India Arrests 80 Myanmar Refugees Who Fled Junta Attacks in Sagaing

By The Irrawaddy 30 January 2023

At least 80 mainly elderly Myanmar nationals were detained by Indian police commandos in Moreh, Manipur State on Friday after fleeing fighting in Sagaing Region a year ago.

The 80 individuals – 71 elderly men and nine teenagers – fled attacks by junta forces in Tamu early last year.

They took refuge near the Indian village of Lhang Chan, seven kilometers south of Moreh police station.

The group was arrested on Friday morning and taken to the state capital of Imphal, according to a Tamu resident.

The elderly detainees are being kept in a prison while the teenagers have been sent to a juvenile detention center.

The local Imphal Free Press reports that a total of 81 Myanmar refugees – 71 seniors, including two in their 70s, and 10 teenagers – were detained. Police have reportedly charged them with illegally crossing the border.

A Tamu resident said they have not been able to contact the detainees, so have sought help from the parallel civilian National Unity Government.

It was not immediately clear why the group was detained now, after having been in the area for around a year. But initial reports say they were arrested over a land dispute between the village chief and a Lhang Chan resident.

“Every country has refugees. They [India] should show mercy to displaced people from our country. They crossed the border to take refuge in India only because there is fighting going on in their country. I urge India to accept our people with warm generosity,” said the Tamu resident.

The border town of Tamu was one of the first places to take up arms against the Myanmar military following its coup in February 2021. The local resistance began fighting the regime with homemade weapons and rudimentary hunting rifles.

Thousands of civilians have fled the clashes, many seeking refuge on the Indian side of the border.