India Withdraws Order Barring Shelter For Those Fleeing Myanmar

A view of Kyauktalone camp, in Kyaukphyu, Rakhine state, where Muslim residents have been forced to live for seven years|AFP file

New Delhi- An Indian border state has withdrawn an order to refuse food and shelter to people from Myanmar fleeing bloodshed, two officials told Reuters on Tuesday, after the measure drew fierce public criticism.

More than 1,000 people, including Myanmar policemen and their families, have crossed into India since late February, most of them into the northeastern state of Mizoram, where the local government and civil society groups have supported them.

After people tried crossing into a second Indian state, Manipur, last week, the state government there told five districts bordering Myanmar to turn them away.

“District Administration should not open any camps to provide food and shelter,” said the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters.

“People trying to enter/seek refuge should be politely turned away,” it said.

India’s federal government had previously asked local authorities to stop the influx from Myanmar and deport anybody who had crossed over. But two federal government officials said on Tuesday the Manipur directive had been withdrawn on Monday.

The order, issued on March 26, had come under heavy criticism.

“Beyond shame!” said Shivshankar Menon, India’s former National Security Advisor, said on Twitter, reacting to a copy of the initial order circulating on social media.

Three Myanmar nationals have undergone treatment for gunshot wounds and other injuries in Manipur’s capital Imphal since March 26, a senior doctor said.

“They had firearm injuries,” Dr Lokeshwar Singh, medical superintendent of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences told Reuters, adding they were stable.

More than 500 people have been killed in Myanmar since February 1, when the country’s powerful military staged a coup and deposed the civilian government, triggering a wave of protests.

Manipur and Mizoram are among the four Indian states that share a porous frontier with Myanmar, allowing for easy movement of people and goods.

Refugees escaping the military crackdown on Myanmar’s pro-democracy protesters have also begun fleeing to Thailand.

The government there has said people would be accepted on humanitarian grounds, but a Thai official on the border, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the army was still sending most back because it was deemed safe on the other side.

Nevertheless, more than a dozen people were allowed to cross into Thailand on Tuesday for medical treatment, Reuters witnesses said.

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