Aizawl: More than 200 Buddhist refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been sent back to their villages from south Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district, an official released said on Wednesday.
The release said that the repatriation was conducted under the supervision of Lawngtlai district deputy commissioner Shashanka Ala, state police and Assam Rifles on Tuesday in accordance with the direction of Union home ministry.
Up to 219 refugees were sent back through Laitlang in Mizoram to border pillar 8 by Maruti Gypsy vehicles and on foot under tight security. The border was sealed off after the refugees entered Myanmar’s territory, the release said.
Meawnhile, Ala said that Myanmar authorities had promised to provide boats to take the refugees back through the Sekulh Lui river in a flag meeting held on June 30. “Initially, though the state government was planning to send back the refugees by boats, it had to use vehicles after the Myanmar authorities backed off,” she said.
She added that refugees were provided rations for two weeks.
The official also said that 54 houses at Hmawngbuchhuah village, belonging to the refugees, were dismantled by village council and volunteers of Young Lai Association (YLA).
Fleeing arms conflict between Myanmar Army and Rakhine based underground group, Arakan Army (AA), more than 1,700 refugees from Paletwa and neighbouring villages in Myanmar’s Arakan (Rakhine) had entered Mizoram in later part of November, 2017.
Initially, they took refuge in makeshift camps in four villages — Zochachhuah, Laitlang, Dumzautlang and Hmawngbuchhuah in Lawngtlai district bordering Myanmar. Later, they were grouped and shifted to Hmawngbuchhua village in the Bumthlang subdivision for administrative convenience.
Though majority of the refugees have returned to their villages earlier, those who have been repatriated on Tuesday were already settled down in Mizoram by constructing houses and practising jhum cultivation.
Sources said that the refugees belonging to Zakhai tribe were reluctant and crying while they were being sent back home. They complained that they will be starved at their villages due to livelihood and employment problems.
Residents of Hmawngbuchhuah village, who also belong to the same tribe, took pity on the refugees and were even ready to live with them permanently, the sources added.