Guwahati: Around 30 Army soldiers, who came to Mizoram after their military camps were overrun by the pro-democracy forces were repatriated to Myanmar.

A senior official in Mizoram who do not want to be named told ET, “ 30 soldiers, including an officer, had fled to Tuipang village in Mizoram’s Siaha district on Tuesday after their camps at Motupi in Chin state were captured by armed pro-democracy forces. Two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters on Wednesday afternoon airlifted the 30 soldiers from Mizoram's Siaha district to Manipur’s Moreh town, where they were handed over to Myanmar’s military authority.”

He said that after completing necessary formalities, including biometric process, the Indian authorities handed over the 30 soldiers to Myanmar Army officers at Tamu (opposite Moreh border) in the neighbouring country.

The border town of Moreh, 110 km south of Imphal.

Since November 13, 74 Myanmar Army soldiers, including officers, had fled to the Indian territory in different phases after their camps in Chin state were captured by the Chin National Defence Force (CNDF), the armed wing of the Chin National Organisation (CNO).

The soldiers were apprehended by the Mizoram police in Champhai district before being handed over to the Assam Rifles. All the 74 soldiers have been repatriated to Myanmar through the Moreh-Tamu border.

Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita, the Eastern Army Commander recently said that when fighting intensifies in Myanmar villagers cross over to the Indian side and gradually return. Common villages seeking refugees are not stopped.

Kalita said “Any instability in our neighbourhood is not in our interest, it impacts us as we share a common border. The problem of Indo-Myanmar gets accentuated by difficult geography and terrain.”

He said, “As people share ethnicity it is a very porous border including the Free movement regime (FMR). FMR was suspended during the COVID however people have become so used to it. It becomes difficult to identify who are people from our nation and others. Whenever fighting intensifies between the Myanmar army and pro-democracy forces, areas close to border people cross over, some go back and some stay back.”

He added, “There are some limited numbers of people who sought shelter in Manipur and larger numbers in Mizoram. There is a process which is followed in consultation with the state government and whenever they want to go back they are sent back, but the directions are very clear that no armed cadres are allowed to enter. Identify all these people, record biometric, establish camps, keep them localised. Records are kept ensuring that they are not part of any rebel group. There has been recovery of a lot of contraband drugs and narcotics from people who are coming, so we are keeping a very close eye on drug peddlers”.

He added, “Even when Myanmar army personnel are seeking refuge, we are allowed after separating their weapons and proper identification and then they are taken to Moreh border and handed over to Myanmar authorities. Common villagers seeking refuge due to conflict are not stopped.”

Already 32,000 people including women and children from Myanmar have taken shelter in the northeastern state. A majority of the refugees live in relief camps and government buildings, while many others are accommodated by their relatives and a large number of Myanmarese have been staying in rented houses.

Eastern Mizoram’s six districts -- Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual -- share a 510-km-long unfenced and mountainous border with Myanmar's Chin state. The Assam Rifles, which guarding the unfenced 1,643-km India-Myanmar border has stepped up its vigil along the frontier.