The Myanmar army admitted on May 13, Wednesday, to having identified the soldiers who were seen beating up handcuffed prisoners in a viral video. The video that has been circulating on social media since Sunday was shot on a navy vessel in the northern Rakhine State. The army, in a rare admission, acknowledged that the identified soldiers had interrogated the prisoners in a manner “which was not in accordance with the law and action will be taken against them”.
The five persons were arrested on the suspicion of being members of the rebel Arakan Army on April 22. They were taken to Rakhine State via a waterway and then to the navy vessel where the video was recorded. Family members of the accused persons have denied their association with the Arakan Army, which is engaged in a struggle for greater autonomy for the Rakhine State.
Three of the detainees are reportedly from the Kyauk Seik village in Rakhine’s Ponnagyun township. They were apprehended days after Myanmar forces shelled the village with 120-millimeter mortars on April 13. The attack reportedly killed eight civilians and injured dozens others.
The mother of one of the detainees, Nyi Nyi Aung, has claimed that her son worked in a rice shop and had no links with any militant outfit active in the country. In the video, interrogators can be seen punching Nyi and kicking his head.
The Myanmar army has been called out by several rights organizations for war crimes committed against the minority Rohingya population. The United Nations in its investigation found that Myanmar’s security forces were involved in widespread theft, extortion, arbitrary arrests and forced labor, in addition to the ill-treatment and sexual violence perpetrated against the Rohingyas. All of these factors culminated in the mass exodus of the Rohingya population. More than 700,000 Rohingyas have become refugees since 2017.
Recently, UN expert Yanghee Lee held the Myanmar security forces responsible for “disappearing, torturing and killing dozens of Arakan Army suspects”. Allegations against the army also include the blocking of humanitarian aid and ambulances.
Meanwhile, the northern Rakhine State continues to remain a volatile region. While there is an internet blackout, some activists and journalists have been allowed in the area but with restrictions.
Not long ago, three journalists were grilled by security forces during interrogation and a senior journalist was arrested after he interviewed the spokesperson of the Arakan Army for his website Voice of Myanmar. He was booked under the draconian Counter Terrorism Law and for publishing fake news.