Fleeing Myanmar police: We defied orders to kill protesters

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A police officer who fled from Myanmar following a military coup looks out to the mountains from an undisclosed location bordering Myanmar, in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, Thursday, March 18, 2021. Villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 Myanmar police personnel and 1 fire fighter, who crossed over to the state over the last two weeks. They refused to give their names to an Associated Press photographer who met them this week in an undisclosed location in Mizoram state. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

MIZORAM – A group of police officers who defied the Myanmar army's orders to shoot opponents of the coup recounted their experience after they escaped to India. While speaking, they raised a three-finger salute — a symbol of resistance to Myanmar’s military rulers.

“We cannot hurt our people, that’s why we came to Mizoram,” said one of the men, who hails from the northwestern town of Tedim. Mizoram state in India’s northeast shares a border with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

After the army coup, the police were ordered to “shoot people and not just the people, we were told to shoot our own family if they are not on the side of the army,” he said. The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify their claims, though images and accounts of the security forces' crackdown inside Myanmar have shown intensifying violence against civilians.

Indian villagers in Mizoram have given shelter to 34 police personnel and one firefighter who crossed into India over the last two weeks. They spoke to an AP photojournalist on condition of anonymity because of fears of retribution against family members still in Myanmar.

Back in Myanmar, the three-finger salute, which traces its origins to the Hunger Games books and movies by Suzanne Collins, is being used by youth protesters at massive anti-army demonstrations.

Meanwhile, K. Vanlalvena, a lawmaker from Mizoram state, urged the Indian government not to deport refugees from Myanmar until the return of normalcy there. The lawmaker belongs to the Mizo National Front, an ally of India's governing Bharatiya Janata Party.

Those who escaped spend their time watching television and doing chores. Some have carried mobile phones and are trying to connect to families they were forced to leave behind. At night, all of them sleep on mattresses on the floor of a single room.

One of them told the AP that they were under the command of Myanmar's army.