Cross-border troubles: Myanmar's unrest spills over, deepening ethnic strife in Manipur

Cross-border troubles: Myanmar's unrest spills over, deepening ethnic strife in Manipur

IANS Photo

Imphal, March 30 (IANS) Amid the run-up to the parliamentary elections and the ongoing ethnic strife, fresh influx of refugees from trouble- torn Myanmar reported in Manipur, following fresh clashes between the Army and pro-democracy armed forces in the neighbouring country, officials said.

According to the security officials, the latest influx of refugees, believed to be more than 200 in number, during the past few days highlights the escalating violence in Myanmar, with concerns mounting over further clashes, particularly given the significant presence of Myanmar army personnel in Walphabung village, predominantly inhabited by the Kuki community.

A senior security official said that latest reports from Moreh, a border town along India-Myanmar border with Manipur, reveal intense firing between Myanmar's military Junta and armed rebel groups at Walphabung village in Tamu district, igniting panic among more than hundreds of Myanmar nationals, including women and children.

Seeking safety, more than 200 men, women and children have fled across the border into Manipur's border town of Moreh, nearly 110 km south of capital city Imphal.

Senior police and paramilitary officials confirmed the immigration crisis from across the border continues even after the security along 400 km Manipur's border with Myanmar further strengthened.

The unrest in Myanmar has impacted Manipur a long time ago, exacerbating the existing ethnic strife between the Kuki-Zomi and the Meitei communities that started since May 3 last year.

"The influx of refugees fleeing violence from across the border adds another dimension to the complex dynamics of the region, further straining resources and deepening tensions," a senior police official said, requesting anonymity.

A senior leader of a ruling political party said: "With allegations of illegal immigrants being involved in sustaining the unrest in Manipur, the situation becomes even more volatile, demanding a comprehensive and nuanced approach to address both the immediate humanitarian crisis and the underlying ethnic tensions."

Immediate action and coordinated efforts are imperative to prevent further escalation and foster stability in the region, he added.

Around 8,000 and 32,000 Myanmar nationals earlier fled to Manipur and Mizoram respectively, after the military Junta seized power in that country on February 1, 2021.

The Manipur government has been collecting the biometric details of the Myanmar nationals sheltered in the state.

The Mizoram government, however, turned down the Union Home Ministry's advice to collect biographic and biometric data from the Myanmar refugees.

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, who also holds the Home portfolio, often said that a section of immigrants from Myanmar are involved in various illegal activities, including illicit poppy cultivation and drug-peddling in Manipur.