India steps up border patrols to stop arrivals from Myanmar

Devjyot Ghoshal
·2-min read
Protest against the military coup in Myanmar, in New Delhi

By Devjyot Ghoshal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian security forces stepped up patrols on the border with Myanmar on Friday to stop refugees entering after some police officers crossed over to escape taking orders from the military junta there, officials said.

"As of now, we are not letting anybody enter," Maria Zuali, senior government official in Mizoram state's Champhai district, told Reuters by telephone.

The move follows the defection over the border of some low-ranking Myanmar police officers who were unwilling to obey orders to suppress demonstrations against the junta.

Myanmar's military overthrew a democratically elected government on Feb. 1, setting off nationwide protests that have left more than 50 people dead. A spokesman for the military has not commented on the police defectors.

Indian soldiers and police were patrolling the frontier on Friday, Zauli said.

In neighbouring Serchhip district, senior official Kumar Abhishek said eight people, including a woman and a child, had crossed the border and were being taken care of.

"We are anticipating that some more may come," he said.

Authorities were making preparations to house between 30 and 40 people, he said.

Asked about the crossing over of Myanmar police, Anurag Srivastava, spokesman for India's foreign ministry, told reporters at a briefing in New Delhi that it was ascertaining the facts.

In all, about 30 Myanmar police and their family members had crossed over into India in recent days, a senior police official in Mizoram said, including some who had come overnight.

The official, who requested anonymity, said people were slipping in despite intensive patrolling by Indian soldiers along a border that hugs the Tiau river flowing between forested hills.

"People are coming from different routes," the official said, "The border is porous, you can't prevent it."

A federal Indian security official said that police crossing over had said they did not wish to carry out orders from the military to quell the protests.

"They alleged that there are human rights violations and they were asked to shoot at civilians," the official said, also requesting anonymity.

The influx of such refuge-seekers, particularly police, puts India in a quandary because of New Delhi's close ties with the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw.

Over the last two years the Tatmadaw 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.

"It's a little difficult situation for India because diplomatic balance is crucial," the official said.

(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Angus MacSwan and Steve Orlofsky)