Asia

Myanmar detains police officers over Rohingya beating video

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Media captionVideo of the beatings first appeared on Burmese social media, as David Campanale reports

Myanmar has detained several police over a video that appears to show officers beating members of the Muslim Rohingya minority during a security operation.

The government said the incident, filmed by a police officer, happened in restive Rakhine state in November.

The office of Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi named four officers who took part in the operation.

They include Zaw Myo Htike, who can be seen smoking as he films the video.

"Those who [were] initially identified were detained," Ms Suu Kyi's office said in a statement. "Further investigations are being carried out to expose other police officers who beat villagers in the operation."

There have been repeated allegations of abuses against the minority in Rakhine since a military counter-insurgency campaign was launched there in October.

Some have even said the state's actions amount to ethnic cleansing., and Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, has faced international criticism.

The admission that security forces may have carried out abuses is an unusual development, as Burmese leaders have previously insisted they are following the rule of law.

Rakhine state is closed to journalists and investigators, making it difficult to independently verify the allegations.

Who will help Myanmar's Rohingya?

Nobel laureates urge action on Rohingya

Scores of people have been killed in the recent military operation, launched after armed militants attacked border posts near Maungdaw on 9 October, killing nine policemen.

The government said the footage was filmed in November as police conducted a "clearance operation" in Maungdaw after two police officers were shot, one fatally.

The video shows a large group of villagers sitting in lines in front of police officers. One officer can be seen beating a man, while another kicks him in the face. Other men are then also kicked or hit.

The State Counsellor's Office Information Committee said action would be taken against officers who violated police force rules.

Who are the Rohingya?

Image copyright AP

The estimated one million Muslim Rohingya are seen by many in mainly Buddhist Myanmar as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. They are denied citizenship by the government despite tracing their ancestry back generations.

Communal violence in Rakhine state in 2012 left scores dead and displaced more than 100,000 people, with many Rohingya still remaining in decrepit camps.

They face widespread discrimination and mistreatment.

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented Rohingya are estimated to live in Bangladesh, having fled Myanmar over decades.

Bangladesh says around 50,000 Rohingya have crossed its border over the past two months.

The situation has drawn global condemnation. Over a dozen Nobel laureates wrote to the UN Security Council last week demanding action to stop the "human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity" in northern Rakhine.

'A revealing glimpse' - Jonah Fisher, BBC Myanmar correspondent

This is a revealing glimpse into the way security forces are operating in Rakhine.

It's just one incident, but it supports Rohingya claims that they are being abused and collectively punished by the military.

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Media captionRohingya Muslims 'hated and hounded from Burmese soil'

For the last three months there has been a steady flow of video footage from northern Rakhine. Rohingya men and women have alleged, rape, massacres and the burning and looting of villages at the hands of the military.

The response of Aung San Suu Kyi's government has been unequivocal. The footage has been denounced as "fake news", while at the same time journalists and aid workers have been prevented from seeing for themselves.

This video should make uncomfortable viewing for Ms Suu Kyi. Official figures show that at least six Rohingya have died in custody in the last three months. Is she asking why?

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