Indian border towns providing refuge to pro-democracy demonstrators from Myanmar

  • Video report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

  • Words by Sanjay Jha, Indo-Myanmar Border

The Myanmar junta is heavily cracking down on its citizens as they protest against the army who usurped power from the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Yangon, the commercial capital of Myanmar, activists daubed roads with red paint on Tuesday to protest against the junta’s bloody crackdown.

ITV News visited Moreh, an Indian town near the border with Myanmar. It was a bustling trade centre but now it wears a deserted look with all shops closed.

The traditional village market is still functioning, with Myanmar’s farmers coming to sell their produce.

Hundreds of villagers walk across India’s open border and after selling their produce return to Myanmar.

A burned military-controlled Ruby Mart after a fire in Yangon, Myanmar, early Thursday, April 1. Credit: AP

The military in Myanmar is closely watching the border and ITV News witnessed firsthand the high-handness of the army.

When we tried to film them patrolling the border and beating up innocent people coming from India, they pulled their guns on us and forced us to delete the footage shot by our cameraperson.

Unable to communicate much, they kept shouting “delete”.

The junta is worried about the growing civilian protests which have now reached rural parts of Myanmar.

Pro-democracy supporters have been protesting against the junta in the Namphalong area, which borders the town of Moreh in India’s Manipur state.

Local residents in India are scared of ongoing protests across the border as the effect of the military crackdown on anti-coup protesters.

For the last couple of weeks, Namphalong has witnessed the killing and injuring of civilians and security personnel, even as additional security forces were deployed to the border area to maintain peace and order.

A few hours after ITV News visited the border on Saturday, protesters started a fire in Namphalong, while a bomb explosion occurred across the border under a bridge in a nearby area.

Local villagers saw the fire at the sentry post which is located 50 metres from the international border inside Myanmar.

“We keep hearing the gun shots and bomb explosions most of the evening on Burmese side,” said one villager who didn't want to be named.

Protesters attend a candlelight night rally in Yangon, Myanmar. Credit: AP

The army has even stopped doctors from treating protesters. They are raiding and arresting doctors treating anti-regime protestors.

Instead, protesters are crossing the border into India to seek medical treatment.

“If we don’t cure the patients who else will cure them? One doctor said on the condition of anonymity.

"The soldiers blocked the hospitals to prevent them from reopening and accepting the wounded anti-regime protesters.

"[They] raided and harassed the healthcare facilities. We can’t accept that. We won’t stop what we are doing whatever they threaten."

CCTV captures Myanmar security forces firing at point-blank range on passing motorcyclists

Frustrated with the failure of their violent crackdown to deter people from protesting, soldiers and police have using lethal force in search of protesters to arrest, dragging them out of hiding and beating them before taking them away.

With turmoil continuing in Myanmar, refugees have started flocking to India for safety.

Despite an advisory issued by India’s federal government prohibiting entry of Myanmar’s citizens, local villagers are giving shelter and taking care of them.

At least 1,402 people from Myanmar have crossed over to Mizoram, another Indian state bordering the country, in the wake of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), triggered by February’s military coup.

The local provincial government has set up refugee camps to accommodate these refugees in the state capital Aizawl.