Myanmar (Burma) Police Flee When Instructed to Shoot Protestors
27 March, 2021
Chin State, Burma
A group of at least 50 former Myanmar policemen have fled across the Myanmar border, unwilling to carry out the violent orders coming down from the military junta now in power, and so are now at risk of arrest and execution themselves. The Burmese Army has used the police force to implement their violent suppression of people protesting the coup; issuing shoot-on-sight orders, ordering door-to-door raids of people’s houses, and attacking people in the streets.
The officers interviewed had joined the force because they wanted to protect the people and work for a young, budding democracy. This all changed when the Burmese military staged a coup, arresting the civilian elected leadership, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and declaring a year-long state of emergency. The police officers now found themselves ordered not to protect the people but to subdue them by any means necessary; to shoot and beat protesters, meanwhile releasing criminals back to the streets. Many officers decided to stand with the people and join the civil disobedience movement, or simply flee to their homes. This put their lives at serious risk and many have now fled across the border, where the FBR team was able to interview them. Two of their stories are below, as translated by our team.
Police Officer 1
“My name is [redacted], I serve the county by becoming a policeman on the 5th August 2019. Before the military coup in our country, policemen are respected by the people of our country, because they served the people and protected the people. But when January 31st, 2021, everything began to change because of the greedy, power-hungry generals and their followers, known as Tatmadaw (military junta). Our life became upside down.
On January 31 I was on my duty in the street it was around 1am. Near my duty post a lot of Army came with Army vehicles, and soon they shut down all the communication lines in the country, from Army headquarters. In the morning we heard the bad news about the military coup against the government. I was amazed and shocked by the bad news and this also made feel very disappointed.
The people also knew the bad news about the military coup; the junta arrested Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myin, and other leaders from the previous government. They were disappointed and they began to protest on the street and in the house.
After a week we got an order from our senior officer to arrest the protesters. They asked us to enter house-to-house and beat the people, but I refused to do the beating. Some of the houses, from inside the owner locked it and they do not want to open the door for us because they are afraid being arrested and beaten by policemen. In the daytime we the police also have duty in the street because of the protesters. Later I found out that among us there were also Army men; they disguised themselves as policemen and those Army men shot the people with a slingshot and harmed the protesters. Seeing all this, I was really disappointed, and felt uncomfortable.
One night we are on the street patrolling and we saw a prison van full of prisoners. And when I asked about them, they told me they were going to set them free and I wondered why. After, the following night, many people tried to steal some goods and tried to burn the houses and were caught by the people. Some of the people come to us and handed over the culprits into our hand, and we sent them back to prison because we knew that they were set free in the previous night. But when the next night come the same people we sent to prison got caught again by the people, I understood something was wrong here.
I went over our superior and told him what has happening in our station and the prison, but, unexpectedly, my superior gave me a bold reply ‘Mind your own works, don’t try to interfere and don’t try to investigate the prison department.’
Another week passed again and we got a new order from our superior that is we have to shoot and kill the protesters. As soon as I heard the new order I ran toward our commanding officer and I told him that I cannot shoot the innocent people and kill them, but our CO was very angry and yelled at me, ‘If you don’t shoot them they will kill you or I will kill you, if you also try to quit your job or thinking about running away, you better to stop thinking because everywhere you go we will find you and kill you.’ He said all these things to me and later I found out he told everybody like that.
But I cannot stand with the military rulers and their fellow high-ranking officers any more, and I planned to escape from them. I also invited some of my trusted friends, but they are afraid and dare not to escape. Luckily the people introduce the Civil Disobedience Movement and I also joined them in March 3rd, 2021. Then I went to India, Mizoram State (the people are our ethnic brothers and we have a good relation before the colonialization).
I wish our country will be great again, and the people will also live happily and peacefully, I may have fled from my country but any time, everywhere I am ready to fight for the freedom, democracy and against the injustice, for the generation to come.
