Tatmadaw admits to beating Rakhine detainees after viral video

The Myanmar military has admitted its soldiers beat a group of civilian detainees in Rakhine state after videos of the incident went viral on social media this weekend. 

Five Rakhine villagers, all in their early 20s, were arrested in their hometown of Ponnagyun and charged under anti-terrorism laws in late April. They’ve been in Tatmadaw and police custody since.

In three separate videos that went viral on Sunday, Tatmadaw soldiers are seen repeatedly beating the blindfolded and handcuffed young men on a boat on the way to Sittwe, the state capital, on April 27.

“Some members of the security forces performed unlawful interrogations against them,” the military said in a statement on Tuesday evening. 

In the video, a man in a Tatmadaw hat shouts “we’ll kill all of you” as he steps on the detainees’ faces and stomps on their chests.

After their initial arrest, a Tatmadaw spokesperson told reporters the men were arrested on suspicion of harboring ties to the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic Rakhine armed group the government has deemed a terrorist organisation. 

“What’s your rank? Private?” the soldier asks one of the men in the video, before punching him in the face.

The AA are seeking greater autonomy for the western state. Fighting between them and the military has been ongoing since late in 2018, displacing at least 100,000 people, according to Human Rights Watch.

The military claimed to be conducting an investigation into the incident, promising to “take actions” against those involved in the filmed beatings.

Myanmar’s military has a notorious history of human rights abuses. The country is currently being tried for genocide at the International Court of Justice over the military’s so-called “clearance operations” in 2017 that forced more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. 

Myanmar is due to report back to the court later this month on efforts it has taken to protect the mostly Muslim minority in Rakhine state.   

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