Friday, June 17, 2011

Mizoram To Restrict Entry Of Burmese Nationals

People entering from Burma into Mizoram state in northeast India are being screened by Mizoram authorities. Entry will be granted up to 16 kilometers of the Indo–Burma border.
Indo-Myanmar-Border-Road-en1-300x236The Telegraph, an Indian newspaper reported on 13 June that the mizoram government worried over the unending influx of Burmese nationals across the Indo-Burma border into Mizoram, has been told by the Centre to restrict entry of people within a 16 kilometers radius of the border areas.
New Delhi has issued an alert to Aizawl because the Union Home Ministry is alarmed over unchecked infiltration of Burmese nationals, particularly Chins and Burmese Mizos, into Mizoram in search of jobs and to escape the junta’s oppression.
The newspaper added that the Indian central government has relaxed the norms for the movement of Burmese nationals up to a radius of 16 kilometers from the international border with Mizoram, to enable the people of both countries to trade in local produce, particularly food and edibles.
Recently, India’s central authority notified the Mizoram government that if any Burmese national intends to travel beyond the limit of the radius, he or she will have to obtain permission from the Centre.
And the Centre has directed the Mizoram police and the Central Intelligence Department to instruct the Mizoram State Foreigners’ Registration officer to check travel permits of nationals from the neighboring country.
Sources in the Young Mizo Association, the biggest NGO in Mizoram estimates that Burmese nationals mostly Chins and Mizos are being hosted by Mizo people in Mizoram because of the similar cultural and historic background.
Traders from Burma will be affected if the Mizoram authorities restrict entry to only 16 kilometers from the Indo-Burma border to Mizoram. - Khonumthung News

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

PC gives assurance for displaced Mizos rehab

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has assured that the issue of displaced Mizos in Tripura is being looked into.

In his letter to state Home Minister R Lalzirliana today, Mr Chidambaram said he had received a memorandum submitted by NGOs and political parties of Mizoram demanding rehabilitation of the 80 Mizo families driven out of their homes in Sakhan hill range in Tripura by Bru militants in 1998, and assured that the rehabilitation issue is being looked into.

The state government had called off the fourth phase of Bru repatriation scheduled for June 7, demanding rehabilitation of the displaced Mizos. Lalzirliana, who announced the governments decision, said that the government also submitted separate memorandum to the Union home ministry.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Delhi alert on Myanmarese

Aizawl, June 14 : Worried over the “unending ingress of Myanmarese nationals across the Indo-Myanmar border into Mizoram”, the Centre has again issued a reminder to the state government to stop the movement of people within a 16km radius of the border areas.

This is the second time since last January that New Delhi had to issue an alert to Aizawl as the Union home ministry is alarmed over the unchecked infiltration of Myanmarese nationals, particularly Chins and Burmese Mizos, into Mizoram in search of jobs and to escape the junta.

The Centre has relaxed the norms for the movement for Myanmarese nationals up to a point in a radius of 16km from the international border with Mizoram to enable the people of both countries to trade in local produce, particularly food and eatables.

In a recent notification to Aizawl, the Union home ministry made it clear that if any Myanmarese national intends to travel beyond the limit of 16km radius, he or she will have to obtain permission from New Delhi.

The Mizoram government in a follow-up to the Centre’s directive, has authorised the superintendent of police, CID, in Aizawl to also act as the Mizoram State Foreigners’ Registration officer to check the travel permits obtained by the nationals from its eastern neighbour. The influx of the Myanmarese people across the 404kmborders it shares with India is a big headache for Mizoram.

Police sources in Aizawl today said there were over 5,5000 Myanmarese nationals are working in shops and as domestic help in Mizoram.

From time to time Mizoram police had launched drives to detect and deport illegal migrants from Myanmar and even detected over 300 infiltrators.

The Mizoram government is concerned that these illegal migrants were involved in drug peddling and prostitution.

