As protests continue against the military coup in Myanmar, the police in the country have allegedly been instructed to shoot at protestors “till they are dead”, reported Reuters. The development came days after eight Myanmar police officers entered India to escape taking orders from the leaders in Myanmar.

Regular protests against the military coup were being staged all over Myanmar, with security forces cracking down on demonstrations. Over 60 protestors have reportedly been killed and more than 1,800 detained so far, reported Reuters, citing the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an advocacy group. The news agency did not confirm the numbers independently.

Around 100 people, primarily police officers and their families, have fled Myanmar to India since the protests began, a senior Indian official said. Reuters spoke to a few people who identified themselves as police officers, and recounted the instructions from their superiors. Tha Peng, identified as a 27-year-old Myanmar police lance corporal, said he refused to follow firing orders on at least two occasions. His is among the first reported cases of police officers leaving the country after disobeying orders from the military.

“I had no choice,” he told the news agency, which confirmed his identity from his police and national identity cards. Tha Peng claimed that he along with six other officers disobeyed a February 27 order from a senior. The description given by Tha Peng and others gathered near the India-Myanmar border was similar to the one given to the police in Mizoram on March 1, according to Reuters.

“As the Civil disobedience movement is gaining momentum and protest(s) held by anti-coup protesters at different places we are instructed to shoot at the protesters,” said a joint statement to the Mizoram Police from four people who fled from Myanmar, reported Reuters. “In such a scenario, we don’t have the guts to shoot at our own people who are peaceful demonstrators.”

Tha Peng, who said he joined the police force in Myanmar nine years ago, claimed that the police rules mandated that demonstrators should either be stopped with rubber bullets or shot below the knees. But instead, Tha Peng claimed he was given the order to shoot people till they died, reported Reuters.

A 23-year-old, identified as police constable Ngun Hlei, and four other unidentified officials also alleged that the Myanmar police were following the military’s orders. However, the two did not provide any evidence to establish this. “...the military pressured the police force who are mostly constables to confront the people,” they said, according to the news agency.

Mizoram awaits Centre’s orders on Myanmar refugees

Mizoram’s Chief Minister Zoramthanga told Reuters that his government would make temporary arrangements of food and shelter for those fleeing Myanmar. He added that a decision on their repatriations was awaited from the Centre.

“There is no proper instruction from the Centre, and it is not fair,” Mizoram’s Environment and Transport Minister TJ Lalnungtluanga told The Hindu on Tuesday. “I am ready to help the people in my individual capacity and from the government on humanitarian grounds.”

However, state Home Minister Lalchamliana refused to divulge the number of refugees who have fled to India’s border districts of Champhai, Hnahthial, Serchhip and Siaha. He said that the matter was “highly sensitive”.

India shares a 1,643-km-long border with Myanmar, where peaceful protestors have been killed since the country’s military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on February 1.

The influx of Myanmar citizens puts India in a difficult position given New Delhi has close ties with the Myanmar military. Over the last two years the military has mounted operations at India’s request to flush out insurgents along the northeastern border. India, on its part, gifted Myanmar its first submarine last year.

Security forces in India had on Friday stepped up security on the border following the influx of Myanmar residents. Earlier this month, a group of low-ranking Myanmar police officers had crossed over into India seeking refuge. An unidentified Indian government official said that the police personnel crossing over from Myanmar said they did not wish to carry out orders from the military as “there are human rights violations and they were asked to shoot at civilians”.

A top official of Mizoram’s home department had on Friday said that 16 people from Myanmar crossed over to India over the last few days, of which 11 claimed they were police personnel.

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.