The Indian state Mizoram is witnessing an influx of around 2,000 refugees from Myanmar’s Chin State due to escalating clashes between the Chin Defence Force guerrillas and the Myanmar military near the Indo-Myanmar border. The focal point of this movement is Zokhawthar, an Indian border town just a few kilometers away from Rikhawdar, the epicenter of the conflict. The two towns are separated by the Tiau river.
The fighting has resulted in casualties, with one refugee reported dead and approximately 20 Myanmar nationals hospitalized in Mizoram. The refugees sought medical treatment in India after sustaining injuries in the conflict across the border. As of Monday evening, 20 injured individuals were admitted to the Champhai district hospital, while eight were referred to hospitals in Aizawl.
Gunfire continued to be heard in the region as of Monday evening, prompting an estimated 2,000 people from Rikhawdar and Khawmami villages to seek refuge on the Indian side. The movement of people has temporarily halted, with many staying in Zokhawthar. The deceased refugee was identified as 51-year-old Cungsianmawia from Khawmawi.
The situation has become familiar since 2021, with people regularly seeking shelter in Mizoram during periods of instability in Myanmar. Traditionally, individuals return to their homes when conditions improve. Champhai’s president of the Young Mizo Association, Mamuana Fanai, highlighted that those living close to the border often spend nights in Mizoram and return to Myanmar during the day.
Before this recent surge, Mizoram was already hosting over 30,000 Chin refugees who fled Myanmar following the 2021 military coup. Additionally, the state accommodates more than 12,000 displaced individuals from the Kuki-Zomi community due to ethnic tensions in neighboring Manipur. The Mizos share a common ethnicity with both the Chin and Kuki-Zomi communities.
Complex interplay of geopolitical factors affecting the lives of those on both sides of the Indo-Myanmar border is highlighted in the region’s history of providing refuge during the crisis. It also emphasizes the difficulties faced by displaced populations and the strain on resources in the host state of Mizoram.