Myanmar coup: Civil servants, policemen taking refuge in Mizoram say ready to return and stand with 'our people'

“I came to Mizoram because the police were searching for me. I didn't come here out of choice. It was my parents who pushed me.”

Biaka (name changed on request), a Rural Development Worker in Myanmar's Chin State, was among the first to join the Civil Disobedience Movement after the military coup. His wife, also a government servant, joined the movement as well.

On 22 March, they crossed the river Tiau (part of the international border between India and Myanmar) to Mizoram with their two young children, some clothes and 2,30,000 Kyats (Rs 12,208).

Now, as his wife holds their one-year-old son and he holds his three-year-old daughter, Biaka looks back.

Woman and child refugee from Myanmar taking shelter in Mizoram. Image courtesy Chcha Varte

“Around 10 government servants joined CDM. Even though I'm not a leader of the movement, the authorities believed that I was. The police were hunting me. We didn't dare spend the night at our home. For two weeks, we moved around, staying in different homes.”

The refugees began arriving in Mizoram at the end of February, ironically, many of them policemen. Most had refused to use force to disperse protesters.

Like 27-year-old Zau from Chin State. “We were ordered to force the protesters to disperse. To use guns if peaceful means didn't work. The protesters are our brother and sisters. They are our people. We couldn't do such a thing. So, we came here as refugees.”

Some were joined by their families in mid-March. Others say they are concerned for the safety of their loved ones. A number of these refugees with contacts in Mizoram have been offered the traditional Mizo hospitality, with host families providing food and shelter.

To reach Tiau, the refugees faced many hurdles. Some, like Biaka, were assisted by CDM supporters and received by activists in Mizoram. Biaka said they were able to enter India relatively easily and everything was arranged for them by their relatives in Mizoram.

Others are not so lucky. Making their trip on their own, evading Myanmar police posts and patrols, spending nights in the jungle and dodging India's border police.

The early arrivals have been in Mizoram for more than a month. Their lives subsisting on the contributions of well-wishers and their hosts.

Zau says his host provides food and accommodation, but he wants to pay his own way.

He has managed to earn some money through manual labour. He usually gets around Rs 400 per day (the wage for unskilled labour in Mizoram), which he spends on purchasing what he needs.

While the refugees are thankful to be safe, they say they have no plans to stay in Mizoram.

With the civilian toll rising and atrocities of the Myanmar security forces increasing, they say they are ready to return to Myanmar and stand with their people.

Biaka says if the situation deteriorates and the people and the Tatmadaw (armed forces) continue to be at loggerheads, he will return to Myanmar.

And do what exactly?

Pick up arms, he says. Or even just offer comfort and help to his people.



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