Myanmar Citizens Escape Coup, Enter India Via Border; Forces Step up Patrols to Thwart Arrivals
A number of people have begun escaping the turmoil in Myanmar into India, some of them police refusing to take part in the violent crackdown on protests against a military coup there, officials and reports said. Myanmar’s junta ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, triggering a mass uprising that the military has responded to with increasingly lethal force.
The UN said at least 38 people were killed on Wednesday. Indian police said nine people crossed the 1,600-kilometre (1,000-mile) border into Mizoram state on the same day, three of them police refusing to take part in putting down protests.
In all, about 30 Myanmar police and their family members had crossed over into India in recent days, a senior police official in Mizoram said, including some who had come overnight. “Their identities and reasons for fleeing Myanmar have been forwarded to the State’s Home Department,” local police chief Kumar Abhishek said.
The Hindustan Times quoted officials in Mizoram saying that locals have been told to report immediately any further Myanmar nationals crossing the frontier. Champai deputy commissioner Maria CT Zuali told the paper that “those persons have to be caught and the local authorities alerted.”
“We will try and find out if at all the lives of those entering India are threatened in Myanmar. We can decide on these people based on what the (central government) says,” Zuali said. “If permission is not granted to take them in as refugees, they would be deported.”
Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga said earlier that the state would welcome people fleeing the Myanmar military “with open arms, give them food and shelter.” “We would even approach the central government to grant us permission in the event of a refugees’ influx,” he said.
Meanwhile, Indian security forces stepped up patrols on the border with Myanmar on Friday to stop refugees entering after some police officers crossed over to escape taking orders from the military junta there, officials said.
“As of now, we are not letting anybody enter,” Maria Zuali, senior government official in Mizoram state’s Champhai district, told Reuters by telephone.
The move follows the defection over the border of some low-ranking Myanmar police officers who were unwilling to obey orders to suppress demonstrations against the junta.
Indian soldiers and police were patrolling the frontier on Friday. In Serchhip district, senior official Kumar Abhishek said eight people, including a woman and a child, had crossed the border and were being taken care of.
“We are anticipating that some more may come,” he said.
Authorities were making preparations to house between 30-40 people, he said.
The official, who requested anonymity, said people were slipping in despite intensive patrolling by Indian soldiers along a border that hugs the Tiau river flowing between forested hills.
“People are coming from different routes,” the official said, “The border is porous, you can’t prevent it.”
A federal Indian security official said that police crossing over had said they did not wish to carry out orders from the military to quell the protests.
“They alleged that there are human rights violations and they were asked to shoot at civilians,” the official said, also requesting anonymity.
The influx of such refuge-seekers, particularly police, puts India in a quandary because of New Delhi’s close ties with the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw.
Over the last two years the Tatmadaw has mounted operations at India’s request to flush out insurgents along the northeastern border. India, on its part, gifted Myanmar its first submarine last year.
(With inputs from agencies)