Beyond the Headlines: Myanmar nationals detained in India, Thailand

Humanitarian affairs

On January 27, more than 80 Myanmar refugees, including 10 children, from Tamu Township in Sagaing Region were arrested in neighbouring India’s Moreh, Manipur State, for “illegally entering” the country at an undetermined date. Citing the local police, the Hindustan Times reported that the Myanmar nationals had been staying in the villages of New Salbung and H Lhaungcham in Tengnoupal District. A case has been opened against them under the Foreigners Act, and the detainees will reportedly be held in a newly constructed building outside the Sajiwa prison in the state capital of Imphal designated as “hous[ing] illegal immigrants who enter Manipur.” Three more people were arrested on January 30 for the same reason, and have been detained at the Moreh police station, according to a source in Manipur who is familiar with the refugees’ situation. 

Manipur authorities in Moreh, India (N. Biren Singh / Facebook)

In a post on social media, Manipur’s chief minister Nongthombam Biren Singh praised those who arrested the Myanmar refugees and urged the residents living in Manipur-Myanmar border area to report “illegal immigrants” to the state authorities or face legal consequences for “sheltering” them. Since the military coup in February 2021, there have been at least five incidents in which about 300 displaced Myanmar nationals were detained in the region. Tamu is located in northwestern Sagaing, and has seen clashes between the Myanmar military and resistance forces escalate over the past two years. 


Detained Myanmar workers are pictured in an overcrowded detention centre in Ranong, Thailand (Supplied)

Hundreds of undocumented Myanmar workers held for up to eight months in a detention centre in Ranong, Thailand—which borders Myanmar—recently went on hunger strike, demanding to be released amid overcrowded and inhumane conditions. The Thai government ultimately agreed to send them back to Myanmar after 655 people refused to eat or drink beginning at 1pm on January 28 through the evening of January 29.

Myanmar workers protest from with a detention centre in Ranong (Supplied)

According to an announcement by the Myanmar regime, 220 migrants will initially be repatriated on February 2 and the rest are scheduled to arrive on February 8 and 15.

Tun Tun Naing, Ranong’s representative and administrator for the Foundation for Education and Development, which works on migrant rights issues, stated that the local detention centre had a capacity of just 300 people. At least 80 of the migrant workers detained were women, some of whom were pregnant or elderly. 

Junta affairs

Financial transactions reviewed by international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that the Yokogawa Bridge Corporation of Japan paid the Myanmar Economic Cooperation (MEC) around US$1.3 million between July and November 2022 for the Bago River Bridge Construction Project in Yangon. The funds were found to be directly deposited into MEC’s bank account at Myanma Foreign Trade Bank through Mizuho Bank in Japan, according to HRW.

The project was approved in 2016 as part of the Japanese government’s official development assistance to Myanmar and included a ¥31 billion ($240 million) loan from Japan’s aid agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency. In March 2019, Yokogawa Bridge signed a contract to build the structure. In response to a HRW letter about the issue, a Japanese foreign ministry official said that the government is “not in a position to explain” Yokogawa Bridge’s payments to MEC as they are transactions “between private companies.” 


No. 2 Steel Mill at Mt Pinpet, outside of Taunggyi in southern Shan State (NP News)

According to a January 25 report by a pro-military media outlet, the state-owned No. 2 Steel Mill at  Mt Pinpet, outside of Taunggyi in southern Shan State, is expected to resume operations in 2023, starting with a trial period led by Russian experts in iron processing. The report said that once it is at full capacity, the mill will produce approximately 200,000 tons of iron per year.  Construction of the mill was initiated in 2004 as a joint venture between Russia’s state-owned Tyazhpromexport and the military conglomerate MEC, but was suspended in 2017 by the National League for Democracy government for financial reasons. Local civil society organisations like the Pa-O Youth Organisation have long called for the Pinpet steel plant to be shut down, citing the major environmental threats it poses to the farmland and water sources used by thousands of residents in the area.  


Representatives of the Myanmar junta and the RCSS are seen during a meeting in Naypyitaw on January 24 (GNLM)

Personnel from the Myanmar junta’s “peace talks team” met with representatives of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) in Naypyitaw from January 24-26. Lt-Gen Yar Pyae led the regime contingent and RCSS chair Yawd Serk led the delegation from the Shan ethnic armed organisation. The meeting was the third between the military and the RCSS since the coup. Junta-run newspapers reported that the attendees discussed amendments to the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, “democracy and federalism,” and 33 policies on Shan State proposed by the RCSS. The regime released a statement after the third day of the meeting declaring that the two groups had signed “final comprehensive peace agreements,” but did not elaborate on what this entailed. Armed groups actively resisting the coup regime have denounced Yawd Serk and the RCSS’s participation in the junta’s “peace talks” while the military continues a nationwide campaign of repression against civilians and political opponents. 

Related Articles

Back to top button