Jailed Myanmar activists in India in danger of deportation: rights groups

Myanmar activists stage prison protest to campaign against being forced home, source says.
By RFA Burmese
2024.06.20
Jailed Myanmar activists in India in danger of deportation: rights groups Myanmar nationals held in Manipur’s Imphal Prison were repatriated to Sagaing region’s Tamu town at India-Myanmar border on June 11, 2024.
Citizen's photo

India must not force about 200 jailed Myanmar refugees to return home, an advocacy group told Radio Free Asia on Thursday, citing dangers that they would face if pushed back into the jurisdiction of the Myanmar military.

Junta attacks against ethnic minority insurgents and pro-democracy militias that emerged in the wake of Myanmar’s 2021 coup have forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in Chin state and the neighboring Sagaing region, with thousands seeking refuge across the porous Indian border

Among those who have slipped into India are supporters of those fighting to end military rule and they could be in grave danger if forced back into the arms of the junta, activists say.

In immediate peril are more than 200 Myanmar people who have been arrested in Indian states bordering Myanmar’s western Sagaing region, said Salai Dokhar, founder of the group India for Myanmar. Most have been detained under immigration laws.

India has already forced dozens of them back and fears are growing that the rest will soon be expelled, he said.

“Indian authorities have arrested refugees fleeing from war-torn areas to India, especially in Assam and Manipur states. According to our list, more than 230 people, but 76 of those were sent back to Myanmar,” he added. 

“Now, they are also working to send all the remaining nationals back. Some of them are absolutely in danger, so we are calling [on the Indian government] to release all of them and if possible, grant them asylum in India.”

India for Myanmar is one of four activist groups that have called on India to let the Myanmar nationals stay. 

Decades of strife in Myanmar have forced villagers to flee from their homes for safety in neighboring countries, Bangladesh and Thailand in particular.

Myanmar’s 2021 coup has triggered a new round of war that has swept areas of Myanmar that were previously peaceful, including Sagaing and Chin state, which border India.

About 100 Myanmar people in prison in the Indian state of Manipur went on a four-day hunger strike to campaign against their repatriation, said a resident of the state with knowledge of the situation in the prison.

On Monday, guards cracked down on the protesting inmates injuring four of them, said the resident, who declined to be identified for security reasons.

“They want everyone to be released in Moreh town and not sent back to the Myanmar side,” the resident said, referring to an Indian town on the border.

Political activists and those involved in non-violent action in opposition to the Myanmar junta are among those in the prison, he said.

The Indian government has yet to release any information about the condition of the prisoners. 

The Indian embassy in Myanmar has not responded to RFA’s inquiries as of this writing.

The four Myanmar activist groups – including Blood Money Campaign, Defense Myanmar Democracy and the Sitt Nyein Pan Foundation – released a statement on Wednesday calling for India to grant the refugees asylum.

While those in prison were in immediate danger of deportation, the groups said they were worried about more than 5,000 Myanmar refugees sheltering in Manipur, who they believed could also be forced home.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Taejun Kang. 

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