AUTHORITIES in Burma (Myanmar) have detained four policemen in connection with the alleged assault of Rohingya villagers that appeared online amid tension over a government crackdown aimed at rooting out suspected insurgents.
A senior police officer in the capital of Naypyitaw said the policemen were detained on Monday after footage emerged showing security forces beating and kicking two villagers during an operation in which dozens of Rohingya Muslims were told to line up for questioning.
The officer declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to media.
The footage — which offers a rare glimpse into the region that has been cut off to aid workers and other outsiders since October — was shared widely on social media and aired by Burmese broadcasters, prompting calls from rights groups and activists to take action against the perpetrators.
Earlier on Monday, the Burmese government promised to take action against the policemen, which marks the first time authorities have vowed to do so despite dozens of videos showing alleged abuse of Rohingya which emerged in recent months.
Troops have poured into Rakhine State on Myanmar’s northwestern border with Bangladesh since gunmen attacked border posts on Oct 9, killing nine officers.
The Burmese army sweep has sent some 34,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh, the United Nations says.
Residents and rights groups accuse security forces of abuses during the operation including summary executions and rape, which the government of Aung San Suu Kyi denies.
Suu Kyi’s office confirmed the authenticity of the footage, which it said was shot by a member of the police during a clearance operation on Nov 5 in northern Rakhine State.
“Action will be taken against police who allegedly beat villagers,” the office said in a statement issued late on Sunday.
Police were acting on a tip-off that gunmen who attacked police two days earlier were being sheltered in the village, called Kotankauk, the office said.
The office identified four policemen by name, including the leader of the operation and one it said could be seen beating villagers in the video.
“Further investigations are being carried out to expose other police officers who beat the villagers,” it said.
The violence in Rakhine State has renewed international criticism that Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi has done too little to help members of the Muslim minority, who are denied citizenship in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.
The government has blamed militants with links to Islamists overseas for the Oct 9 attacks. State media has reported at least 86 deaths in the security force operation that followed.
Additional reporting by Reuters