MAY GOD BLESS THE PEOPLE OF MYANMAR”
Police Officer 2 (name redacted for security)
“This is some of my story:
I was born in Falam, Falam District, Chin State. I have five siblings and I was the fourth among us. I joined the Myanmar police force in the month of September 24th, 2012. And I got married in 2015.
We are peaceful and enjoy our young, democratic country (Republic of the Union of Myanmar) until the 31st January 2021 when the military junta (Tatmadaw) did a coup against the government of Myanmar. As soon as the people of our country heard the news, they protested against the Military coup; people roamed the street in day time with slogans, banners and placards against the military coup and at the night time all the families in the country protested from home and later they introduced the Civil Disobedience Movement and I also joined the CDM in 27th February 2021.
The reason why I join the Civil Disobedience Movement was, in 27th February 2021, at Khampat District, Sagaing Region, many people came out on the street to protest, they shouted a slogan against the military coup and sang a revolutionary song on the street while roaming. As soon as we heard the news, six policemen, along with our police station inspector, went to the area where the people do the strike and we told them to stop the protest. If they refused, we also told them we got order from our superior high-ranking officers, to stop the strike by using any means.
But the people refused to obey and said, ‘To do the strike is not a crime, we protest the military coup in a peaceful way and we are not committing any crime, we cannot go back or quit, until we get what we demand.’
The officer in charge (OC)/inspector got very angry when the people disobeyed the police order and he told us to shoot the people with a real gun (M16). I rush toward our OC and begged him to take back his word and all the other five policemen also agreed with me. After having a long conversation with our OC we all went back to our station.
In that evening, our Station CO called all the policemen in our station and he told us that from tomorrow morning we will shoot them, then I interrupted his speaking and said, ‘Sir I cannot shoot and kill the innocent, peaceful protesters.’
He turn toward me and said, ‘If you hesitate to kill the protester, quit your job as a policeman.’
And I answer his word and told him, ‘Ok, Sir, I will quit my job, I don’t want my hand to be stained with the blood of innocent people.’ in that night, along with my wife and my two lovely little daughter we left the camp and went back to our home town of Falam. After having a long journey we reached my father’s home safely in the morning of 28th February 2021.
Soon after reaching our hometown, the bad news also came after us. We heard from our friend (who also works in the Myanmar police) that the army and policemen will come for me if I do not run away before noon, they will put me in prison or kill me because I support CDM and stand with the people. As soon as we heard the news, I saw tears coming down from the eyes of my father, mother and my wife and from my eldest daughter, Esther. They are afraid something bad will happen to me. My mother and my wife hugged me and cried; even my little girl Esther (5 years old) hugged me in my leg, but they were also afraid to cry out loud.
That moment is the most painful thing in my life, I do not know what to say either.
And for my sake, as well as for our family sake, I make a decision to run away in India (the nearest neighboring country from Chin state). We crossed the border secretly with the help of an NGO from Mizoram State, Myanmar, and I reached there safely in 1st March 2021.
We the policemen are for the people and for their safety, we are not a mere tool for the
military to carry out their dirty work and injustice. I cannot work under the military junta
(Tatmadaw) especially their general and high ranking officers who only care for themselves instead of putting the people of Myanmar as their first priority. There are also so many government workers, policemen, and also including Army, Navy and Air
force who want to join the Civil Disobedience Movement for the better Myanmar and for the democracy. But they have a problem: we the Chin people have the Falam Youth Organization, who can look after our wife and child in Myanmar’s Chin State during our absence due to CDM.
From Burmese policemen, among them there are some who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement and got kicked out from the police camp, including their wife and children and have nowhere to go and their life is also in danger. Because of this difficult situation, most of the policemen are afraid to join CDM and the people.
I truly believe that one day our country will recover and the people will establish the real
and true democratic country, this is also my prayer.
GOD BLESS THE REPUBLIC OF THE UNION OF MYANMAR AND THE PEOPLE OF MYANMAR”