YANGON — Three police officers have been sentenced to two months detention over a video showing them abusing Rohingya civilians, security sources told AFP Wednesday, saying those involved had “no intention” to cause harm.
Authorities detained several officers last month for beating Rohingya villagers during operations in the north of Rakhine state, where security forces are hunting militants behind raids on border posts.
Nearly 70,000 Rohingya have fled to camps in southern Bangladesh since the lockdown started four months ago, bringing horrific stories of mass rape, murder, torture and arson.
A UN report released Friday based on interviews with escapees said hundreds of people have likely been killed in a “calculated policy of terror” that may amount to ethnic cleansing.
Despite the mounting evidence, Myanmar’s government has largely dismissed allegations of widespread abuses against the Muslim minority, who most in the country consider a group of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The beating video, which appeared online in December, was a rare exception where authorities have taken action. (Warning: The linked video contains graphic violence and may be distressing to some viewers.)
The footage showed police hitting a young boy around the head as he walked to where dozens of villagers were lined up in rows seated on the ground, hands behind their heads.
Several officers in uniform then start attacking one of the sitting men, beating him with a stick and kicking him repeatedly in the face.
Three junior police were handed down two month sentences over the video, police sources told AFP, including the officer who filmed it previously named as Zaw Myo Htike by state media.
However the officers are not serving their time in a civilian prison, but instead in a jail for police.
Three senior police including a major were also demoted and their service terms were reduced for failing to enforce discipline.
“They didn’t have any intention to hurt them,” a senior police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to the treatment of the Rohingya villagers.
“During the operation, villagers said abusive words to security forces… such action was taken because they failed to follow police procedure.”
A local police officer in Maungdaw also confirmed the officers were sentenced last month, blaming the events on the stress of working in northern Rakhine.
“Police are dealing with many pressures on the ground and we have to risk our lives dealing with terrorists,” he said.