Shillong ’safe haven’ Myanmarese smuggling arms

July 22nd, 2010 - 9:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Shillong, July, 22 (IANS) Myanmarese nationals have made Shillong as their “rendezvous point” for arms transaction with northeast rebels, a top intelligence official said Thursday.
A central intelligence agency has recently alerted the Meghalaya Police of former ‘captain’ of Chin National Army (CNA), Tialkulhtang, of smuggling arms and ammunition from Mandalay in Myanmar. Chin are an ethnic group of Myanmmar.

“Tialkulhtang, a known arms smuggler, is in the process of smuggling consignment of arms and ammunition meant for some rebel groups operating in the region,” the intelligence official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Tialkulhtang is believed to be operating somewhere here in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.

The arms are likely to enter India through Mizoram via Siakhumphaivaphai area of Champai district, he added.

India shares a 1,600-km unfenced border with Myanmar.

The porous international borders, thick with forests, along the northeastern states of Assam, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura have been used by the illegal weapons syndicate to smuggle small and medium arms and ammunition, besides explosives, to northeastern militant groups.

“These Burmese Mizo (read Myanmarese ethnic Chin) have made Shillong as their safe haven taking advantage of tribal Indian Mizo identity who have settled here,” a senior Meghalaya Police requesting anonymity, said.

The police official, however, claimed that a number of Myanmarese Chin arms smugglers have been arrested from Shillong.

When IANS asked, Inspector General of Border Security Force (BSF) R.C. Saxena said that there are some “elements of CNA hiding here in Shillong” and the security agencies are on their look out.

“We are trying to find out if any of the members are hiding here in the region,” Saxena said.

An intelligence official said: “Many of these militants from Myanmar maintain a good relation with northeast groups and they are getting protection for procurement of arms and ammunition.”

The official further added that although it is unclear where the arms and ammunition would land it is certain that talks are on for a possible transaction in this regard.

Most of the weapons, including AK-47 and AK-56 assault rifles, mortars, 40 mm rocket launchers, pistols, revolvers and grenades come via the Arakans - a mountainous area in Myanmar - from parts of Thailand and Cambodia, he added.

The arms consignments are often routed by sea through the Bay of Bengal to its destination in the Arakan forest in Myanmar, which is across Mizoram, before making their way to rebel groups active in the northeast.

The area is controlled by Arakan insurgent groups opposed to the military junta in Yangon.

Intelligence officials in the region have confirmed the presence of sophisticated range of weapons with militant groups in the northeast, including surface-to-air missiles.

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