Burmese authorities must investigate a video showing men in military uniforms 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 Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the military hold peace talks with more than a dozen ethnic rebel groups in Naypyidaw, aimed at ending some of the world’s longest conflicts.
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.
At one point in the 17-minute 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 Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), an ethnic rebel group from northeastern 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 of the non-governmental organization 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 in Naypyidaw.
Under Myanmar’s junta-era constitution she has little control over the military and fighting between the army and ethnic rebels is 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 of Human Rights Watch told reporters. “That’s a major reason why many of the ethnic armed groups are reluctant to place any trust in the Myanmar army’s promises.”
Aung San Suu Kyi should “publicly condemn these abuses and demand an independent investigation,” Robertson said.
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