Sun, 03 Dec 2023

Zokhawthar (Mizoram), [India], November 17 (ANI): Amid the clashes between the ruling military and anti-junta protesters in Myanmar, scores of refugees, who crossed over into India fleeing the violence, have found temporary refuge in the Zokhawthar area of Mizoram's Champhai district.

The refugees said while they are longing to return to their native village, they are scared to do so in the face of the ongoing clashes.

Speaking to ANI, Vanlalruata, a resident of Chin State of Myanmar who is sheltered along with his family at the Bethel refugee camp in Zokhawthar, said the situation back home continues to be grave and they are spending anxious days amid the prevailing disquiet and violence.

"We want to go back but are too scared to do so. We don't know when the situation will return to normal. We have found refuge here (Zokhawthar) for the time being. The Mizoram government and the YMA (Young Mizo Association, an NGO) have helped us and arranged for us to camp here. We are very thankful to them," Vanlalruata told ANI.

He added that several houses in his village in Chin State were burnt down while still more were ransacked and damaged.

"While some among us have returned to the village (in Chin State), some others came back here as they have lost everything they had back home. We don't know what's in store for us in the days ahead," Vanlalruata added.

About 500 Myanmarese refugees are currently sheltered at the Bethel refugee camp and 170 of them are children.

Some said they have been sheltered in the refugee camps over the last two years.

Thanlianchhiari, a woman refugee from Chin State who is also taking shelter at the Bethel refugee camp, told ANI, "We want to go to our own village but the current situation in Myanmar is too volatile. We have lost our homes and have to rebuild from scratch. We are praying for the restoration of peace in our homeland at the earliest."Esther Lalpekmawii, a Myanmar national and mother to a 9-month-old, who is currently sheltered in the Zokhawthar area of Mizoram's Champhai district, said she remains fearful of the situation back home in the wake of air strikes (on anti-junta protesters) by the Myanmarese army.

Esther informed that the air strikes started on November 12.

Around 5000 Myanmar nationals are taking shelter in the Zokhawthar area of Mizoram's Champhai district after fleeing the violence in their homeland.

These refugees entered the Champhai district following a fresh airstrike by the Myanmar army in areas along the India-Myanmar border.

The district administration, NGOs, the YMA, and the Village Council provided food, clothes, and medicines to the Myanmarese refugees seeking refuge in makeshift tents in the Zokhawthar area.

According to volunteers associated with the Young Mizo Association, Zokhawthar, around 4-5 relief and refugee camps have been set up in the area.

Zokhawthar is a village in Mizoram's Champhai district, which shares its border with Myanmar.

In a recent development across the border, the People's Defence Force (PDF) of Myanmar attacked and captured two Army posts, leading to 39 Myanmar army personnel seeking refuge in Mizoram and subsequently surrendering to the state police.

The number of Myanmar army personnel, who have surrendered before the Mizoram Police so far, stands at 42.

The military junta is facing its biggest test since taking power in a 2021 coup after three ethnic minority forces launched a coordinated offensive in late October, capturing some towns and military posts, according to a report. (ANI)

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