It was 2pm when we left Kale (a city in NW Myanmar). The whole town was in deep silence. We could hardly see anyone on the streets. Kale is located at the center of all transportation between Chin State, the India border, and lower Myanmar. Kale is one of the earliest towns that resisted the military coup with self-made weapons. Every morning all the main roads were full with people, demonstrating against the military coup. All the shops and houses were closed after the demonstrations and the town seemed like a dead or forsaken place. Soldiers would shoot you in the head if you went out. Gradually, the battle between the people and the soldiers got more and more intense. Especially, Tahan, where I went to work, became a battlefield and the nearby residents fled to other villages or Mizoram (state just across the border in India of similar ethnicity). Home is the safest place for most people, but you could still get shot at your own place if you’re unfortunate. Our nights and homes were not safe anymore.
“I can not live without work. How do I find money for my education? Where is my future? How long will the revolution take?” These questions were spinning in my head. Eventually, I decided to escape this environment and flee to another country as a refugee in the hope of a brighter future and opportunity.
Soldiers guarded the border gates of Kale and checked everyone, to varying degrees, who pass the border. We crossed 9mile (the name) gate and entered to Chin State without encountering interrogation. When we arrived in Tedim, the capital of Zomi Chin, we took a break and had lunch for the journey ahead.
[Note: Photos are just to give an image, the were not taken by the writer]
One of our fellows asked us to wait for him while he was greeting some of his relatives there. He said that he wouldn’t be long, no more than half an hour. However, he didn’t come back after an hour. As we want to continue our journey as quickly as possible in order to reach Talek village before dark, we searched for him in his relative’s homes. But we couldn’t find him and stopped at a sidewalk.
Meanwhile, the soldiers, watching the whole town and wandering on the streets with a truck to prevent uprisings and strikes, passed by our side and stopped at a distance from us. Holding guns, they kept eyes on us from a distance. As our hearts were beating faster and faster, we started to pray in our mind automatically that God would keep us from the soldiers and not to encounter any interrogations. Guess what? If they ever found out that we were from Kale and plan to flee from the country, they would put us in jail for sure. They would assume we were spies or travelling to seek weapons and support for the people of Kale.
We waited our friend about half an hour, standing at the sidewalk with heavy hearts. As soon as we saw him coming to us from a far, we went to him quickly and drove off our motorbikes toward another village. Fortunately, the soldiers didn’t stop us.
There are two roads to Talek. As we had already wasted two hours waiting for our fellow, we chose to take the shortcut road. When we arrived there, it was 9pm already. We spent a night in a house of my brother’s wife’s relative. As soon as we had our dinner, they asked which road did we take. When we told them the shortcut road, the householders explained to us that God had protected us along the way.
This is what’s happening on the other road: There are many small villages along the way to Talek; the soldiers got information that some armed rebels (since the coup, they are no longer recognized as rebels but an arm group which protect the people from brutal soldiers) were training in a village. So, they went to that village to arrest all men. They would shoot whoever tried to flee from them. If we went by that road, we must pass through that village and we might get arrested or shot.
I realized once again that sometimes we blame or complain to God when things don’t turn out the way we wanted to be. But when we submit our lives to Him, He guide us in the best ways. We sometimes don’t understand His ways because “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 9) However, we can have peace and prosperity in His plans, “plans to prospers you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11) Even when we think that we have been late or out of timing, we still be on time when God is with us.
The next day, we crossed the border of Myanmar and stayed a night at a village. Ironically, the news to lockdown the whole village had been very popular among the residents. Headmen were planning to lockdown as soon as possible. Therefore, we had to find a bus to another village for tomorrow but all seats had already been sold out. At last a commercial vehicle driver agreed to take us with his jeep.
Early the next morning, the driver’s wife refused to take us with their jeep and the driver could do nothing about it. We were in huge trouble, disappointed, and without hope. We appealed to the woman that they should take responsibility for their agreement. If we couldn’t go now, we would lose all the booked train tickets for our next journey. We must go now. Finally, she called a bus counter and booked another book for us.
Muan said the train looked like this, just with more people
I arrived Mizo Ram at around 9pm. We stayed one night each in Mizo Ram, and in Gawuhati. We went to Delhi by train from Gawuhati and that could be another dangerous journey. Some travelers like us get arrested on the train, if the security found out we were foreigners without ID card or driving license. Fortunately, no one did any checking. Delhi went into lockdown for four days right after we arrived.
We become refugees and asylum seekers. We are facing hardships to make living here because of high living costs, and because of Covid lockdown there is no job for us. However, I believe God didn’t bring us this far without a purpose for us and we can get through and overcome all the hardship with the help of God.
Please read this article to better understand situation of Chin refugees in India:
Read more about the experience of the Chin here in a testimony and history of the Chin who fled to a refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border: https://maranathamedia.com/article/view/perils-uprising