TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – A number of Myanmar police who fled to India claimed to have been ordered by their superiors to shoot dead Myanmar demonstrators protesting the February 1 military coup.
About 100 people from Myanmar, mostly police and their families, have crossed the Indian border since the protests began, according to a senior Indian official, Reuters reported, March 10, 2021.
Some have taken shelter in Champhai district, Mizoram state, India, which borders Myanmar, where Reuters interviewed three Myanmar nationals who said they had served with the police.
One claiming Myanmar police, named Tha Peng (not his real name), said he was ordered to shoot Myanmar demonstrators with his submachine gun to disperse them during a demonstration in the city of Khampat on February 27.
“The next day, an officer called to ask if I was going to shoot,” Peng, a 27-year-old corporal, told Reuters on Tuesday. Peng refused again, and later resigned from the police force.
He left home leaving his family in Khampat for a three -day trip across India, which was mostly done at night to avoid surveillance. Peng arrived in the state of Mizoram, northeastern India.
“I have no choice,” Tha Peng told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday, speaking through an interpreter. He only gave part of his name to protect his identity. He showed his police membership card and ID card confirming the name.
An armed security force officer points his gun at a balcony as they patrol a street in Yangon, Myanmar, March 4, 2021. REUTERS
Tha Peng said he and six colleagues had all disobeyed a February 27 order from a superior, which he did not specify.
Reuters was unable to independently verify her testimony or any other testimony gathered near the Myanmar-India border. But Myanmar’s military junta has sent a letter to India to repatriate the eight Myanmar police who fled.
Peng’s testimony is similar to that given to police in Mizoram on March 1 by another Myanmar police corporal and three other police officers who crossed into India, according to internal classified police documents seen by Reuters.
As well as his identity card, Tha Peng showed an undated photo of himself wearing a Myanmar police uniform. He said he joined the police nine years ago.
Tha Peng said that according to police regulations, protesters must be stopped with rubber bullets or shot below the knee. Reuters was unable to verify police policy.
But he was given orders by his superiors to “shoot them dead,” he said.
Another Myanmar policeman, Ngun Hlei, who claims to be stationed as a policeman in the city of Mandalay, said he also received orders to shoot. He did not give a date, or determine whether the order was shoot-to-kill. He did not provide any details on the victims.
The 23-year-old policeman also gave only part of his full name and carried a KTP.
Tha Peng and Ngun Hlei said they believed the police were acting under the orders of the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw. However, they did not provide evidence.
Four other Myanmar police officers gave the same testimony, according to secret police documents.
“… the military is putting pressure on the police force, which is mostly police, to confront the public,” they said.
Ngun Hlei said she was reprimanded for disobeying orders and being transferred. He sought help from pro-democracy activists online, and crossed into India by road to the village of Vaphai in Mizoram on March 6.
The trip to India costs around 200,000 Myanmar kyats (IDR 2 million), said Ngun Hlei.
Although guarded by Indian paramilitary forces, the India-Myanmar border is heavily guarded, allowing people to venture several kilometers into Indian territory without requiring a travel permit.
Funeral of a demonstrator named Angel or known as Kyal Sin, who died after being shot by the Myanmar military during the anti-coup action in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 4, 2021. REUTERS / Stringer
Another Myanmar policeman named Dal, a 24-year-old woman, said she had worked as a Myanmar policeman in the mountainous city of Falam in northwestern Myanmar. Reuters looked at a photo of the police’s ID and verified the name.
His work is largely administrative in nature, including making lists of people detained by the police. But as the protests expanded after the coup, he said he was ordered to try to arrest female protesters. He refused.
Also read: Myanmar Police who fled claim to be told to shoot demonstrators with machine guns
Fearing being jailed for siding with protesters and the civil disobedience movement, the Myanmar policeman decided to flee Myanmar.
The case of Tha Peng and two others is one of the first cases reported by the media of Myanmar police fleeing Myanmar after disobeying orders from the military junta’s security forces.