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British teacher fled Myanmar to Laos in a dinghy
2021-02-22

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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.


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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. 


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Ian Richmond, 48, 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 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. 


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'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.  


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.

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His disappearance prompted worried colleagues at the BH educational logistics group where he works.


School director Aung Win Shoon said: '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.


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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.


Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk


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