Members of the Assam Rifles, an Indian border security force, have entered Paletwa Township twice so far this year, causing concern among ethnic Chin residents and resistance groups in Myanmar’s Chin State.
About 15 troops from the Assam Rifles, an Indian paramilitary force responsible for guarding the border, entered Shwe Lai Wa Village in Paletwa Township on March 13 and fired their guns in the air as they left, according to the Chin Defense Force (CDF)-Paletwa.
Shwe Lai Wa, a village located on the border between Myanmar’s Chin State and India’s Mizoram State, and nearby areas form the base of the CDF-Paletwa’s Battalion 2. Salai Paul, chairman of the group, said it was the second time the Indian force had trespassed in the area.
Salai Paul wrote on his social media page that, “Assam Rifles troops entered the village and every time they enter, columns of the junta’s military also come around to the Paletwa area. I want to ask why these Indian troops are moving into the area frequently and rashly.”
According to resistance groups and local news reports, Assam Rifles personnel do not merely trespass in the area, but also frequently arrest ethnic Chin ethnic people with ties to the anti-junta resistance, including some who have been members of the resistance since mid-2021, when armed revolt against the regime began.
Residents of Shwe Lai Wa confirmed that Assam Rifles troops arrived in the village on March 13 and fired 10 rounds into the air. They said the group earlier moved into the area in February.
“Residents of the whole township are still very concerned that they will be trapped in an intense conflict situation again. If something happens suddenly, our township will be trapped and we could all face shortages of food and all necessities,” said a 43-year-old man who operates a civil society organization in Paletwa.
He recalled the situation faced by the township during the peak of the fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military back in 2019. At that time, residents of Paletwa Township suffered shortages of all necessities as all routes in and out of the area were blocked due to the conflict situation.
Some members of resistance groups in Chin State said the Indian military is in negotiations with the junta, while the Indian government also continues to deal with the junta regarding its ongoing Kaladan Project.
The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project is a US$484-million project connecting the east Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe seaport in Myanmar’s Rakhine State by sea. Paletwa is a strategic hub on the route, as it links Sittwe seaport and Mizoram via the Kaladan River boat route.
“The Kaladan project’s Paletwa phase is almost finished. This project is also important for India. We understand that’s why [India] is dealing with the military council and also it seems it is attempting to check if the project is still safe by occasionally sending its border security force in,” said a liaison officer of the CDF.