Update: India Manipur state reverses order turning away Myanmar refugees

Myanmarese policewoman, who fled Myanmar and crossed illegally to India, rests in a temporary shelter at an undisclosed location in India's northeastern state of Mizoram on March 13, 2021.
Myanmarese have been fleeing their country since the military coup on 1 February

India’s border state of Manipur has withdrawn an earlier order that told officials to “politely turn away” refugees crossing over from Myanmar.

The state home ministry, which had issued the first order, said its instructions had been “misconstrued”. The earlier order was issued amid reports of refugees from Myanmar entering Manipur in India’s northeast. Many of them are fleeing in the wake of a military coup last month that overthrew a democratic government.

On Tuesday, the home ministry issued a second order saying the state government was taking “all humanitarian steps” and “continues to provide all aid”, including treating any injured refugees from Myanmar, also called Burma.

While the first order, dated 26 March, had said anyone with “grievous injuries” could receive medical attention, it prohibited the setting up of camps that provide food or shelter. It also asked officials to stop any attempts to enrol refugees in India’s national biometric ID scheme, Aadhaar.

A demonstrator gestures near a barricade during a protest against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar March 22, 2021.
Hundreds of anti-coup protesters have been killed

“People trying to enter/ seek refuge should be politely turned away,” the order said. An agreement between the two countries allows Indians and Burmese to cross the border and stay up to 14 days. But the border has been closed since March last year due to Covid-19. The numbers are expected to increase as violence against anti-coup protesters continues.

On 1 February, security forces, led by Min Aung Hlaing and his generals, seized control of Myanmar. They detained Aung San Suu Kyi whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party had won a recent general election by a landslide.

Protests against the coup have been brutally suppressed with more than 500 people now killed in the violence since 1 February, according to a monitoring group. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said the true figure was probably higher.

That day the generals held a military parade to commemorate the annual Armed Forces Day, the start of Myanmar’s military resistance against Japanese occupation in 1945.

India was one of the countries whose representatives attended the parade, drawing some flak. Officials from Russia, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand were also at the parade, that same night the generals threw a lavish gala, which sparked outrage and condemnation.

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