Myanmar to fence Naga SAZ bordering India

Construction will not restrict the regular travel of both the peoples in accordance with their tradition and custom, claims Foreign Ministry

Morung Express News
Dimapur | January 10

The Government of Myanmar has announced that it will erect physical fencing along the Indo-Myanmar border. Myanmar Foreign Ministry on Tuesday announced that it would build the border demarcation fencing with India. This undertaking is expected to seal off around 3500 acres of Khiamniungan Naga land.  

According to Xinhua news agency, Myanmar will construct the fence in its Naga self-administered zone; 10 metres from the demarcation borderline. However, the construction will not restrict the regular travel of both the peoples in accordance with their tradition and custom, the news agency reported. It is for regional authorities to effectively manage the border affairs, said the statement.  

While the construction works for the border fencing at Pangsha area was clearly visible for quite some time, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India said that India was not involved in the construction of the fence. “Ministry of Home has not proposed any fence on the Indo-Myanmar border. On this issue, the MEA has been apprised as it is their subject. We have told our people that there will be no construction in our zone and also there will no construction in non-construction zone. Assam Rifles will ensure that,” Pradeep Gupta, Joint Secretary (Border Management) in the ministry, told IANS on January 1, 2017.  

“If the Myanmar government is doing this, then we will ensure that no construction is done in the 10 metres of no-construction zone. The government is trying to clear all the doubts of the locals living in the border areas on this,” said Gupta.  

However, people at the ground level viewed that judging by the ongoing state of affairs at Pangsha clearly indicate that the project of erecting border fencing is not the sole handiwork of Myanmar alone but a collaborative effort with India having a hand.  

It is feared that the sealing off 3500 acres of Khiamniungan Naga land will result in a loss of livelihood for the people. The Khiamniungan people have condemned this “policy of separation” and termed the move a “felonious act.” At least, 160 Khiamniungan villages fall under Myanmar.  

Seeking the urgent attention of both the Indian and Myanmar governments, the Khiamniungan Tribal Council (KTC) had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar President U. Htin Kyaw, urging them to halt the fencing work, as they were not consulted on the issue.  

The Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), the Naga Hoho and different Naga Political Groups have also unanimously voiced opposition on the ongoing construction of international border fencing along the Indo-Myanmar border at Pangsha village.  

The border fencing is a state-sponsored attempt by India and Myanmar to rewrite the history of Nagas, the Naga Hoho had stated.  

On Monday, the Naga civil society organizations based in Myanmar had also objected to the ongoing fencing project as “direct violation against the rights of the indigenous people.”  

“We perceive the currently undertaking fencing project in the Naga territories by the concern authorities as an act of insult against all Nagas on earth and direct violation against the rights of the indigenous people,” it said.  

The Indo-Myanmar border runs for 1,643 km. Fencing along this border is being done  in hopes to curtail cross-border crime, including amuggling of goods, arms and counterfeit Indian currency smug drug trafficking, and insurgency.  

Erecting this fence will however have a negative outcome as it will divide many ethnic communities whose lands straddle the regions between the two countries.  

While the primary objective of the fence is to control illegal cross-border activities between the two countries, the cross border movements of insurgents, gun runners and drug peddlers along the international border with Myanmar will not be prevented by a 10 km fence as the issues and vulnerability of the Indo-Myanmar border stems from a number of factors.  

The imaginary boundary line was never accepted by the Naga communities living between the borders as the land they are residing now has been inherited from their forefathers. Erecting a border fence would only prove to stir more problems, protests from the ethnic communities due to its historical linkages, and factors.  

With no proper inspection of the borderline, the Nagas residing between the borders will face challenges and inconveniences, making the issue more sensitive than it is now.   Besides forced to live as citizens in different countries, 43 villages, about 3000 households and around 20,000 villagers of the Naga, Mizo, Manipuri and Arunachali tribes living between the borders will be affected by the border fencing work undertaken by the Centre.  

(With inputs from IANS and the northeast today)