Brit teacher tells how he fled Myanmar after vanishing for five days
British teacher, 48, missing for five days in Myanmar during riots over military coup, tells of moment he fled over border to Laos in a dinghy
- British teacher Ian Richmond, 48, disappeared from Myanmar on February 1
- He fled the city of of Tachileik on the border with Thailand and Laos during protests over the imprisonment of the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi
- Colleagues were worried for the welfare of Mr Richmond, from County Durham
- But today he told how he had fled the city and stayed in the countryside before taking a dinghy across the border to Laos
A British teacher who was missing for five days in Myanmar has told how he fled the city where he worked as violent protests raged over the military coup.
Ian Richmond dramatically escaped the border city of Tachileik where he works at a school on February 1 as people rioted over the imprisonment of the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The 48-year-old couldn’t make contact with worried friends or family back in the UK because the authorities in Myanmar had cut phone signal and the internet.
Ian Richmond, 48, (pictured), from Darlington, County Durham, went missing from the city of Tachileik, on the border with Thailand, where he lives and teaches at a school on February 1
Colleagues at the school where he works contacted MailOnline on Monday to say that they were worried about the safety of the British teacher, pictured with his Chinese partner Xiaoulu
Only yesterday, when Mr Richmond took a 20-minute dinghy ride across the border to Laos to use his phone did he realise that his colleagues were concerned.
Speaking to MailOnline from a village on the Laos border, the English teacher, from Darlington, Country Durham, said: ‘I am sorry for the worry I have caused but I had no way of contacting anyone.
‘The army have turned off the CCTV in towns and cities, they have blocked transport radio and thousands of people have been arrested.
However, the Briton, pictured with Xiaoulu, contacted MailOnline today to say that he was safe and well and had fled Tachileik during the violent protests over the military coup there
An experienced traveller, Mr Richmond had been living abroad for the past 15 years. He spent 12 years teaching English in China before moving to Myanmar two years ago
‘Every night crowds are banging pots and pans in growing numbers in protest and to ward off ‘evil spirits’, which is the army.
‘So I just wanted to stay away from the trouble. It has been very tense here,’ he added.
Military junta imposes curfew and bans meetings
Myanmar’s new military rulers on Monday signaled their intention to crack down on opponents of their takeover, issuing decrees that effectively banned peaceful public protests in the country’s two biggest cities.
The restrictive measures were ordered after police fired water cannons at hundreds of protesters in the Myanmar capital, Naypyitaw, who were demanding the military hand power back to elected officials.
Rallies and gatherings of more than five people, along with motorized processions, were banned, and an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew was imposed for areas of Yangon and Mandalay.
Protesters in Yangon rallied Monday at a major downtown intersection raising three-finger salutes that are symbols of resistance and carrying placards saying, ‘Reject the military coup’ and ‘Justice for Myanmar.’
There were also demonstrations in towns in the north, southeast and east of the country.
State media for the first time on Monday made reference to the protests, claiming they were endangering the country’s stability.
However, the military commander who led the coup and is now Myanmar’s leader made no mention of the unrest in a 20-minute televised speech Monday night, his first to the public since the takeover.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent watchdog group, says 165 people, mostly politicians, had been detained since the Feb. 1 coup, with just 13 released.
Peter Stoddart, a close friend in the UK, said: ‘Ian has turned up safe and well. He has been holed up with no communications for the last week.
‘He was alerted to the fact that people were looking for him and he has reported in and said that he is ok.’
After he vanished, Mr Richmond posted on Facebook on February 3 a copy of a letter from the British Ambassador to Myanmar Dan Chugg in which he urged Britons in the country to stay at home and not to come to the Embassy.
His disappearance prompted worried colleagues at the BH educational logistics group where he works to contact MailOnline.
School director Aung Win Shoon told MailOnline: ‘We are in the Shan state of Myanmar, which is currently experiencing unrest and riots like many parts of the country.
‘The roads are blocked and there has been some problems with guerillas and the Burmese army.
‘We have had internet blocked here so there is an information black out. Banks are closed and roads are shut with phones blocked. It is very tense politically.
‘So we are wondering if anyone has heard from Ian in England.
‘If he has left Tachileik he would not have been able to return to the area because the military has sealed it off from the rest of the country.’
Mr Richmond said that he would leave Myanmar for Thailand or China if the situation worsens.
The country has experienced the biggest protests for a decade, with tens of thousands of people joining rallies in several cities since the arrest of San Suu Kyi, 75.
The army took control of the country at the beginning of the month, claiming that there had been voting irregularities at the November 8 general election.
San Suu Kyi’s ruling party the NLD won 396 out of 476 contested seats giving them another five-year majority in parliament, despite the 25 per cent of seats automatically allocated to the armed forces.
In a television address on Monday General Min Aung Hlaing, who lead the coup, tried to justify the takeover by claiming San Suu Kyi’s election victory was fraudulent, despite providing no evidence.
Mr Richmond posted this message on Facebook on February 3 from the British Ambassador to Myanmar Dan Chugg with advice to stay at home and to avoid crowds where possible
An experienced traveller, Mr Richmond had been living abroad for the past 15 years.
He spent 12 years teaching English in China before moving to Myanmar two years ago. He has a Chinese partner called Xiaoulu.
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