3 Myanmar police seek refuge in India rather than carry out junta's orders

Devjyot Ghoshal, Reuters

Posted at Mar 04 2021 08:32 PM

Demonstrators take shelter behind a barricade and some vehicles as riot police officers stand in front of them during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, March 1, 2021. Stringer, Reuters

NEW DELHI - Three Myanmar police officers have crossed over the border into northeastern India to escape taking orders from a military junta that is trying to suppress protests against last month's coup, an Indian police official said on Thursday.

There have been several instances recounted on social media of police joining the civil disobedience movement and protests against the junta, with some being arrested, but this is the first reported case of police fleeing Myanmar.

The three police came across the border near the town of North Vanlaiphai in India's Mizoram state on Wednesday afternoon and authorities there were assessing their health and making arrangements for them, the police superintendent in Serchhip district said.

"What they said is they got instructions from the military rulers which they cannot obey, so they have run away," Superintendent Stephen Lalrinawma told Reuters.

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"They are seeking refuge because of the military rule in Myanmar," Lalrinawma said.

India shares a 1,643 kilometer (1,021 mile) land border with Myanmar, where more than 50 people have been killed during protests against military coup on Feb.1. The junta overthrew a democratically-elected government, and detained its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, having disputed her party's landslide victory in November.

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India is already home to thousands of refugees from Myanmar, including ethnic Chin people and Rohingya who fled the southeast Asian country during previous bouts of violence.

A Chin community leader in New Delhi said police have rarely fled to India.

"This is something unusual,” said James Fanai, president of the India-based Chin Refugee Committee. "Because in the past, police and military just follow orders.”

Myanmar's ruling military council has stressed the importance of police and soldiers doing their duty. 

(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal in New Delhi; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani & Simon Cameron-Moore)