FARKAWN, India, December 31 (Reuters) – For more than a decade, Mah Tial has said she ran a small store in Thantlang, a town in northwest Myanmar, earning enough money to send her four children at school and watch her eldest daughter get a coveted government job.

On September 8, the 51-year-old woman said her peaceful life in the hilltop settlement suddenly came to an end when the Burmese army raided and burned houses, forcing the family to flee and withdraw. refugee in the neighboring Indian state of Mizoram.

With her husband, children, parents and an aunt, Mah Tial now lives in a hut made of corrugated iron and wood hung on the mountainside in the village of Farkawn in Mizoram.

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“I don’t think I will be going back to Myanmar soon, because the situation inside the country is getting worse,” she said.

Myanmar was plunged into crisis when the military overthrew the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, sparking protests and campaigning conflict between anti-junta militias and the military.

Located in Myanmar’s Chin state, where an armed rebellion has taken hold, Thantlang has been the scene of repeated attacks by the military, also known as Tatmadaw, since early September, according to three former residents and a rights group.

Myanmar’s military spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on recent events in Thantlang. The military has already blamed the insurgents for starting fighting and burning houses there, and labeling them terrorists.

Mah Tial’s family is part of what a Mizoram lawmaker has estimated at around 15,000 Burmese nationals taking refuge in the state.

Several days a week, she and her three daughters sit at Farkawn’s main intersection selling plastic slippers, cosmetics, and diapers – items ordered for her home store that she managed to import to India.

Years of savings have been wiped out, said Mah Tial.

“I am mentally ready to stay as a refugee,” she said.

THOUSANDS DISPLACED

Across Chin, the fighting following the coup has displaced more than 20 percent of the state’s population, or around 500,000 people, said Salai Za Uk Ling of the Human Rights Organization. Chin man (CHRO).

The Burmese military made no comment when asked about the numbers, which Reuters could not independently confirm.

Some have entered Mizoram, which has close ethnic ties to areas of Chin and where the state government has extended its support to those fleeing Myanmar.

In mid-December, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga met ousted Burmese lawmakers and promised them his government would continue to help those seeking refuge in the Indian state.

Zoramthanga, who uses only one name, said the federal government was unable to help Myanmar nationals because India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.

International aid groups could step in, he added, although local organizations have so far provided the most support. Foreign aid has not reached Farkawn.

The Mizoram government has also opened its schools to Myanmar nationals, allowing children like Mah Tial’s youngest, Van Tha Uk Lian, 12, to attend classes.

In Farkawn, a settlement of around 4,000 people, residents have banded together to help around 1,100 Burmese nationals who have crossed the border since February, said village council chairman Laralramliana.

Dozens of people have been accommodated in temporary shelters made of thin tarps and bamboo poles, with villagers and donations from across the state helping provide basic necessities like food, firewood. and clothes.

But Lallamliana said he was worried as donated supplies were running out.

Mah Tial said she hoped India would provide a legal route for her three eldest daughters to travel to a third country to study or work.

“We cannot undo the past,” she said. “I care about my children. I want to give them a better life.”

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Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Mike Collett-White

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