Burmese tightrope

By Shankar Roychowdhury

India must look away for a moment from the turmoil in the country’s western vicinity and spare a glance eastwards towards the “other border” as well, the one which India shares with another significant neighbour, Burma. Burma, formed part of Britain’s Indian empire till 1937 when it was declared a separate colonial entity. There is little ethnic or cultural connectivity eastwards, between the dominant Indo-Gangetic civilisation of India and that of the Irrawaddy heartland of Burma. In Burma, the traditional Indian presence has been of petty traders and subordinate-level bureaucracy of British Burma who did not endear themselves to the locals. Memories linger and, surprisingly, Indians even now are not generally well regarded.

The internal political and civil structure of Burma is fluid and complicated. There is Tatmadaw — the Burmese defence forces — in total charge of all aspects of governance, through the State Peace and Development Council (SDPC), which is a military junta of 11 generals, serving as well as retired, whose political fortunes fluctuate with their internal equations. With an estimated strength of 450,000 to 500,000, the Burmese Army is predominantly a light infantry force. Reputed as capable and professionally competent, it is combat-hardened by long experience of almost unbroken counterinsurgency and jungle operations against separatists almost since independence in 1948.

But its record of human rights has been severely criticised by the Western countries, particularly the United States, which regards the SDPC government as a rogue regime and is putting pressure on India to dissociate and condemn the country’s military junta. Burma carries the reputation of an enigmatic and somewhat prickly hermit kingdom which prefers to keep to itself. Inside the country, 19 major and minor ethnic groups are in distinctly uneasy diversity amongst themselves. The predominantly Christian tribal minorities along Burma’s mountainous, densely jungled outer periphery bordering Thailand, Laos, China, India and Bangladesh, are in almost permanent mutiny against the ruling Burman majority in the central heartland, who profess Buddhism and constitute 69 per cent of the population. The 1,643 km of porous, densely- jungled border shared by the two countries is comparatively loosely controlled, particularly on the Burma side and slow-burning; separatist tribal militancies of various persuasions against both New Delhi and Yangon smoulder across the entire region. Two-way traffic in border crime, drugs, weapons and other categories of smuggling have reinforced these insurgencies into a fairly major narco-conflict drawing sustenance from the Golden Triangle, in which Burma is the geographical pivot.

On the Indian side, the Indo-Burma border is, as usual, the relatively “forgotten frontier” in comparison with its western counterpart. Inter-sectoral priorities for allocation of resources are lower in the east and the Assam Rifles, that constitutes the Indian border guarding forces here, faces the usual paucity of troops. This, coupled with extremely difficult terrain and debilitating climate, makes effective border management tenuous, though still relatively better than on the Burma side.

Ethnic and cultural commonalities between the Naga, Mizo and Kuki tribes on the Indian side of the border in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, and those inhabiting the contiguous western and northwestern border regions of Burma add to the complexities of the situation, typified by the anti-India Naga insurgent group, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) in Nagaland and Manipur, which operates in India but is based in Burma and headed by S.S. Khaplang, a Hemi Naga from that country.

Relations between India and Burma are relatively low-key but on a generally even keel. India has no military problems with Burma and the focus is towards establishing a viable Indian politico-economic presence in the country. However, Burma is an area of well-entrenched Chinese interests and influence, and Indian interests must contend with strong adverse factors, which transcend purely economic or corporate rivalries. Nevertheless, it remains a geo-political imperative for India to engage as closely as possible with Burma’s military dictatorship to progress its own entry into the region.

Association with an authoritarian military government whose record of human rights has been internationally criticised draws the disapproval of the US and the West, besides that of the growing internal movement for democracy within Burma led by student and liberal activists, centred around the personality of Aung San Suu Kyi. Her party, the National League for Democracy, swept to an overwhelming victory in the national polls in 1990, which was disregarded by the military rulers who placed her under house arrest in 1992. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991, and many of her followers have escaped to India where they have been accorded sanctuary and are attempting to carry forward their movement from exile.

India for its part has to keep channels of communication open to both, the junta government and the democracy movement, using official as well Track II channels. It is an unenviable tightrope and for the present India has chosen to be pragmatic, becoming Burma’s fourth-largest trading partner (after Thailand, China and Singapore), besides involvement in major infrastructural projects in that country, including the 160-km Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo road, completed in 2001 and funded totally by India, and the ambitious Sittwe-Kaladan river-Lawngtlai multi-mode sea-river road transport corridor scheduled to be completed in 2013, connecting Sittwe port in Burma with National Highway 54 at Lawngtlai in Mizoram.

