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India repatriates 151 junta soldiers who fled fighting

India has repatriated 151 junta soldiers who entered the country last week to escape ethnic Rakhine fighters during clashes across the border in western Myanmar’s Chin state, according to residents and media reports.

On Dec. 27, Arakan Army, or AA, troops attacked a military base in Chin state’s Paletwa township, prompting the junta soldiers to flee across the border into India’s Mizoram state.

A resident of Mizoram told RFA Burmese that the 151 troops surrendered to a unit of India’s Assam Rifles in Lawngtlai district’s Tuisentlang village two days later.

“From there, they were brought to [Mizoram’s capital] Aizawl via Lunglei [township],” said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing security concerns. “I saw a Myanmar plane fly by [on Jan. 2] that appears to have taken the soldiers back. I saw it twice and I believe it made two trips because there were over 150 [soldiers].”

Indian media reported that local police sent the soldiers – nine of whom were injured – to Aizawl, where they would be interrogated by Indian officials before being handed over to Myanmar’s junta.

Additional reports said that the troops would be sent back to Myanmar’s Rakhine state capital Sittwe after a Myanmar Airlines aircraft landed at Mizoram’s Lengpui Airport.

Attempts by RFA to reach Aung Cho, the junta’s spokesman and secretary of Rakhine state, for comment on the status of the troops went unanswered Wednesday.

Some of the Myanmar junta soldiers who fled to Mizoram state in India are seen Dec. 29, 2023. (Citizen journalist)

The 151 junta soldiers are the latest group of military troops to flee clashes with the AA from Chin state into India.

More than 40 soldiers who entered the country after the AA occupied Chin state’s Rihkhawdar township were returned to Myanmar on Nov. 14.

Another group of more than 40 soldiers and their family members who fled to India during fighting with anti-junta forces in Sagaing region’s Tamu township were also recently repatriated to Myanmar, according to residents.

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.