Myanmar urged to probe 'army beating' video

YANGON • The Myanmar authorities must investigate a video showing men in military uniform viciously beating handcuffed detainees suspected of being ethnic rebel fighters, rights groups said yesterday.

The video's emergence comes as negotiators from the civilian-led government of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and the military hold peace talks with more than a dozen ethnic rebel groups in the capital, aimed at ending some of the world's longest-running civil wars.

The unverified video first surfaced on Facebook last Saturday morning and quickly went viral.

It showed several men dressed in army uniform kicking three handcuffed men in civilian clothes, part of a wider group of people detained outside some rural houses. At one point in the 17-minute-long video, a uniformed man smashes his helmet into one of the victims' faces.

The uniformed men also ask the handcuffed detainees whether they belong to the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), an ethnic rebel group from north-eastern Shan State currently fighting the military.

Rights groups called on Myanmar's government to investigate whether troops were responsible. "The Myanmar authorities should immediately investigate this footage, and with urgency the authority should determine the well-being and whereabouts of the men detained in the footage," said Mr Matthew Smith from Fortify Rights.

Myanmar's border regions have burned for decades with insurgencies led by ethnic-minority militias fighting for greater autonomy.

Ms Suu Kyi has made signing a nationwide peace deal a priority of her government, with the latest round of peace talks currently under way in Naypyitaw.

But the peace process has had limited success so far.

Under Myanmar's Constitution, Ms Suu Kyi has little control over the military and fighting between the army and ethnic rebels is currently at its most ferocious in years.

After decades of crippling junta rule, distrust of Myanmar's notoriously abusive military runs deep.

"These kinds of beatings and abuse are all too common," Mr Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch told AFP. "That's a major reason why many of the ethnic armed groups are reluctant to place any trust in the Myanmar army's promises," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Myanmar urged to probe 'army beating' video'. Print Edition | Subscribe