Neighbouring Bangladesh says some 50,000 Rohingya have crossed its border over the past two months.
Yangon: Myanmar said on Monday it detained several police officers over a video shot by a fellow policeman that shows them beating Rohingya civilians, a rare admission of abuse against the Muslim minority.
Thousands of people from the persecuted ethnic group — loathed by many of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority — have fled a military operation in Rakhine state, launched after attacks on police posts in October.
Neighbouring Bangladesh says some 50,000 Rohingya have crossed its border over the past two months. Many have brought accounts of rape, murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar’s Army or police.
Dozens of videos have emerged apparently showing abuses against Rohingya, but this is the first time the government has said it would take action over them.
The refugees’ stories have raised global alarm and galvanised protests against Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been accused of not doing enough to help the Rohingya.
Her government said troops were hunting militants behind the deadly raids on police border posts, denying claims of atrocities with a flurry of public statements.
However, on Monday, authorities pledged to take action “against police who allegedly beat villagers during area clearance operations on November 5 in Kotankauk village”.
Suu Kyi’s office named four officers involved in the operation, including constable Zaw Myo Htike, who looks nonchalantly into the camera smoking as he records the video.
“Those who (were) initially identified were detained,” it said in a statement. “Further investigations are being carried out to expose other police officers who beat villagers in the operation.”
The footage shows police hitting a young boy around the head as he walks to where dozens of villagers are lined up in rows seated on the ground, hands behind their heads. Three officers in uniform then start attacking one of the sitting men, beating him with a stick and kicking him repeatedly in the face.
A Rohingya activist said the footage had been verified by a refugee from the nearby camp, Shilkhali. Analyst David Mathieson said the video “brings into question the government’s denials of forces’ abuses in Rakhine”.