Vigil up in Manipur over influx - Minority group seeks refuge for Rohingyas, ILP panel vocal against shelter

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By Khelen Thokchom
  • Published 12.09.17

A man hits an effigy of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi with a slipper during a protest in Calcutta on Monday. (Reuters)

Imphal, Sept. 11: Manipur police have tightened vigil along the Manipur-Myanmar border to check possible influx from the neighbouring country after clashes between militants of the minority Rohingya community and government forces last month triggered an exodus.

More than three lakh Rohingya refugees have crossed the Myanmar border and taken shelter in Bangladesh following the clashes triggered by attacks on Myanmar police stations by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ASRA). A United Nations estimate says nearly 1,000 people have died during the clashes in Myanmar's northwestern state of Rakhine.

Manipur shares a 364km-long border with Myanmar. The state's five districts, Ukhrul, Kamjong, Chandel, Tengnoupal and Churachandpur, share borders with the neighbouring country.

As the border is porous, there is widespread apprehension that refugees from the trouble-torn region of Myanmar could sneak into Manipur.

The refugees could easily enter Manipur through Moreh along with the Myanmarese who come to the border town daily for international trading.

"The police headquarters alerted the superintendents of police of the border districts two days ago, asking them to be on strict vigil to check influx of displaced Rohingya Muslims into Manipur. Police teams, led by respective sub-divisional police officers and officers-in-charge of police stations, have been patrolling the border round-the-clock," an official source said.

The source said so far there is no report of Rohingya refugees entering the state or making attempts to cross the border for taking shelter in the state. However, there is a need to be alert while checking the entry of Myanmar nationals into Moreh.

In 1988, during the crackdown by the then military junta on supporters of pro-democracy movement, hundreds of fleeing Myanmarese had entered Manipur mostly through Moreh. They were sheltered at a Manipur Rifles camp in Chandel district with UN refugee status. They have since returned to their country.

Mohammad Jalal, president of the All Manipur Muslim Organisations Coordinating Committee, said if people from Myanmar's troubled region arrive in the state, they should be given shelter with UN refugee status so that they can return after the situation normalises.

On the other hand, the Joint Committee on Inner-Line Permit System, a conglomerate of citizens, demanded that the state government be alert and not allow trouble in the state as a result of fleeing refugees entering Manipur.

The source said they were monitoring the movement of people from across the border in Moreh to ensure that those entering the border town for business return after the day's activities. Two border gates at Moreh are opened between 7am and 4pm daily to allow trading.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has accused Myanmar of waging a "systematic attack" on the Rohingyas and warned that "ethnic cleansing" seemed to be under way. "Because Myanmar has refused access to human rights investigators, the current situation cannot yet be fully assessed, but the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing," he told the UN Human Rights Council, adds PTI.