according to quotes from the article, which was published on May 22.
The Assam Rifles sent two teams to Lungpuk and Khaikhy villages on the Indian side, where the found 200 and 77 refugees respectively, most of whom were women and children.
The refugees were staying in schools and community halls and the Mizoram government was providing them food, according to the article. The Assam Rifles contacted the Burma Army about ensuring a safe return of the refugees, it stated.
Mizoram home minister, R Lalzirliana, said Burma and Indian have an agreement that refugees are allowed to travel up to 15 kilometers inside India and “stay there for some time.”
“The accusation would be reasonable if there was armed conflict between the AA and the Burma Army,” said U Khine Thukha.
He added that 60 people from Shwe Let Wa village in upper Plat Wa Township of Chin State recently fled to Lungpuk village on the Indian border in anticipation of fighting near their homes. Indian authorities arranged to return the refugees to Burma, he added.
“The villagers of Shwe Let Wa say the AA had come and believed that conflict would happen in the Burma Army reached the region, but actually, the situation is peaceful,” said U Khine Thukha, also denying the AA had detained any male villagers in Ralie.
He said a group was intentionally spreading false information in order to defame the AA although he declined to name the group.
On May 4, the AA issued a “warning letter” in the Arakanese language on its Facebook page in late April stating that 30 soldiers from the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA) pretended to be AA soldiers and extorted money from locals near the Bangladesh border.
The same group pretended to be Burma Army troops while they threatened and stole from people in Garam Pa village on May 3-4, added U Khine Thukha.
“We are closely watching the group and the AA will respond with appropriate action if the same conduct happens in future,” read the Facebook statement.
Along with its fellow Northern Alliance members, the AA flew to Naypyidaw from Kunming, China on Tuesday afternoon for the Union Peace Conference. The AA’s political wing, the United League for Arakan, posted on Facebook on Tuesday that the group would attend the conference at the Chinese government’s request, but only to see the opening and closing ceremonies.