Myanmar passenger stranded in India

24 March 2020
Myanmar passenger stranded in India

He failed to get on board the last Indigo flight to Yangon from Kolkata on the night of 20th March.

Since then, life for 50-year old Thin Nyay has come to an uncertain standstill. 

He has been sitting and sleeping on the floor inside the Kolkata airport's gate 3C with no immediate hope of flying back home.

Nobody approaches or speaks to him, as panic fearing Covid-19 contamination from outside travellers peaks in the otherwise foreigner-friendly city.

The problem is further compounded But Indian officials and Bengali locals don't understand or speak Burmese -- and Thin Nyay speaks nothing other than Burmese.

So when approached by security officials, he only holds out his Burmese passport with a blank stare that explains his desperation to get back home.

Security officials at the airport contacted the Myanmar consulate in Kolkata and one of their officers rushed to the airport before the lockdown early on Sunday. 

Later the official, not willing to be identified told journalists that Thin Nyay missed the Indigo flight to Yangon on 20th March because "he lost touch with his group".

The group of Burmese Muslims, Thin Nyay included, had travelled to Ajmer Sharif, a famous Dargah (holy mosque) in the western desert state of Rajasthan in March on pilgrimage. They arrived from Delhi by an Indigo flight on 29 March and were supposed to fly out on the connecting flight to Yangon the same night.

'The entire group left but Thin Nyay got left behind for some reason," said the Myanmar consulate official. But why he lost contact with his group is not clear.

The official said the Consulate 'is helpless." If it had to do with the loss of a travel document, we could issue a fresh one, but he has his passport and even his Indigo boarding pass to Yangon which was issued in Delhi along with the boarding pass to Kolkata."

Thin's luggage has gone with the flight because it was checked in at Delhi and automatically transferred to the Yangon flight.

So he is left with his backpack, that has his passport, Indigo boarding cards and some cash and essentials.

"In a day or two, he will run out of cash because eating inside the airport is expensive," said an airport security guard.

He said there was no question of arresting Thin Nyay because he has violated no Indian law but had just missed his flight.

Indigo airline officials say they will put Nyay on the next available flight to Yangon.

But with all foreign and domestic airlines closed down in India until 31st March, it is anyone's guess when will Indigo fly again to Yangon -- or any other foreign destination. 

Thin Nyay's Indian visa is valid until 15th April -- the only saving grace in a huge personal tragedy. 

The least the Myanmar consulate could do for him was to provide him with some cash to sustain his stay at the Kolkata airport.