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A local resident in central Burma was injured after he was beaten by a group of soldiers at a restaurant on Tuesday.
On 5 March, Zaw Htoo, a 28-year-old resident in Myingyan, Mandalay division was drinking with colleagues at Kaung Kaung restaurant to celebrate a friend’s wedding when he began arguing with two officials dressed in civilian clothing, who were from the Burmese Army’s 15th Light Infantry Battalion.
Shortly after the argument, a group of soldiers led by two captains, who were presumably called by the officials, stormed into the restaurant and beat Zaw Htoo, according to a witness.
“The incident took place around half past ten in the evening – five soldiers in their uniforms came in the restaurant with two captains in plain clothes. One of them, walked right in and kicked the guy in the white shirt,” said a witness, who was attending the wedding party.
“They held him up and punched him while some other [soldiers] kept watch at the entrance. They were like gangsters, saying stuff like ‘You think you’re tough?’ and the captain was like ‘this is how we get tough at the frontline’ and continued to bash the guy. We were too afraid to stop them so we just sat and watched. They made him kneel in a stress position and beat him up like a criminal.”
After the assault, Zaw Htoo was left with bruises and a bloody nose. The victim’s father Zaw Myint said he was going to file a lawsuit at the police station against the soldiers but decided to put the plan on hold after officials from the battalion promised to extend their apology yesterday.
“I went to the police station to open a case but around five in the afternoon today, the group of soldiers who injured my son, along with their major and other officials, arrived at our house and promised to apologise,” said Zaw Myint.
“As a Buddhist, I thought I’d forgive them and decided to wait before filing the case. If they don’t show up like they promised, I’ll go ahead with the lawsuit.”
According to Captain Aung Latt Soe of the 15th LIB, the dispute is now settled.
“It’s already sorted out. We’ve settled things with the family – it was just a fight among youths and their families have talked it out,” said the captain.
Similar violent instances flare up from on occasion in the country. In January, a teenager died two weeks after being brutally assaulted by soldiers from the Burmese army after a minor traffic collision.
The 16-year old Than Htike Aung from Henzada township in the Irrawaddy division accidentally hit a soldier while driving his motorbike on 14 December. Witnesses say he was then attacked and beaten by a group of other soldiers.
Such instances were rife during military rule. In September 2010, two young men were killed after a quarrel over a damaged motorbike broke out. According to eyewitness reports, the skirmish between an army captain and five men occurred, before the captain telephoned to troops. A group arrived at the scene, after which the two were shot.
According to Burmese law, soldiers cannot be tried in civilian courts, which experts argue allows the military to act with impunity because they are rarely convicted or punished by court martials.