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Myanmar’s Army Investigating Soldiers over Video of Abuses against Civilians

Myanmar’s Army Investigating Soldiers over Video of Abuses against Civilians
folder_openAsia-Pacific... access_time6 months ago
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By Staff, Agencies

Myanmar’s army said on Wednesday it was investigating soldiers filmed beating and threatening to kill civilians in the western state of Rakhine, where dozens of people have been killed during an upsurge of fighting in recent weeks.

“It is found out that some of the security force members conducted unlawful interrogations,” the army said in a statement posted on its website.

In footage shared widely on social media since Saturday, five men can be seen slumped on the floor of a boat, blindfolded, hands tied behind their backs, as men in military fatigues stamp on their chests and slap and kick their faces. The men whimper and plead that they are civilians.

“I am a civilian, sir,” one says, according to subtitles in the video. “What civilian? Why are you fighting against us?” a soldier shouts, grabbing him by the hair and smacking his cheek. “Let them die, let them break,” says another. One man is hit repeatedly in the face with a shoe.

The army said the video was shot on April 27 in Rakhine state’s Ponnagyun township.

The military statement claimed the men who were beaten had been arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Arakan Army, an insurgent group fighting for greater autonomy for the western region. It said they were being transported to the state capital of Sittwe when the beatings happened.

A relative of one of the men in the video said he was not an insurgent. The relative, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said the family had met the man at Ponnagyun police station on Tuesday.

The army said the men were from Kyauk Seik, a village where eight people were killed in mid-April. Two local officials and a resident said they were killed in a shelling, but the army claimed reports that civilians there had been shelled were fabricated.

Dozens of people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced in a recent intensification of fighting, according to the United Nations.

Rakhine state is the region from where 730,000 ethnic Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority, fled to neighboring Bangladesh during a military crackdown in 2017.

Myanmar is facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the violence, which the army claims was a legitimate security operation against Muslim ‘militants.’