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06.03.2021 Europe

Policemen refusing to take part in Myanmar crackdown take refuge in India

By Murali Krishnan - RFI
Policemen refusing to take part in Myanmar crackdown take refuge in India
LISTEN MAR 6, 2021

Indian authorities say several Myanmar police officers and citizens have crossed over the border and taken refuge in the north-eastern state of Mizoram. This comes amid international condemnation of Myanmar's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in which more than 50 people have been killed since last month's coup.

Amid the unrest in Myanmar following the military coup on 1 February, an unspecified number of policemen have crossed over into north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram, bordering the country.

State authorities told RFI that most of the policemen were unarmed and 'lower-ranking' personnel who had crossed over through the border districts of Champhai and Serchhip in Mizoram.

“We are still questioning them and how they made the journey from Myanmar but it seems like they did not want to attack protesters in the disobedience movement,” a top police official told RFI on conditions of anonymity.

Officials refused to disclose the exact number who had crossed over but at least a dozen or more policemen had entered Mizoram, officials said.

“One policeman crossed over with his wife and child also,” an official told RFI.

Most of them have been housed in a community hall and provided food after going through the mandatory Covid-19 tests.

There are unconfirmed reports of at least a dozen Myanmar civilians taking shelter in a border village in Champai district of Mizoram.

“I heard more people had crossed over to other districts but I don't have the details,” said Champhai Deputy Commissioner Maria CT Zuali.

India – home to many refugees
Meanwhile, the Mizoram government had earlier said that they would welcome refugees with open arms. 

“If the people of Myanmar have to flee the military, Mizoram will welcome them with open arms, give them food and shelter. We would even approach the central government to grant us permission in the event of refugees' influx,” said Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga.

There have been reports in social media which have showed police officials in Myanmar joining the civil disobedience movement and protests against the military and reluctant to act against protesters. But this is the first instance of police fleeing the country.

Calls for UN intervention
Myanmar has been in a state of unrest since February 1 when the army seized power and detained elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of her National League for Democracy.

The NLD won a landslide election in November last year but the military has claimed the vote was fraudulent. Protests have broken out against the military takeover leading to scores of people killed and protesters arrested.

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city and other cities demanding the release of Suu Kyi.

On Friday, the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener urged the UN security council to push further to end the violence, and restore democratic institutions. She denounced the actions by the military, “which continues to severely undermine the principles of this Organization and ignores our clear signals to uphold them.”

India is home to thousands of refugees from Myanmar especially from the Chin region, an ethnic group, who fled in the first exodus in the late 90s after their move for self-determination failed.

There are approximately 10,000-15,000 Chins in Mizoram, most of them employed as weavers. In the capital, New Delhi, around 3,000 refugees are spread out in several localities and many continue to face problems related to visa extensions, racism and even language.

Mizoram shares a 404-km long porous border with Myanmar. The state government has alerted all the border areas on a possible influx of people seeking refuge in the days to come.