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We want India to play an important role to restore democracy: Myanmar MP taking shelter in Mizoram

Dr Ngai Tam Maung along with at least 50 MPs and MLAs fled to neighbouring Mizoram when the junta launched a crackdown
Last Updated : 16 August 2022, 09:21 IST
Last Updated : 16 August 2022, 09:21 IST
Last Updated : 16 August 2022, 09:21 IST
Last Updated : 16 August 2022, 09:21 IST

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Dr Ngai Tam Maung is one of the 20 Members of Parliament (MPs) representing Myanmar's political party, National League for Democracy, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. As the military junta in Myanmar staged a coup, took over the Suu Kyi-led government in February 2021 and launched a crackdown on the pro-democracy protesters, Dr Maung along with at least 50 MPs and MLAs fled to neighbouring Mizoram in India.

Over 30,000 Myanmar nationals including police personnel and government employees have been taking shelter in Mizoram since then. Some of them are living in Manipur and Nagaland, two other states in the Northeast sharing borders with Myanmar. In an interview with Sumir Karmakar of DH from Mizoram capital Aizawl, Maung said people of Myanmar are committed to bring democracy back and so wants the international community, particularly neighbouring India to play an important role to help them achieve their goal.

Tell us the circumstances under which you left Myanmar and took shelter in Mizoram. How many Myanmar nationals are now living in Mizoram?

After the military coup, the junta detained most of our national leaders, some MPs and some society leaders. In such a circumstance, I came to Mizoram and have been staying here. An estimated 30,000 Myanmar nationals are now living in Mizoram. They came to Mizoram because of the armed clashes in their regions. The Myanmar military arrested some of their relatives, killed many of their friends, and burnt their houses.

Tell us about the present situation in your country.

The military junta is attacking not just People Defence Forces (armed forces of the pro-democracy groups) but also civilians and civilian infrastructure from both air and the ground. The military junta is committing massive human rights violations daily across the country and it is affecting the civilians most. The military junta has been blocking desperately needed humanitarian assistance such as food and medicines from reaching internally displaced peoples and others at risk. Under this situation, Myanmar people are running away from their homes and some are leaving the country for their survival.

Do you expect the situation to improve soon in Myanmar in favour of your party and the democracy?

The people of Myanmar have been standing firm in denying the military junta and have been calling for international support. People believe that military dictatorship must be uprooted from the political soil of Myanmar and they are still so strong in their belief and their expectation. Until today, the military junta has not received international recognition. Both the UN and ASEAN have refused to recognize the military junta as the official government of Myanmar.

On the other hand, the military junta has lost territory month by month to People Defence Forces (PDFs) and Ethnic Revolution Organizations (EROs) and has become weaker and weaker. PDFs (CDFs in Chin State) and EROs have become stronger and stronger and can enlarge their territory step by step to implement our shared goal of founding a Federal Democratic Union. We, the people of Myanmar, know that our future is in our hands. At the same time, we realize we need helping hands from around the world, especially from our neighbouring countries such as India to get our shared goal as soon as possible.

What is your feeling about India's stand regarding Myanmar at present?

I feel the government of India fears that the acceptance of Myanmar's pro-democracy forces might cause tensions with the military junta and affect India’s security and economic interests. Actually, India’s relationship with the military junta not only undermines our pursuit of a peaceful federal democracy, but it affects India’s security and economic interests. Because the conflict in the Myanmar-India border areas undermines India’s security and geostrategic economic projects planned through Myanmar. As the largest democracy in the world, India should not maintain a relationship with the military junta, which tried to depose the civilian government and Parliament members who are democratically elected by the people.

Therefore, we expect India to take an important role to restore democracy by working with Myanmar's pro-democracy forces. In this way, India will also have a stronger future role in Myanmar.

Do you plan to ask the Indian government to provide all of you shelter, officially?

India has welcomed refugees in the past. According to UNHCR, more than 200,000 people in the country were categorized as refugees. We thank the Indian government and the state governments of Mizoram and Manipur for accepting us not just as refugees but also as brothers and sisters. We understand that the sudden influx of refugees from Myanmar is a challenge to India, especially to the people of Mizoram and Manipur. Our plan is to go back home and to find a federal democratic union. However, we all need shelter and daily bread while we are here. We’d be grateful if the Indian government provided all of us with shelter and daily bread officially and publicly. That will strengthen us not just physically but also mentally and socially because currently, we have lost our homes and livelihoods.

What is the next course of action for pro-democracy protesters like you?

We, the people of Myanmar, have a shared goal of founding a federal democratic union. Therefore, after forming the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), we formed National Unity Government (NUG) and National Unity Consultative Committee (NUCC). Many countries have expressed support for the NUG.

In response to the military junta’s increasingly brutal tactics, armed resistance groups known as People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) and local PDFs such as CDF and CNDF sprung up across the country to defend the people of Myanmar. Since the day of the coup, the pro-democracy protesters have won politically but the military junta seized power. Therefore, militarization has become unavoidable and one of the considerations as a way forward for the pro-democracy protesters though it costs a lot.

In brief, building unity among pro-democracy forces politically and militarily, and implementing plans and activities together to found a federal democratic union is the way forward for us.

Finally, tell us a bit about the Mizoram government's approach to you all.

We all thank the Mizoram government for standing with us and providing us with our physical, mental and social needs. We hope Mizoram state and Chin state (in Myanmar) will be valuable bridges between India and Myanmar to build a fruitful relationship as good neighbours.

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Published 16 August 2022, 07:47 IST

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