Fears grow for British teacher after he disappeared in Myanmar

EXCLUSIVE: Fears grow for missing British teacher, 48, after he disappeared in Myanmar a week ago as protests sweep country over military coup

  • British teacher Ian Richmond, 48, hasn’t been seen in Myanmar since February 1
  • Originally from County Durham, Richmond lives on the border with Thailand
  • Richmond has not made any contact with friends and family back in the UK
  • The military took control of Myanmar at the beginning of the month 

Fears are growing for the safety of a British teacher who has disappeared in Myanmar as protests rage across the country against the military crackdown and imprisonment of the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ian Richmond who lives and teaches at a school in Tachileik, on the border with Thailand, has not been since February 1.

The 48-year-old, originally from Darlington, County Durham, has not made contact with family and friend back home in the UK during that time.

Ian Richmond, 48, (pictured) originally from Darlington, County Durham, who lives and teaches at a school in Tachileik, on the border with Thailand, has not been since February 1

The British teacher has disappeared in Myanmar as protests rage across the country against the military crackdown and imprisonment of the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Pictured: Ian Richmond with his Chinese partner Xiaoulu

Concerned colleagues at the BH educational logistics group where he works have appealed to family and friends in the UK for news of Ian.

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.

The 48-year-old, originally from Darlington, County Durham, has not made contact with family and friend back home in the UK since he went missing

The military took control of Myanmar at the beginning of the month, claiming that there had been voting irregularities at the November 8 general election. Pictured: A message released by the British ambassador with advice to stay at home and to avoid crowds where possible

‘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.’

Myanmar has experienced the biggest protests for a decade, with tens of thousands of people joining rallies in several of the country’s cities since the arrest of San Suu Kyi, 75.

The military 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, leading the coup, tried to justify the takeover by claiming San Suu Kyi’s was fraudulent, despite providing no evidence.

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.

Mr Richmond’s colleagues are becoming increasingly concerned for his welfare because they have not been able to contact him since the rioting began.

His last post on Facebook February 3 was 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.

Mr Chugg wrote: ‘This has been an unsettling couple of days. I recognise that many people will be worried about what is happening and what they should do.

‘Our advice over the past few days has been to stay at home. This continues to be our position.

‘Please do not come to the Embassy. The Embassy building is closed and staff are working remotely.

‘Both the PM and the Foreign Secretary made comments about the situation yesterday and are fully engaged in developments.

‘Please take care.’

Mr Richmond’s friend back home Paul Stoddart said he was worried, but hoped the adventurous teacher had simply gone ‘off-grid’ for a few days.

‘I have not heard from Ian for a week, Mr Stoddart told MailOnline.

‘That is not unusual because he often goes off-grid. But he has been fairly chatty recently.

‘Just before the coup he said the situation had become very tense.

‘His phone is switched off and he has not posted anything on Facebook for five days.

‘He may have crossed the border into Thailand. He said if the situation got bad in Myanmar that’s what he would try to do.

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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