‘Couldn’t shoot our own people’: Myanmar police officers who fled to India

By Sangzuala Hmar

Champhai, India, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- Myanmar police officers, who have sought refuge in India, said they fled their country after defying orders to shoot people peacefully protesting the Feb.1 military coup.

Now, they fear persecution, imprisonment, or even death if India deports them to the military-ruled home country.

“We were ordered to shoot the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) activists. But it was impossible to shoot our own kin who were organizing a peaceful demonstration,” Vanlal, 25, one of the officers, told EFE.

“We defied the army order. We had no choice, we had to run,” said Vanlal, not his real name.

The Myanmar police officer, his family, and a group of his colleagues are hiding in a village in mountainous Mizoram of northeast India that borders Myanmar.

Fear is writ large on their faces as possible repatriation would mean jail or more likely death for desertion.

“I was ordered to shoot the demonstrators, who were my own people. I just could not,” said Vanlal, who joined the police in 2018.

It was just two days after the military toppled an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

Vanlal and other police officers turned fugitives as they refused to kill their countrymen. He ran away with his wife and a nine-month baby and hid in a forest.

The next day, pro-democracy activists helped him to crossover into India.

India shares nearly 1,700 km (some 1,000 miles) land border with Myanmar where, a monitoring group said, more than 250 people were shot dead by security forces in protests against the military coup.

The army ordered policemen and firemen to violently curb the protests across the Chin Hills state in Myanmar’s west.

The mountainous state shares over 500 km of international boundary with India’s Mizoram.

India’s northeastern states, particularly Mizoram, have ignored the federal government’s calls not to accept the refugees from Myanmar as the people living on either side of the border share cultural proximity.

There is no official count on the number of refugees who have crossed into India, which is not part of the 1951 international refugee convention that outlines the refugee rights and the legal obligations of states to protect them.

Nonprofit Young Mizo Association (YMA) said some 10 Indian border villages were housing more than 500 refugees, the majority of them policemen and firemen who defied the army’s shooting orders.

“We share what we have, until it is safe for them to return. It is our duty to provide for them,” a YMA activist, who preferred anonymity, told EFE.

“Fearing for their lives, they fled and sought our help. We will help them.”

The police officers who have taken shelter in a remote area of the Champhai district share the agonizing tale of uncertainty.

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