Myanmar refugees in India protest coup, fear for their future

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The military coup in Myanmar has drawn condemnation among refugees living in India who are now more fearful to return to their homeland. They have joined the protests in New Delhi against the military coup and detention of state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hundreds of refugees from Myanmar, who are currently living in India, protested against the military coup and detention of state counselor, Aung San Suu Kyi and demanded her release along with other political leaders.

“We are calling on the international and the government of India to secure the release of those imprisoned and the handover of power to a civilian controlled parliament,” James Fanai, President of the Chin Refugee Committee told RFI.

Protesters call for release

Fanai and hundreds of refugees who were protesting at the capital’s rallying site, Jantar Mantar, come from an ethnic Christian community called the Chins, originally from Myanmar.

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, for the second consecutive day demanding the release of Suu Kyi.

Resistance to the coup had initially proved restricted because of the internet shutdown imposed in vast swathes.

The Chins, much like the Rohingyas, a largely Muslim ethnic group, have faced brutal abuse and discrimination at the hands of Burmese military.

Both groups have been a victim of ethnic cleansing carried on in Myanmar where the communities have been persecuted for their cultural and religious beliefs being different from the majority Buddhist population.

Progress rolled back

This ethnic group from Myanmar concentrated in Chin State and Sagaing region, share common ancestry, and in some cases the language with the Mizo community in the tiny north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram.

“The slow progress made over the last decade by the gradual democratization has definitely been rolled back. We are worried for our future and unsure what lies ahead,” Ko Nyo Htun, a refugee told RFI.

There are approximately 10,000-15,000 Chins in Mizoram, most of them employed as weavers. In the capital, New Delhi, around 3,000 refugees are spread out in several localities and many continue to face problems related to visa extensions, racism and even language.

In Myanmar, the largest minorities are the Shan and Karen groupings. Other indigenous minority groups include Mon, Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Kayan, Danu, Akha, Kokang, Lahu, Rohingya, Tavoyan and Wa.

Heightened fears

With the military in complete control of Myanmar after the coup, some said they are even more afraid.

“Just when we thought things will become better, it will now be challenging for many ethnic groups to return,” Mung Pi, a refugee who has been living in Delhi told RFI.

The Chins started their migration around 1998 when their movement for self-determination in their home country failed and the military crackdown intensified.

They started to flee and many are presently living the uncertain life of asylum seekers and refugees in foreign countries.

India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Conventions. Because of this it is not bound by any law to assimilate refugees within its population.

Political observers say the military takeover in Myanmar has serious implications for India. A likely pro-China tilt in Myanmar’s foreign policy could erode the influence India had managed to build in recent decades.

Besides, New Delhi will have to deal with the fallout of crackdown on pro-democracy activists as well. This could then prompt a flight of more refugees to India.