Security at Indo-Myanmar border beefed up

Official sources cite spread of COVID-19 and military coup as reasons for heightened vigil

Additional forces were deployed along the 365 km-long Indo-Myanmar border on Monday morning to seal it. Official sources said that security along the international border had been beefed up in view of the increased incidence of COVID-19 in the Myanmarese areas adjacent to Manipur, and the declaration of emergency following the military coup in that country.

Legalised border trade at Moreh in Manipur and Namphalong in Myanmar was suspended soon after the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, most goods procured from across the border are no longer available in the northeast. However, officials point out that a variety of narcotics, gold bars and other costly contraband continues to be easily available in Manipur.

With the imposition of military rule in Myanmar, the decision to reopen the international border may be put off further. Prior to the November 2019 elections, in which the Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) had taken part, there was a mass exodus by NLD sympathisers and student activists to Manipur. To cope with it, Manipur, under orders from the Union government, had opened, much to the chagrin of Myanmar’s military junta, a refugee camp at the border town of Moreh.

Around that time, military personnel entered Manipur in plainsclothes, mingling with traders and tourists, and shouted at the refugees in the camp to return home or there would be trouble for their family members. Fearing a commando-style “rescue”, the Manipur government shifted the refugee camp to a location inside the 8 Manipur Rifles Battalion at Leikhun in Chandel district. Once a civilian government was formed in Myanmar, the camp was gradually shut down as most of its occupants had returned to Myanmar.

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