Terrified and uncertain, these families crossed mountains to escape Myanmar’s deadly junta

Mizoram, India CNN  — 

The woman had almost reached the border when the police spotted her.

She had fled her home in Myanmar late one night in early March with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. They brought only two or three days’ worth of clothes and some emergency cash, moving quickly but carefully through the country’s mountainous western region – she is six months pregnant with her second child, and her husband was a policeman leaving the force during a violent military crackdown.

They traveled at night to hide from military patrols, and took unpopulated routes during the day. They managed to avoid detection for almost 110 miles (177 kilometers) – until the third day, as they were nearing the India-Myanmar border.

“They were searching for us in our town,” said the woman, 36, who CNN is not naming for her safety. “When we were about to cross over, the Myanmar police chased after us.”

The family ran – and just managed to cross into India’s northeastern state of Mizoram, and into safety.

Temporary shelter for the 36-year-old (identity withheld) and her family, who crossed over from Myanmar to the Indian state of Mizoram.

They are among at least 400 Burmese nationals, including police officers, government officials, and civilians, who have fled to Mizoram since the military coup in Myanmar last month, according to Mizoram Chief Minister PU Zoramthanga.

Since seizing power on February 1, the military junta has cracked down on opposition voices with increasing brutality. At least 275 protesters have been killed, including dozens of teenagers and young people, according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. And up to 2,400 people have been detained, according to the United Nations.

Though Mizoram and Myanmar share a porous 510-kilometer (about 317-mile) border, the main crossing point has been closed for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The remote, jagged terrain is difficult to navigate, and those fleeing Myanmar have been reliant on activists to help cross safely into India. Many are now being sheltered by relatives and locals in Mizoram, with whom they share close cultural links.

“We (the state government) are not sending them back as a humanitarian point of view,” said Zoramthanga. “When somebody enters the land, the country’s border, for fear of their lives, we cannot simply send them back.

“They are not criminals.”

The Indian federal government has not publicly announced what it will do with the new arrivals, and whether to comply with requests from Myanmar authorities to deport police officers who fled – leaving families like the woman’s hanging in the balance.

CNN has reached out to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs for comment, but has not yet received a response.

“We cannot say or do anything freely, we will be living in danger,” said the woman as she held her daughter in her lap. “If our country is peaceful, we are willing to go back. If not, there is no way we can go back.”