At least 19 Myanmar policemen have fled to India amidst the Myanmar military’s escalating crackdown on peaceful protests against the military coup that took place last month.
An Indian police official who wished to remain anonymous said to Reuters that the 19 policemen crossed into the Champhai and Serchhip districts in the northeastern state of Mizoram, due to the districts’ porous borders with Myanmar. According to the official, all of the policemen were unarmed, and were lower-ranking members of the police who feared persecution for disobeying the orders. They are being temporarily housed by local authorities, and intelligence reports suggest that more such escapes are likely.
Three of the 19 policemen crossed the border on Wednesday afternoon, near the town of North Vanlaiphai in Serchhip district. Serchhip police superintendent Stephen Lalrinawma said to Reuters that the three policemen said that they were seeking refuge after receiving orders from the military government that they could not obey.
The escapes of the policemen come as the Myanmar military has escalated its crackdown on peaceful protesters throughout the country in recent days, with the UN Human Rights Office reporting today that it has corroborated information that at least 54 people have been killed by police and military officers since the 1 February coup, warning that the death toll is likely to be “much higher” due to inability to verify some reported deaths as of writing. Out of the 54, at least 30 people were killed in Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, Magway and Mon by security forces on Wednesday. Another person was documented to have been killed on Tuesday, 18 people on Sunday and five prior to that. UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, said that 38 protesters had been killed on Wednesday. Demonstrators continued peaceful protests today, undeterred by the brutality on show yesterday.
In a press statement issued today, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said:
Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protestors.
It is utterly abhorrent that security forces are firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters across the country. I am also appalled at the documented attacks against emergency medical staff and ambulances attempting to provide care to those who have been injured.
The Tatmadaw has continued to strike a defiant tone despite growing international condemnation and sanctions on military leaders, with Burgener saying that military leaders had responded to her warnings of possible international responses with “We are used to sanctions and we survived the sanctions time in the past”. Similarly, soldiers and other security forces taking part in the crackdown are now reported to have taken to TikTok to threaten protesters, after Facebook was banned in the country in retaliation for taking down similar posts. Facebook’s role in hosting such content had come under heightened scrutiny, following previous reports that the Tatmadaw had mounted a propaganda campaign on Facebook inciting anti-Rohingya hatred preceding and during the Rohingya genocide.