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India- Myanmar border sees exodus as thousands flee fighting

Myanmar towns near the Indian border have fled after buildings were set aflame by artillery amid fighting between militia forces opposition military rule and also the army, according to residents and media reports.

About 10,000 people normally live in Thantlang in Chin state, but most had left to seek shelter in surrounding areas including in India, a community leader said.

In India’s neighbouring state of Mizoram, the head of a civil society group said 5,500 people from Myanmar had arrived in only two districts over the past week, as they scrambled to escape a military crackdown.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a government led by pro-democracy veteran Aung San Suu Kyi was toppled on Feb 1, sparking nationwide anger, strikes, protests, and also the emergence of anti-junta militia.

During the fighting, last weekend in Thantlang, about 20 homes were set ablaze, with photographs on social media showing buildings engulfed in flames.

Soldiers shot dead a Christian pastor who tried to extinguish a blaze, Myanmar Now news portal reported, although state media disputed the report.

The Global New Light of Myanmar said the pastor’s death was being investigated which soldiers had been ambushed by about 100 “terrorists” and each side exchanged fire.

Salai Thang, a community leader, said four civilians had been killed and 15 wounded in several weeks of conflict with the military also using airstrikes after a military base was overrun.

The Chin defence force, a militia against the military, said during a statement 30 soldiers had been killed.

According to Reuters could not independently confirm any of the claims and a military spokesman didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

A relative of the dead pastor told that only a handful of households remained in Thantlang, including about 20 children in an orphanage.

“The murder of a Baptist minister and bombing of homes in Thantlang, Chin State are the latest examples of the living hell being delivered daily by junta forces against the people of Myanmar,” Thomas Andrews, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said during a message on Twitter.

There has been an upsurge in bloodshed in areas like Chin State after the National Unity Government, a shadow underground administration found out by opponents of the military, declared an uprising on Sept 7 and called for newly formed militia to target the junta.

The attempts by the People’s Defence Forces to take on the well-equipped army have often resulted in civilians being caught in the crossfire and forced to escape.

Community leader Salai Thang said he was deeply concerned about the displaced finding food and shelter.

In Mizoram, arrivals from Myanmar within the past week had mostly crossed the Tiau River by boat, the top of the Young Mizo Association, a civil society group, said.

“We have set up temporary shelters using tins (tin roofs) and tarpaulins to house these refugees purely on humanitarian grounds,” said Lalnuntluanga, who uses one name.

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