Footage of apparent army beating in Shan State emerges as peace talks continue

By AFP

YANGON — Myanmar authorities must investigate a video showing men in military uniforms viciously beating handcuffed detainees suspected of being members of an ethnic armed group in Shan State, rights groups said Sunday.

The video’s emergence comes as negotiators from the civilian-led government of Daw 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 on 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.

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At one point in the 17-minute long video, a uniformed man smashes his helmet into the face of one of the victims.

The uniformed men can be heard asking the handcuffed detainees whether they belong to the 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 Matthew Smith from Fortify Rights.

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

Aung San Suu Kyi has made signing a nationwide peace deal a priority of her government with the latest round of peace talks currently underway in Nay Pyi Taw.

But the peace process has had limited success so far.

Under Myanmar’s junta-era constitution Aung San 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, especially among ethnic rebel groups.

“These kinds of beatings and abuse are all too common,” 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.

Robertson said Aung San Suu Kyi should “publicly condemn these abuses and demand an independent investigation”.

The State Counesllor has repeatedly defended the army’s operations in Rakhine State where tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled a recent military crackdown.

The United Nations says authorities may have committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in the crackdown but the government and military have rejected calls for an independent fact finding commission.

Last week Myanmar’s military said its own probe had found no evidence of atrocities committed by its troops in Rakhine State, although it said one soldier was punished for stealing a bike.

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