Myanmar’s government said it has detained several police officers over a video showing policemen beating civilians belonging to the Muslim Rohingya minority community that went viral online.
Monday’s front-page story in the state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper about the November 5 incident, which cited government promises to “take action” against the perpetrators, was a rare official acknowledgment of the security forces’ abuses taking place in the western state of Rakhine.
The office of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, named four officers involved in the operation including Zaw Myo Htike, who looks nonchalantly into the camera smoking as he records the video of the abuse.
“Those who (were) initially identified were detained,” it said in a statement. “Further investigations are being carried out to expose other police officers who beat villagers in the operation.”
The authorities have been conducting “clearance” operations in Rakhine since an attack in October by unidentified armed men killed nine border guards.
Human rights groups accuse security forces of abuses against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine, including rape, killings and the burning of more than 1,000 homes.
Dozens of videos have emerged apparently showing abuses against Rohingya Muslims, but this is the first time the government has said it will take action over them.
The refugees’ stories have raised global alarm and galvanised protests against Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been accused of not doing enough to help the Rohingya.
Monday’s story, which cited the office of Aung San Suu Kyi and police, did not say what punishment the police might face.
The selfie-style video showed police officers beating and kicking villagers and went viral over the weekend, state media reported.
The video, which contains images some viewers may find distressing, shows police hitting a young boy around the head as he walks to where dozens of villagers are lined up in rows seated on the ground, hands behind their heads.
Three officers in uniform then start attacking one of the sitting men, beating him with a stick and kicking him repeatedly in the face.
A Rohingya activist contacted by AFP news agency said the footage had been verified by a refugee from the nearby camp, Shilkhali.