In the midst of the intensifying conflict between Myanmar’s military regime and rebel forces, nearly 600 Myanmar Army soldiers have sought refuge in India, particularly in Mizoram.
The Mizoram government, expressing concern over the situation, has urgently informed the Indian central government, urging a swift repatriation of the soldiers who fled to Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district after their camps were seized by Arakan Army (AA) militants, an ethnic armed group from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
In the aftermath of Myanmar’s military ousting Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in 2021, widespread protests escalated into armed resistance, with three ethnic armed groups launching a massive onslaught last October.
These groups, including the Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), have taken control of military installations and towns in the north, near China’s border.
Mizoram’s response: Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma and Union Home Minister Amit Shah urgently discussed the matter during a Northeastern Council meeting in Shillong. Mizoram emphasizes the need for the speedy repatriation of Myanmar personnel seeking refuge in the state due to growing concerns about rising tensions and their potential impact on regional stability.
Humanitarian assistance: CM Lalduhoma highlighted Mizoram’s humanitarian efforts, stating, “People are fleeing from Myanmar to our country for shelter, and we are helping them on humanitarian grounds.” The soldiers, currently housed in an Assam Rifles camp, have been receiving support, with Mizoram having sent back around 450 army personnel earlier.
Ceasefire and regional concerns: The conflict escalated just days after Myanmar’s military and the rebel alliance signed a ceasefire mediated by China. This joint offensive poses a significant challenge for the Myanmar military since the coup in 2021 and raises concerns in China about potential disruptions to border trade and a refugee influx.
Mizoram’s broader concerns: Mizoram’s worry about the influx of refugees extends beyond the recent conflict. Between October 26 and December 8, 2023, over 578,000 people were displaced in Myanmar, in addition to the approximately two million already displaced prior to the October offensive, according to the United Nations.
Mizoram also claims to be sheltering about 12,000 Kuki-Zo people who fled an ethnic war with the majority Meiteis in Manipur, further highlighting the complexity of the situation in the region.