A team of officials from the Mizoram government is verifying claims that at least three people from Myanmar, reportedly police officials, have crossed over into India seeking refuge, state Home Minister Lalchamliana said on Thursday, the Hindustan Times reported. Some reports have claimed that 19 people have crossed over into India, while others have placed the number at 50. However, these have not yet been verified.

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, but the military has claimed the vote was fraudulent. Protests have broken out against the military takeover, leading to several deaths and arrests.

On Wednesday, some men from Myanmar entered the Serchhip district claiming to be police officials, Lalchamliana said. “We have sent officials to verify their claims,” he said. “They are yet to submit a report. It is very likely that the information is true.”

The home minister said that this was the first such incident since the February 1 coup. “Though there are reports of an impending influx of nationals from the country, through the other districts in Mizoram bordering Myanmar, nothing of that sort has happened yet,” he added.

Kumar Abhishek, the deputy commissioner of Serchhip district also told The Hindu that they have not verified if the people crossing over are police officials, but confirmed that three people have entered Mizoram. “Three people crossed over yesterday [Wednesday] and some more came today [Thursday],” he said. “They have been put up at a community hall in Lungkawlh village after the mandatory Covid-19 tests.”

Champhai Deputy Commissioner Maria CT Zuali said four people crossed over into the district on Thursday afternoon. “I heard more people had crossed over to other districts but I don’t have the details,” she told The Hindu.

Border residents of Champhai and Serchhip districts have claimed that at least 50 people from Myanmar have crossed over since March 3. Mizoram authorities are preparing for an influx of refugees from Myanmar. The state shares a 404-km border with Myanmar.

Earlier on Thursday, Reuters cited an unidentified Indian police official and reported that at least 19 Myanmar police personnel have crossed into India. The police official also said that more people were expected to cross over, but the authenticity of this count has not yet been verified.

According to the news agency, several instances on social media have been shared about police officials in Myanmar joining the civil disobedience movement and protests against the military, but this is the first reported case of police fleeing the country. “They didn’t want to take orders against the civil disobedience movement,” the police official told Reuters.

On Tuesday, the Champhai administration issued an order directing people of the state to immediately notify authorities if any person from Myanmar seeks shelter. “If somebody crosses over without the notice of the district administration or village councils in border areas, those persons have to be caught and the local authorities alerted,” Champhai Deputy Commissioner Maria CT Zuali told the Hindustan Times.

Military coup in Myanmar

The military coup in Myanmar followed the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy and Suu Kyi in the national elections in November, with the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party faring poorly in its key strongholds.

The country’s military refused to accept the government, citing unsubstantiated allegations of fraud. It was also announced that the coup was the result of the government’s failure to delay the November election despite the outbreak of the coronavirus.

However, Myanmar’s Army chief General Min Aung Hlaing said on February 8 that “free and fair” elections will be held after the completion of the emergency period, and the military will hand over power to the winner.