Burmese authorities have detained at least four police officers after a video emerged of members of the security forces beating Rohingya Muslims during a security operation.
The footage, purportedly shot in the Rakhine state, shows policemen hitting and kicking young men and boys — all said to be Rohingya villagers — as they sit in rows on the ground.
Officers can then be seen striking the villagers with batons and kicking them as they sit powerlessly with their hands behind their heads, while an officer who is shooting the footage smokes a cigarette.
The video clip, originally posted on Youtube by a Rohingya blogger and later broadcast on several media outlets, has led to the arrest of at least four policemen, according to Burma's state counsellor's office.
But some have said the police conduct seen in the footage was not unusual and has the hallmarks of the abuse many Rohingya people experience on a regular basis in Burma.
The Rohingya are a minority of about a million people who, despite having lived in Burma for generations, are treated as illegal immigrants and denied citizenship, and are consequently some of the most oppressed people in the world.
Burma's state counsellor's office, run by de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has recently been criticised for not doing enough to protect Rohingya Muslims, said the footage was taken during a “clearance operation” in Kotankauk village in the northern Rakhine state, and named four officers in the video.
The office said in a statement: "Those identified have been detained, and further investigations are being carried out to expose other police officers who beat villagers in the operation."
According to the Burmese president’s office, the clearance operation followed a motorbike attack by Rohingya militants in which a police officer had been killed and another injured. It said police were acting on tip-off that militants were being sheltered in the village.
The president’s office said in a statement: “The area clearance operation occurred after six violent attackers on three motor bikes shot at 11 policemen on 3 November, in which Police Lance Corporal Min Min Soe died after being shot four times and Police Lance Corporal Myo Zaw Ko was injured.
“The police then conducted the area clearance operation in Kotankauk Village on 5 November, acting on a tip-off that the attackers were being sheltered in Kotankauk Village.
“As soon as the video was found online, the information committee contacted officials of the Myanmar Police Force and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“An investigation was immediately launched and measures are being taken to take action against those who violated police force rules.”
It comes several weeks after Amnesty International said it has documented the military’s “vicious and disproportionate” security campaign in northern Rakhine state over the past two months, reporting that Burmese security forces have killed, raped and burned down the houses of entire villages.
The rights group accused Ms Suu Kyi, of “failing to live up to both her political and moral responsibility” — an accusation that was met with blanket denials of human rights violations from Burmese authorities.
Since communal violence broke out in 2012, more than 120,000 Rohingya have been driven from their homes and crammed into squalid camps guarded by police, where they are denied healthcare and education, and their movements are heavily restricted.
The recent bloodshed is the most deadly since hundreds were killed in clashes in 2012 and more than 100,000 were forced into squalid camps.
In 1982, Rohingyas’ rights to citizenship were removed, and they were rendered stateless, despite living in the country for generations.
Their plight intensified dramatically with the severe outbreaks of violence in 2012, which resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a new apartheid between Rohingya Muslims and their Rakhine Buddhist neighbours.
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