However, for India, the real cloud on the horizon is Burma’s nascent nuclear programme. Burma as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty reached an agreement with Russia in 2007 for acquiring a 10-megawatt nuclear reactor for research purposes and generation of nuclear power. This cannot be a reason for concern in any manner, but there are more diffused reports of a clandestine nuclear weapons partnership with North Korea, with which Pakistan’s rogue nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan’s nuclear network is also allegedly associated. If true, this would definitely be a matter of concern for India, which hopefully has the means and capabilities to keep itself informed and prepared vis-a-vis such developments next door.

Meanwhile, it is to be hoped that the Burmese junta has taken note of the Arab Spring far away in West Asia, and may be considering options to ease the internal conditions within the country.

* Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament

Thursday, June 9, 2011

India’s Help Sought For Burmese Cause

By Nava Thakuria
Burma (Myanmar or Brahmadesh) may have officially transformed into a democracy after the 2010 November general election, but the ground realities for the poor Burmese remain the same. And the outcome is the continuous fleeing of Burmese to neighbouring India, Bangladesh and Thailand. If the earlier exodus was of pro-democracy political activists, now more and more common Burmese are leaving the poverty stricken country.
For India, the burden of refugees primarily from Chin State of Burma is carried by Mizoram. With its around10 lakh population, the Burma and Bangladesh bordering Indian State gives shelter to nearly 80,000 migrants. Leaving aside two thousand Burmese recognized by the UN High Commission for Refugees and staying in New Delhi, the rest are scattered in Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
“The people outside Burma start believing that the country has changed after the polls. But in reality, the election was fought and won by mostly the military men. So even after the military brand State Peace and Development Council, which ruled Burma for decades, is dissolved and the Parliaments are functioning, the common people are suffering a lot,” said a Burmese youth, now staying in Indian bordering town Saiha.
The youth, who migrated from Chin to Mizoram few months back for a better life and presently working as a daily labour, also added that there are serious crisis of food in Chin State after the phenomena of bamboo flowering last year. The Burmese government in Nay Pie Taw remains reluctant for the relief and rehabilitation of Chin people.
“When some parts of Mizoram also faced the bamboo flowering in early 2010, there were constant flow of relief from New Delhi and also international aid agencies. But for our people in Chin, neither the government initiated to send relief nor it allowed the outside aid agencies to serve the people in distress,” asserted the educated youth, who wanted anonymity, during an interview with this writer at Aizawl recently.
Pu Kim, a Burmese political activist who is recognized by the UNHCR and now based in New Delhi, argues that the so-called change of Burma for democratization is useless, as the military clout remains powerful and the judiciary has still no jurisdiction over the armed forces in the country.
“Many historic political events may take place in Burma in the last few months including the November election, release of pro-democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, running Parliament sessions at Nay Pie Taw and the demolition of the SPDC, but these changes are seemingly not adequate for the people and hence many of them have fled the country,” commented Mr Kim, while speaking to this writer from New Delhi.
Meanwhile the pro-democracy Burmese activists and their well-wishers around the world have appealed to the Indian Union government for taking an initiative ‘for restoration of peace, justice and human rights in Burma’ as well as in its adjacent Northeast India. They also urged New Delhi to continue supporting the Burmese peoples’ struggle for democracy and human rights in their country. Among other requests to the Indian government, allowing the UNHCR to establish its office in Mizoram (or somewhere in the Northeast) for the benefit of thousands of Burmese refugees taking shelter in the region, also included.
The appeal came alive in a memorandum submitted to the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on May 24, 2011 by a pro-democracy group Burma Centre Delhi. The memorandum conveys important messages on the recent historic political events which occurred in Burma such as 2008 (Nargis) Constitution, November 2010 Election, release of Burmese democracy movement leader Suu Kyi, convention of Nay-Pie-Taw Parliament and demolition of the State Peace and Development Council and installation of the New Regime, the military controlled civilian uniform type.
