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Burma police: Defied kill orders

Officers fled to India after refusing to shoot coup opponents by ANUPAM NATH THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | March 20, 2021 at 4:37 a.m.
Police officers who fled Burma after a military coup sit for a meal Thursday at an undisclosed location bordering Burma in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram. (AP/Anupam Nath)

MIZORAM, India -- A group of police officers who defied the Burma army's orders to shoot opponents of the coup recounted their experience after they escaped to India. While speaking, they raised a three-finger salute -- a symbol of resistance to Burma's military rulers.

"We cannot hurt our people, that's why we came to Mizoram," said one of the men, who hails from the northwestern town of Tedim. Mizoram state in India's northeast shares a border with Bangladesh and Burma.

After the army coup, the police 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 their claims, though images and accounts of the security forces' crackdown in Burma have shown intensifying violence against civilians.

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

Back in Burma, 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 anti-army demonstrations.

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

Those who escaped spend their time watching television and doing 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 said they were under the command of Burma'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.

Burma is often called Myanmar, a name that military authorities adopted in 1989. Some nations, such as the United States and Britain, have refused to adopt the name change.

Earlier this month, Burma asked India to return the police officers who crossed the border. India shares a 1,020-mile border with Burma, and it is home to thousands of refugees from Burma in different states.

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

India's state and federal government officials haven't given an exact number of people from Burma who have crossed over to India after the coup.

Last week, India's Home Ministry told four Indian states bordering Burma -- 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 authorized to accord refugee status to anyone entering India from Burma, as India is not a signatory to the U.N. Refugee Convention of 1951 or its 1967 Protocol.

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

Her party won November's election by a landslide, but the military stepped in before Parliament was to convene Feb. 1, detained Suu Kyi and other government officials and instituted a state of emergency, alleging the vote was tainted by fraud.

Police officers who fled Myanmar following a military coup rest at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. They refused to give their names to an Associated Press photographer who met them this week in an undisclosed location in Mizoram state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Police officers who fled Myanmar following a military coup rest at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. They refused to give their names to an Associated Press photographer who met them this week in an undisclosed location in Mizoram state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled from Myanmar following a military coup rests at an undisclosed location, bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. They refused to give their names to an Associated Press photographer who met them this week in an undisclosed location in Mizoram state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled from Myanmar following a military coup rests at an undisclosed location, bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. They refused to give their names to an Associated Press photographer who met them this week in an undisclosed location in Mizoram state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled Myanmar following a military coup looks at her phone at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled Myanmar following a military coup looks at her phone at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Mobile phones of police officers, who fled Myanmar following a military coup, lie on charge at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Mobile phones of police officers, who fled Myanmar following a military coup, lie on charge at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled Myanmar following a military coup takes a wash at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled Myanmar following a military coup takes a wash at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled from Myanmar following a military coup looks out to the mountains from an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. They refused to give their names to an Associated Press photographer who met them this week in an undisclosed location in Mizoram state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled from Myanmar following a military coup looks out to the mountains from an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. They refused to give their names to an Associated Press photographer who met them this week in an undisclosed location in Mizoram state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Footwear of police officers, who fled Myanmar following a military coup, lie outside an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Footwear of police officers, who fled Myanmar following a military coup, lie outside an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled Myanmar following a military coup cooks a meal at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
A police officer who fled Myanmar following a military coup cooks a meal at an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. 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. At night, all of them go to sleep on mattresses laid on the floor of a single room. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
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