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06/10/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern)- Thousands have fled the violence in Myanmar, where a military junta has ruled since a coup on February 1. The months following have seen escalating bloodshed and worsening attacks on civilians as a growing pro-democracy protest movement sweeps the country. Since the military took over, it has resulted over 800 deaths due to the violence of the coup.

Much of the violence today centers around the pro-democracy movement, but Myanmar has been torn by political, ethnic, and religious conflicts for years, leading well over a million refugees to flee the country and causing the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands more. The Tatmadaw has long persecuted Rohingya Muslims and ethnic-minority Christians, including with bombings, torture, and attempts to forcefully convert minorities to Buddhism.

Many refugees from Myanmar flee directly across the western border into India and Bangladesh or across the eastern border into Thailand. Some end up resettling as far away as the United States and Australia, but many others face decades of uncertainty in massive refugee camps like the one in southern Bangladesh that caught fire two months ago, displacing more than 45,000 refugees and killing at least eleven.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNRA) released a statement saying there are more than 60,700 displaced people, including women and children. The U.N. has additionally stated that there is an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 refugees from Myanmar who have fled for safety in India.

Even though the U.N. encouraged countries to take in refugees fleeing from persecution, the Indian government started out reluctant to help the Myanmar people in their crisis. In March, India announced its deportation of 150 refugees due to a security risk, and it discouraged the states that border Myanmar, Mizoram and Manipur, from welcoming any of the displaced people.

Sending refugees back to Myanmar violates the principle of non-refoulement, a binding requirement of customary international law prohibiting countries from returning refugees to a country where they face significant risk of persecution, torture, or other serious harm. Malaysia was widely criticized for sending 1,086 Burmese refugees back to Myanmar shortly after the coup. Bangladesh also has engaged in the practice intermittently for years despite human rights groups warning that the practice violates international law.

Due to public backlash on India’s tight rules concerning refugees crossing the Indian border, both state governments of Mizoram and Manipur have decided to welcome in the refugees. Additionally, the Indian government decided to stand up for the people in Myanmar by condemning violence, standing up for detained previous leaders, and claiming they will aid refugees. While The Indian government does not have a clear refugee protection policy, they are providing asylum to many of the refugees.

Though there is no official data on the number of refugees who have crossed over to India, it is heard that there could be over 7,000 people.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].