The government has vowed to “take action” against Burmese police officers seen abusing detainees in Arakan State after a video of the incident made the rounds online over the weekend.
“As soon as the video was found online, the Information Committee [of the State Counsellor’s Office] contacted officials of the Myanmar Police Force and the Ministry of Home Affairs. An investigation was immediately launched,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported on Monday, in the first official recognition of misconduct by security forces that have faced growing accusations of having committed human rights abuses in northern Arakan State.
The incident, according to state media, took place in the village of Kotankauk, Maungdaw township, on 5 November. Dozens of men appear on their hands and knees in the video in what the government described as a “clearance operation” in the village following an attack two days earlier that saw one police officer killed. At least three police officers are seen repeatedly hitting and kicking one of the detainees, though state media reported that only one officer had committed the abuse.
According to the State Counsellor’s Office Information Committee, that individual was identified as Constable Pyai Phyo Thwin, who was part of an operation led by Police Superintendent Ye Tun Naing of the No. 2 Border Guard Police Force and Sub-Inspector Te Zar Lin of the No. 36 Security Force.
A fourth police officer, who shot the video and can be seen smoking a cigarette throughout the incident, was identified by the State Counsellor’s Office as Constable Zaw Myo Htike.
“Measures are being taken to take action against those who violated police force rules,” said the Global New Light of Myanmar report, without specifying what those measures might be.
The government has pushed back forcefully against allegations of human rights abuses in Arakan State since security forces cracked down on members of the Rohingya Muslim minority in a manhunt for perpetrators of deadly 9 October attacks on border police outposts. The mounting accusations from human rights groups and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh prompted the government to form a commission to investigate the situation, with members of the commission making a field visit to the affected region last month.
Its initial findings after the trip were that security forces were “following the law” as they conducted clearance operations, during which scores have been killed. More than 500 suspected militants have been detained.
Several Nobel Peace Prize laureates last week released a statement urging the UN Security Council to intervene in Arakan State, where they said a “human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding.”