‘They beat everyone: man, woman and child’

Troops from the Burmese army attacked at whole village in Rangoon division last month, punching and kicking residents from 22 households “indiscriminately”, eye-witnesses have said.

The assault happened in early August in Thonese Pauk village, Hlegu township, which lies around 45 kilometres north of Rangoon city. Mirroring a similar incident in Bago division this month, the attack followed an argument between an army captain dressed in civilian clothing and a local youth, Kyaw Linn Thu.

Several hours after the argument, on the evening of 1 August, Captain Sit Linn Aung returned to search for Kyaw Linn Thu, who by then had disappeared. His sister, Mawli Win (also known as Daw Pane), was instead asked to accompany him and two other army officials to the site of the argument.

“Army officials arrived and they said they wanted to see me so I came out of my house, and they asked me to show them where the incident took place,” she said.

“While we were still close to my house, about 40 or 50 soldiers arrived in a truck. They jumped out of the truck and beat me up. I got punched in my temple and also hit on my arm.”

Another soldier then “came running and hit me with his rifle butt right in my chest”, she added. “[The soldiers] ran amok in the neighbourhood, ransacking houses and beating residents in their own homes.”

A second Hlegu resident, who asked not to be named, said that troops had also dragged people out of their homes and continued the assault.

“They rounded up the residents from the 22 households on the road and beat them up, kicking and punching everyone – men, women, and children – indiscriminately.”

The army has since apologised to the victims, Daw Pane said, adding however that she had to foot the medical bill for her injuries herself. She said that the army “told us to drop the charges”.

An attempt by the victims to file a complaint to police was blocked by the army, said Hlegu local, Nyunt Han. “The police also summoned us for an investigation. [Daw Pane], who was bashed by the soldiers with rifle-butt, passed out twice while giving her account to the police and was sent to Hlegu hospital.”

“The military supervisor of Inn Taing [where the troops are based] was in the police station at the time and he was telling her off, ordering her to just give a light account and not to exaggerate. He also ordered the police officials in the station not to do anything on the sole accounts given by the villagers.” He added that no action has yet been taken by the police.

Following the Bago incident, which gained the attention of international media, Burmese state media tried to placate widespread condemnation by saying that the violence that resulted in the deaths of the two men was “just a drunken brawl”.

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