At least 19 Myanmar police officers have fled into India to escape taking orders from the military junta which is using deadly force to suppress protests against last month’s coup.
An Indian police official said on Thursday that more escaping officers are expected, reports Reuters.
The men crossed into the northeastern state of Mizoram which shares a porous border with Myanmar, the official said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
All of the men, who are lower-ranking policemen, were unarmed, and would be temporarily housed by local authorities, the official said.
There have been several instances recounted on social media of police joining the Myanmar civil disobedience movement and protests, with some arrested, but this is the first reported case of police fleeing the country.
The official said that the policemen crossed into India fearing persecution for disobeying orders.
“They didn’t want to take orders and act against the civil disobedience movement,” he said, referring to the agitation in Myanmar calling for the reversal of the coup and the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“What they told us is they got instructions from the military which they cannot obey, so they have run away,” another senior police officer told Reuters.
India shares a 1,600km land border with Myanmar and is already home to thousands of refugees from its neighbour, including ethnic Chin people and Rohingya who fled during previous bouts of violence.
Myanmar’s ruling military council has stressed the importance of police and soldiers doing their duty.
A Chin community leader in New Delhi told Reuters police officers have rarely fled to India.
“This is something unusual,” said James Fanai, president of the India-based Chin Refugee Committee. “Because in the past, police and soldiers just follow orders.”