Hundreds in need of aid at Indian border after junta airstrike in Myanmar

RFA Burmese
Hundreds in need of aid at Indian border after junta airstrike in Myanmar Displaced people from Myanmar are seen in Kampat, Sagaing region near the Indian border as they flee escalating fighting, July 24, 2023.
Citizen journalist

About 2,000 villagers displaced by two consecutive days of junta airstrikes on a township in Myanmar’s Sagaing region are in dire need of basic necessities after being refused refuge by authorities across the border in India, according to the villagers and aid workers.

The situation in Khampat, a 2,000-home township around 8 km (5 miles) southeast of the border with India’s Manipur state, highlights the plight of internally displaced persons in Sagaing. 

Fighting between the military and anti-junta forces in the region has forced nearly 800,000 people to flee their homes since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

A man who was among more than 1,000 people from Khampat who fled the July 25 and 26 airstrikes to nearby Kale township told Radio Free Asia (RFA), a news service affiliated with BenarNews, that conditions for displaced there are among the worst he had faced in the nearly 30 months since the coup.

“I’ve faced many difficulties as an internally displaced person,” said the man who has had to flee fighting in the region before and who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on condition of anonymity citing security concerns.

“There are several sick people and others who had to run [from the fighting] with only the clothes on their backs, who are dealing with extreme difficulties,” he said. “Since we all have to stay together in one shelter, it’s very crowded and inconvenient.”

A person assisting the displaced in Kale said they are sheltering in three or four Christian churches there.

“They number more than 1,000, which is almost the entire population of Khampat,” he said. “They had no choice but to flee here.”

In addition to those in Kale, more than 700 from Khampat’s Kanan and Kamagyi villages have fled across the border into Manipur since July 21, when clashes between military troops and anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) paramilitaries intensified in the township.

Hundreds ordered home

Myanmar shares a border of more than 1,600 km (1,000 miles) with eastern India. More than 60,000 people have crossed into India’s Manipur and Mizoram states since the coup, according to UNOCHA, but Indian authorities in Manipur have been dealing with violence between the majority Meitei community and the tribal Kuki minority there since early May and say they no longer have the resources to accommodate refugees.

The Manipur state government recently ordered the Indian Border Guard to send the 700 Myanmar nationals – including more than 300 children and 200 women – who have fled since July 21 back across the border. Many of those who have been forced to leave India and others fleeing the fighting in Khampat now have no option other than to shelter in the jungle, with few resources.

31 RFA2.jpg
Displaced people from Myanmar are seen in Kampat, Sagaing region near the Indian border as they flee escalating fighting, July 24, 2023. [Citizen journalist]

Salai Dokhar, the founder of India for Myanmar, an India-based pro-democracy group, told RFA that there are security challenges in seeking refuge for Myanmar nationals, who risk being “driven back” across the border.

“We’ve learned that India doesn’t let Myanmar refugees enter … due to the Manipur conflict,” he said. “Some refugees in Manipur who were found out to be Myanmar nationals were even driven back, too.”

Dokhar said that “more than a few hundred” have been returned to Myanmar since the order was given.

He added that authorities in Manipur have cut off the internet in the conflict area and communication is limited.

“As telephone services have been irregular, we can’t get accurate information every day,” he said.

Tensions high

Meanwhile, a member of the PDF in Khampat told RFA that the military situation there remains tense.

“Our People’s Defense Forces have no plans to retreat,” he said. “The [military] doesn't want to lose control of the town either. So it’s a tense situation between the two sides.”

Reports that the ethnic Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is also involved in the fighting against junta troops in the area could not be immediately confirmed, as the group’s military command is far away.

“That’s not our active area, which is why I haven’t heard that we have military bases there,” said KIA news and information officer Col. Naw Bu. “I can’t say that we are involved in the fighting there, nor can I confirm that we are. It’s a little far from us [at] the military headquarters.”

RFA attempts to contact the junta’s spokesman for Sagaing region went unanswered.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.