Viral Video Shows Five Rakhine Men Beaten by Myanmar Military

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 12 May 2020

YANGON—Five men shown being beaten by Myanmar military soldiers in a video that went viral on Saturday are ethnic Rakhine residents of Kyaukseik Village in Ponnagyun Township, Rakhine State, their relatives have confirmed to The Irrawaddy.

The video that went viral on social media shows the five men with their faces covered and their hands tied behind their backs being beaten by soldiers on a ship.

Secretary of the All Arakanese Solidarity Committee U Saw Thein Maung said his nephew is one of the men. “My nephew is the one in the white vest who said in the video that he is a coolie. He does work as a coolie. He is a general laborer at Aung Myittar rice mill near the [Ponnagyun] town.”

The five were accused by the Myanmar military of being members of the Arakan Army (AA) and were detained on suspicion of playing a role in recent bombings between Kyaukseik Village and Ponnagyun Township.

Myanmar military soldiers detained 38 villagers from Kyaukseik on April 19 and released 33 of them the following day but opened cases against the remaining five under the Counterterrorism Law.

They were handed over to the Ponnagyun Township police at the local police station on April 23 but the Myanmar military took them from the station on April 27 and beat them on board a naval ship, according to U Saw Thein Maung.

“They took [the five detainees] from the police station on April 27 and returned them on April 30 to Police Station 1 [in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe]. Police Station 1 handed them over again to the Ponnagyun Township police station on May 7,” said U Saw Thein Maung.

According to relatives of the detainees, the five claimed that they were exposed to the hot sun and that the soldiers poured hot water on them. The detainees also reportedly said they were given no food or water and were forced to confess to being members of the AA.

“No parent can tolerate assault and torture against their children. But we can do nothing,” said U Saw Thein Maung.

Relatives of the detainees said they currently have no plans to file complaints with the government or military about the torture and will simply face the current charges against them.

The video of the men being beaten was one of three videos that went viral on social media. The series shows a naval ship with a cannon and 10 armed individuals in Myanmar military uniforms.

The soldiers are shown beating the five and forcing them into confessing that they belong to the AA. One of the men can be heard saying, “I did nothing, I am just a coolie.”

Upper House lawmaker U Khin Maung Latt of Rakhine State said the government is responsible for such unlawful acts.

When asked by The Irrawaddy about the incident, military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said, “We have doubts about that video file. It is difficult to say if [the five were beaten] by them [the AA] or the Tatmadaw [the Myanmar military]. We can’t confirm that.”

The military spokesman did confirm, however, that the military detained five men and one woman on suspicion of being AA members on May 5 from a boat in Ponnagyun Township. The spokesman said the military is now interrogating them.

The Myanmar military and the AA have engaged in fierce clashes since November 2018 in northern Rakhine. There have been reports of abuses against civilians by both sides. The Myanmar military has detained over 200 civilians for their alleged ties to the AA.

In one of the cases, a civilian from Shwebo District of Sagaing Region who rode to Rakhine’s Mrauk-U to sell local products went missing in February 2019. Two other men who went to search for him also went missing.

Around December, the Myanmar military obtained a video record from an AA official in Rakhine’s Kyauktaw Township which shows AA soldiers torturing and interrogating the two men. The AA suspected them of being military intelligence officers. The video went viral on social media in January but AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha denied that the armed group’s soldiers committed torture.

However, AA chief Major General Tun Myat Naing later confessed in an interview with The Irrawaddy in March that the two were accidentally killed by lower-ranking AA soldiers during interrogation.

Meanwhile, there have been numerous reports of torture during detention by the Myanmar military. Last year, 15 civilians died following while being interrogated by the Myanmar military and their relatives all claimed that their deaths were caused by torture.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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