Indian defence authorities on November 14 sent back 39 soldiers of the Myanmar military

Debjit Mukherjee: Indian defence authorities on November 14 sent back 39 soldiers of the Myanmar military who had taken refuge in Mizoram after their camp was overrun by ethnic armed groups aligned with the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar.

Two choppers belonging to the armed forces carried out two sorties each to evacuate the soldiers from Champhai, the headquarters of Mizoram’s Champhai district bordering Myanmar, to Moreh in Manipur. Moreh is on the border with Myanmar’s Sagaing region.

“The entire operation from evacuating the Myanmar soldiers to Moreh and sending them across towards Tamu (nearest Myanmar town from Moreh) was over by 3 p.m.,” an Army officer monitoring the exercise said.

He said there were reports of at least two more Myanmar soldiers having crossed over in the last 24 hours. They would be sent back to their country as and when they are located, he added.

A civil war has been raging in Myanmar following a military coup in February 2021. The fighting between the country’s Army and pro-democracy groups, including ethnicity-based extremist groups, intensified close to the Mizoram border a few days ago.

Indian security officials keeping tabs on the Myanmar situation said a fierce gunfight erupted at Khawmawi in Myanmar, situated across Zokhawthar in Mizoram’s Champhai district on Sunday evening. The fighting saw about 1,500 Myanmar nationals taking refuge in border areas of Mizoram.

The members of three extremist groups – the Kuki Independent Army, Kuki National Army, and the Chinland Defence Force – eventually overran the camp. Reports said the pro-democracy forces also took control of the Myanmar military’s camp in Rikhawdar near Khawmawi after killing several soldiers.

Fleeing for their lives, the 39 soldiers crossed over to Mizoram on Monday evening. A mob, reportedly comprising Chin refugees from Myanmar, staged a protest outside the Zokhawthar police station where the soldiers were kept.

A senior district police officer said the soldiers were handed over to the Assam Rifles.

Mizoram has been hosting more than 35,000 Chin refugees since the military coup in Myanmar in February 2021. The refugees are taking shelter in schools, community halls, temporary sheds, and the homes of relatives across Mizoram.

The Chins and Mizos of Mizoram belong to the Zo ethnic group.