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Manipur: India state reverses order turning away Myanmar refugees

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image captionBurmese have been fleeing their country since the military coup on 1 February

India’s border state of Manipur has withdrawn an order that told officials to “politely turn away” refugees crossing over from Myanmar.

The state’s home ministry said its instructions had been “misconstrued”.

The earlier order was issued amid reports of refugees entering Manipur after a coup in Myanmar last month.

Protesters against the takeover have been met with increasing force – the military is reported to have killed more than 500 people since 1 February.

Thousands have reportedly been attempting to flee across the border to Thailand too – only to be turned back by Thai soldiers. The government in Bangkok has said it will “respect human rights” of refugees, but wants to avoid an “exodus”.

There has been outrage around the world at the bloodshed resulting from use of lethal force by the Myanmar security forces against unarmed civilians.

On Tuesday, the home ministry in Manipur in India’s north-east 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.

image copyrightReuters

image captionHundreds of anti-coup protesters have been killed in Myanmar

“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.

It’s hard to say how many refugees from Myanmar have entered India since the coup but some estimates put the number at 700.

The numbers are expected to increase as violence against anti-coup protesters continues.

Earlier this month, a group of police officers from Myanmar crossed into another state in India’s north-east, Mizoram. They told the BBC they had fled to India after refusing to shoot protesters on the orders of the military.

image copyrightReuters

image captionAnti-coup protesters, like these people in Yangon, have launched a nationwide “garbage strike”

On 1 February, security forces, led by Min Aung Hlaing and his generals, seized control of Myanmar, unseating the democratically elected government. 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 – at least 510 people have now been 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.

At least eight more people were killed in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon (Rangoon), on Tuesday. Pro-democracy protesters have been piling rubbish on main streets across the country, as part of what they are calling a “garbage strike”.

media captionViolent scenes were seen on the streets of Myanmar during its deadliest day

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 criticism. 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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