Fleeing Myanmar policemen defy army order to kill protesters

A group of Myanmar policemen have recounted their escape to India after defying the Myanmar army's orders to shoot people who oppose the February 1 coup in the southeast Asian country. While speaking, they raised a three-finger salute a symbol of resistance to Myanmars military rulers.
We cannot hurt our people, thats why we came to Mizoram, said one of the policemen, who hails from the northwestern town of Tedim. Mizoram is a state in Indias northeast, and shares a border with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

After the army coup, the policemen were ordered to shoot people and not just the people, we were told to shoot our own family if they are not on the side of the army, he said. The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify these claims.

Indian villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 police personnel and one firefighter who crossed into India over the last two weeks. They spoke to an AP photojournalist on condition of anonymity because of fears of retribution against family members still in Myanmar.


Back in Myanmar, the three-finger salute, which traces its origins to the Hunger Games books and movies by Suzanne Collins, is being used by youth protesters at massive anti-army demonstrations.

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* Myanmar security forces kill at least 34 protesters, local media reports

Meanwhile, K Vanlalvena, a lawmaker from Mizoram state, urged the Indian government not to deport refugees from Myanmar until the return of normalcy there. The lawmaker belongs to the Mizo National Front, an ally of India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party.

Anupam Nath/AP
Police officers who fled Myanmar following a military coup display the three-finger salute.

Those who escaped spend their time watching local television and doing daily chores. Some have carried mobile phones and are trying to connect to families they were forced to leave behind. At night, all of them sleep on mattresses on the floor of a single room.

One of them told the AP that they were under the command of Myanmar's army.

We are all policemen working under the Myanmar government. We left our family in Myanmar. We do not know what is happening to our family, but they will face a lot of problems from the army. We came to Mizoram for shelter, we will die if we go back there, he said.

We cannot reach our parents due to telecommunication problems, but what we heard is they are very scared to go out of their homes ... Im hoping that one day we will meet again, he added.

Anupam Nath/AP
Police officers who fled Myanmar following a military coup sits for a meal at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram.

Earlier this month, Myanmar asked India to return the police officers who crossed the border. India shares a 1643km border with Myanmar, and is home to thousands of refugees from Myanmar in different states.

Last week, Ramliana, president of a Village Council in Mizoram state, a community-based body, said 116 Myanmar nationals crossed the Tiau River and reached Farkawn Village through a stretch where Indias paramilitary Assam Rifles personnel were not present. He uses one name.

Indias state and federal government officials havent given an exact number of people from Myanmar who have crossed over to India after the coup.

Anupam Nath/AP
India shares a 1643km border with Myanmar, and is home to thousands of refugees from Myanmar in different states.

Last week, Indias Home Ministry told four Indian states bordering Myanmar Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh to take measures to prevent refugees from entering India except on humanitarian grounds.

The ministry said the states were not authorised to accord refugee status to anyone entering India from Myanmar, as India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 or its 1967 Protocol.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military for most of its history since gaining independence from Britain in 1948. A gradual move towards democracy in the past decade allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to lead a civilian government beginning in 2016, although the country's generals retained substantial power under a military-drafted constitution.

Anupam Nath/AP
Those who escaped spend their time watching local television and doing daily chores. Some of them have carried mobile phones and are trying to connect to families they were forced to leave behind.

Her party won last Novembers election by a landslide, but the military stepped in before Parliament was to convene on February 1, detained Suu Kyi and other government officials and instituted a one-year state of emergency.

It contends the vote was tainted by fraud and plans to reinvestigate those allegations before a new election is held.

Reports on Friday said authorities in Myanmar have arrested a spokesman for ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyis political party as they intensified efforts to choke off the spread of information about growing protests against last months military takeover.

Despite a crackdown that has killed more than 200 demonstrators so far, protesters were back in the streets Friday morning (local time) in several cities and towns.


AP

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