41 Soldiers and a policeman among refugees from Myanmar’s Chin state
The Borderlens Desk
For the Assam Rifles and the Mizoram police it was an unusual influx from across Myanmar on November 13 morning as along with almost 5000 Burmese refugees, a group of 41 Burmese army personnel and a policeman ran across the international boundary to save their lives from a fierce attack launched jointly by the Peoples’ Democratic Force (PDF), the Chin National Army (CNA) and the Chinland Defense Force (CDF). The Burmese army personal under the command of a Major and the lone Burmese cop surrendered before security forces near Zowkawthar located in the India-Myanmar border in Mizoram’s Champhai district.
The attack by the PDF-CNA-CDF which was launched on Sunday evening around 4 pm was carefully planned with the intention of causing maximum damage to the military junta positions along the India-Myanmar border region. Both the Ri Khawdar and the Khawmawi junta camps were overrun by the Burmese resistance fighters.
The 41 Burmese personnel who were defending the Khawmawi military camp were no match against a more well prepared and better armed PDF-CNA-CDF combined attack forcing them to flee the camp leaving behind all arms and ammunitions.
The Burmese army personnel and the cop were later handed over by the Mizoram police to the 2nd Assam Rifles following a directive from the Union Home Ministry. Police official said that the Burmese soldiers and the police official were taken to Hnahlan village 60 kms east of Champhai on November 14, after completing the standard operating procedures and treatment to one of the soldiers who was injured in the confrontation. According to home ministry sources all the Burmese soldiers and the officer were airlifted in a helicopter and repatriated to Myanmar at around 2 pm on November 14.
Residents of Zowkawthar woke up to a new wave of refugees since Sunday afternoon with people from the neighbouring Tiau-Khawmawi villages fleeing across the international border in anticipation of a clash between the Burmese military and the advancing PDF soldiers from Mindat and Mataupi which are located in the southern side of the Chin hills. By Monday afternoon the crowd of people who came over from Burmese village located across the river Tiau swelled to about 5000 people.
Since the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar, Mizoram has seen a gradual influx of refugees from the Chin state of Myanmar. According to Mizoram government sources as of October 2023, there were about 40,000 plus refugees from Myanmar living in Mizoram. Most of these people, estimated to be over 30,000 are from the Chin state. Mizoram shares a 510-km-long porous border with Myanmar. The Mizoram government has provided refugees with all relief materials.
India was hosting over 74,600 refugees from Myanmar as of 2023. More than an estimated 54,100 of them arrived since the coup in February 2021.
As the conflict in Myanmar continues to escalate, for the refugees staying on the Mizoram side of the border there seems to be no respite. Rose (name changed on request) and her husband fled from the Chin state in January 2022 and took refuge in Kudam which is close to Tiau river barely 300 meters from the Indian side of the International border. On November 12 night she woke up screaming as a bullet pierced her left hand and she had to be rushed to the hospital. She is out of danger, but this bizarre experience has created new fears in her and her husband. “Where will we be safe,” she wonders as she receives treatment on the injury.
Chanchinmawia from Khawmawi village ran to Zokhawthar on November 13 as soon he heard loud gunshots and smoke rising from the Burmese army camp. “I did not have a smartphone so like other people who received information from WhatsApp on Sunday (November 12), I had no clue,” adding “I and my family members ran without any belongings.”