Myanmar police officers told the BBC they crossed the border into India after refusing to carry out orders from the army that seized power in a coup last month. In some of the first interviews of this type, more than a dozen deserters told us that they fled for fear of being forced to kill or harm civilians.

 These officers are among the first defectors to share eyewitness accounts of what they say is happening inside Myanmar


"They gave me orders to shoot the protesters. I told them I couldn't."

For nine years, Naing, whose name we have changed for his safety, served as a policeman in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Now the 27-year-old is in hiding in Mizoram state in northeast India.

I met him, and a group of policemen and women in their twenties, who say they fled their jobs at home after refusing to follow orders. "He was afraid of being forced to kill or injure innocent people who are protesting against the military," said an official.

"We think it was wrong for the military to overthrow an elected government."

Since Myanmar's army, known as the Tatmadaw, took power on February 1, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets.

The security forces have been accused of killing more than 50 people.

Protesters have taken to the streets in their thousands since the coup - and have been met with increasing force


Naing, who is a low-ranking official from a city in the west of the country, says protests in his area began to escalate in late February.

He says he ran, after twice refusing to shoot protesters.

"I told my boss that he couldn't do that and that he would side with the people.

"The military is nervous. They are getting more and more brutal."

As we speak, Naing takes out the phone from him to show me photos of the family he left behind: a wife and two daughters who are just five and six months old.

"He worries me that it won't be possible to see them again," he told me.

I met him and the rest of the group at an undisclosed location, overlooking the hills and valleys of the mountainous Mizoram state, his home country of Myanmar, less than 10 miles (16 km) from where we were chatting.

The officers we spoke to are among the first defectors to share eyewitness accounts of what they say is happening within the country.

They say they are part of a growing number of officials who are joining the civil disobedience movement (CDM) for democracy in the country.

he BBC met the group less than 10 miles from their home country, Myanmar


The BBC could not independently verify any of the claims made by the police who spoke to us.

The UN, the United States and many other countries have condemned the slaughter of civilians in the offensive against anti-coup protesters in Myanmar and have called on the authorities to exercise restraint. The army has rejected criticism of its actions and said it is ready to resist sanctions and isolation after it seizes power.

According to local officials, more than 100 people have fled Myanmar to Mizoram since the military coup.

Htut, which is not his real name, remembers the night the military junta overthrew the government, after the internet was shut down and a military post was erected near his station.

"A few hours later we learned that the military had carried out a coup."

Htut, who is 22, says he and other policemen were paired with members of the military while patrolling the streets. Protesters peacefully beating utensils in support of the pro-democracy movement were threatened with arrest.

Htut, who is from a large city in Myanmar, says that he too was asked to shoot protesters, a demand that he rejected.

“The military officer in charge ordered us to shoot people who were leaving in groups of more than five. I know they beat people. I had sleepless nights.

"When I saw innocent people bleeding, my conscience did not allow me to participate in such evil acts."

 Local officials say more than 100 people have escaped from Myanmar to Mizoram since the military coup


Htut says that he was the only one from his police station who fled, making the trip on a motorcycle. He says he was terrified as he passed from village to village to reach the Indian border.

Those we spoke to crossed into India via the Tiau River, which we visited. The 250-mile stretch of river forms part of the India-Myanmar boundary.

The groups we've spoken to say they expect more police to make this trip to India in the coming days.

Grace, whose name we have changed, is one of two policewomen we met who defected.

She said she saw the military use sticks and rubber bullets to surround protesters and, on one occasion, tear gas was fired at a group that included children.

"They wanted us to disperse the crowd and arrest our friends, but we couldn't do it," she said.

"We love the police, but now the system has changed, we cannot continue our work."

The 24-year-old says she also struggled with leaving her family at home, particularly her mother, who has severe heart disease.

"My parents are old and they are also afraid. But we young people have no choice but to run away and leave them behind."

The Myanmar authorities have asked India to return the defectors to "maintain friendly relations".

Mizoram's chief minister, Zoramthanga, said those who have arrived should be given temporary shelter, while the national government decides what to do next.

Local groups have told us that they expect many more defectors to make the trip to India in the coming days.

The Tiau river on the border is where the defectors crossed from India to Myanmar


It is simply not the police officers who have fled. We met a merchant who escaped to Mizoram after being issued a court order by the Myanmar authorities for gathering online supporters to join the pro-democracy movement.

"I'm not running away selfishly," he said, explaining why he risked everything to leave.

"Everyone in the country is concerned.

"I am here for safety and I will continue to do what I can to support the movement, from this side."

Myanmar in profile

Myanmar, also known as Burma, gained independence from Great Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under a military regime.

Restrictions began to be loosened in 2010, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year.

In 2017, the Myanmar military responded to attacks on police by Rohingya militants with a deadly crackdown, driving more than half a million Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh in what the UN later called a " Ethnic cleansing textbook example. "