But India does not have a refugee policy and hence it often emerges as a major challenge for both the authority and the civil society groups in a situation like that of Mizoram. For the Chin people, Mizoram emerges as a place of their choice, as both Chin and Mizos share similar religious identity and food habits.
Moreover they are almost look alike and Mizo people in general embrace the Chin as their brother and sisters. But in some occasions, when few Chin youths were found involving in petty crimes, the majority Mizo civil society groups get irritated. Even the most influential Young Mizo Association had warned the Chin people to leave Mizoram as they were polluting the Mizo society.
The resentment of Mizo civil society had compelled a senior Burmese political leader to tender apology in front of the people of Mizoram.
Addressing a consultation meeting on the ‘implication and consequences of regime change in Burma’ after the November 2010 elections at Aizawl on May 6, Dr Tint Swe, a former Burmese MP seek apology for all anti-social activities carried out by a section of Chin people.
The senior member of National League for Democracy (led by Suu Kyi), Dr Tint Swe also claimed that the recently concluded election in Burma has not brought any changes to the common people and they are still ruled by the same group of military under the camouflage of a democratic regime. Hence he urged the government of India and the citizens of Northeast to continue supporting the Burmese peoples’ struggle for real democracy.
Organized by Burma Centre Delhi in collaboration with Chin Human Rights Organizations, Aizawl and Grassroot Development Network, Mizoram and hosted by Zo Indigenous Forum the consultation meeting was attended by various civil society groups, journalists and activists of the region.
Addressing the gathering, Vanlal Ngaia, Chairman of Mizoram Committee for Democracy in Burma reiterated that the regime change in Burma does not seem to bring any change in the condition of pro-democracy activists and general people of Burma. “The only change we have seen is the military uniform into civil dresses. Therefore people preferring for democracy around the world should work persistently for full restoration of true democracy in Burma,” he added.
Muanpuia Punte, vice-president of North East Students’ Organization commented, “The people of Mizoram have a deep relation with Burma as our Chin brother and sisters live there. My understanding is that Mizo, Chin and Kuki are the same people with same religious and linguistic identity. That is why we feel pain when our Chin brothers face problem and suffer under the regime of Burma.”
He also added that both the Burma polls and its 2008 Constitution were criticized and condemned by the UN, the EU and Burmese pro-democracy campaigners for adopting undemocratic norms and rejection of democratic principles and human rights.
Dr. Alana Golmei, advocacy coordinator of BCD also urged the people of northeast to have a closer people to people contact and work together for peace and human rights in the region and Burma. She further said that both the Burma polls and its 2008 Constitution were criticized and condemned by the UN, the EU and Burmese pro-democracy campaigners for adopting undemocratic norms and rejection of democratic principles and human rights. So, she added, no change is taking place in Burma after the technically new and elected government as the human rights
situation in Burma remains the worst.
The memorandum to Indian premier particularly mentioned about the presence of nearly one hundred thousand Chin Burmese population in India where Mizoram carries the larger burden of refugees.
“Though India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, it hosts and accommodates large number of refugees under the protection of the UNHCR. Since India has not yet ratified or acceded to this law, the Burmese refugees in Delhi are treated under the Foreigners Act without clear state’s policy which results in risking their lives as they are vulnerable to insincere and unfair conduct of the concern officials,” said the memorandum.
It also insisted that New Delhi should engage the Burmese Government as well as Suu Kyi and other ethnic groups of Burma. Burma is ethnically diverse and the failure to address the legitimate rights and aspirations of Burma’s ethnic groups is a root cause of instability and dictatorship in Burma, it asserted.
The copy of the letter was also sent to the Union Home Ministry, National Human Rights Commission of India, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with the New Delhi based embassies of United States of America, Republic of Canada, Australia, Czech Republic, Norway, United Kingdom and Indonesia.
Other resolutions included supporting the Global Arms Embargo against Burma and proper impact assessments before implementation of developmental projects in the region in line with Free, Prior and Informed Consent-FPIC. It also maintained that any current and future Indian investments in Burma should be both fair and responsible such that local participation in those development projects in Burma is ensured.
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