Nearly 150 refugees escaping violence in Myanmar have been arrested by Indian police in the eastern border state of Manipur over the past several days, sources in the area told RFA, including at least 50 children or minors.
About 50 refugees were arrested in a Monday morning police raid on the villages of Vitok and Min Non, residents in the area said. Another 80 Myanmar refugees were arrested on Jan. 27 during an inspection by local Manipur authorities stemming from a seemingly unrelated dispute between two villages near the Burmese border.
The 81 were arrested for lacking proper immigration papers, the India-based Hindustan Times reported. It was unclear what charges the others were detained on.
“Since the rumor has spread here that the prime minister of Manipur has issued arrest warrants for any Myanmar refugees trying to take refuge here, they have to stay in hiding,” said a resident of the area who declined to be named for safety reasons. “This is a situation where we can’t even help each other.”
Since the Feb. 1, 2021, military coup in Myanmar, which has sparked fighting between junta troops and various rebel groups, more than 15,000 people have crossed the border into India, according to India for Myanmar, an organization that helps refugees in India.
Indian authorities have repeatedly targeted the refugees, the organization added, saying that this is the fifth time in two years police have sought to detain them. Local police are continuing to search for refugees who may be hiding in border villages.
Salai Doh Khar, a spokesperson for the India for Myanmar organization that helps refugees coming to India, said he/she is worried that Indian police will deport the arrested refugees back to junta-ruled Myanmar.
“Some Myanmar refugees here in Manipur were threatened that they would be arrested and sent back to Myanmar,” he said. “In this situation, political activists who were obviously considered criminal by the military junta have to hide here rather than return to Myanmar. But those who take refuge here temporarily to flee the fighting in Myanmar have returned.”
Among those arrested were nine minors and two individuals over 70. They are being held at the Imphal central jail in Manipur state, Chin Human Rights Organization Liaison Officer Salai Kyung Dok told RFA.
On the Myanmar side of the border, security is heightened amidst an anticipated official military visit, residents of Tamu township told RFA, adding that military helicopters are often seen flying in and out of the region.
Radio Free Asia contacted the Indian Embassy in Yangon regarding the arrests, but has not yet received a reply.
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