Myanmar junta refuses dozens of nationals facing deportation by India

The 77 women had migrated to Manipur state before and after the coup, and were working as weavers in the state.
By RFA Burmese
Myanmar junta refuses dozens of nationals facing deportation by India Myanmar women are seen at an airport after they were brought there by Indian authorities for deportation on March 8, 2024.
Image from N. Biren Singh video via X

Myanmar’s junta has refused to accept dozens of nationals facing deportation by the Indian government for illegally entering the country, their relatives said Tuesday.

Indian media reported that authorities in eastern India’s Manipur state have been making arrangements to send 77 women who served sentences for illegal immigration in the state’s Imphal Jail back across the border from Moreh township to Tamu township in Myanmar’s Sagaing region since March 8.

On that day, Indian authorities took an initial batch of 38 women by helicopter from Imphal Jail to an Indian military camp in Moreh, but junta officials refused to accept them, a family member of one of the women, who contacted her by phone from Imphal, told RFA Burmese.

“Indian prison staff told them that they will be sent back to Imphal Jail because the Myanmar military regime refused to accept them,” said the family member who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

Attempts by RFA to contact Nyunt Win Aung, the junta’s social affairs minister and spokesperson for Sagaing region, and junta spokesperson Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun, for an explanation of why the women were not accepted, went unanswered Tuesday.

The exact number of women being deported remains unclear. Some of them have children with them and their husbands remain in Imphal, family members said.

Most of the women are from Sagaing and Magway regions, as well as Chin state. Some of them migrated to Manipur before the Myanmar military’s Feb. 1, 2021 coup d’etat, while others fled there after the takeover.

Most were arrested while working as weavers in the towns and villages of Manipur.

Jailed despite sentences served

A family member from Sagaing’s Monywa township told RFA that most of the women who entered India before the coup had served their five-year sentences and paid fines of 1,000 rupees (US$12), but had been “kept in prison for two and a half years” more.

“They should be allowed to stay in Manipur without being sent back to Myanmar, or they should be recognized as refugees by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” she said.

Indian security personnel stand near the prisoner transport vans used to bring the Myanmar women to the airport for deportation, March 8, 2024. (Image from N. Biren Singh video via X)

A person who is helping Myanmar refugees in Manipur told RFA that they would face persecution back home if Indian authorities repatriate them.

“Those who fled Myanmar after the coup could be arrested on various charges,” he said. “They will not be safe in Myanmar.”

Civil society organizations, including India for Myanmar, have called on Manipur authorities to only repatriate the women through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to ensure their safety.

RFA emailed the Myanmar Embassy in New Delhi and the Indian Embassy in Yangon for more information on the situation, but had not received a response by the time of publishing.

According to data collected by India for Myanmar and other civil society organizations, more than 150 Myanmar nationals are being detained on immigration charges at detention centers in Manipur state, and more than 80 of them have already served their sentences.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


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