Myanmar authorities have filed charges against seven rioters who stormed a police station complex in the central region of Mandalay, demanding that a young girl's alleged rapist be turned over to them for punishment, a police official said Tuesday.
Police Colonel Myo Aung told RFA’s Myanmar Service that authorities also confiscated 14 motorcycles ridden during the melee in Aungmyaythazan township, which began on Sunday when police fired into the air to disperse an angry mob of about 500 people who had entered the station compound, calling for the death penalty for the man charged with committing the crime.
“Three people have been charged under the Public Property Protection Act 6 (1) because they destroyed police cars, and four have been charged under sections 353, 294, and 356 of the criminal code for assaulting or using force to deter a public servant from the discharge of his duty,” Myo Aung said.
Kyaw Soe, 38, is accused of raping a seven-year-old girl from his neighborhood in the township’s Amarahtarni quarter on March 15, though her parents did not learn about the attack until three days later.
“On March 18, her parents asked her what happened, and she told them that she had been raped,” said a female neighbor who declined to be identified.
“People heard that the rapist was being held at the police station, so they went there and demanded that he be handed over,” she said
The owner of a gold shop in the neighborhood where the attack occurred said he was part of the crowd that went to the station, and that most of the people there were local residents.
“Everybody uses motorcycles in Mandalay, [so] I don’t think those people who came to the police station were from other townships or areas,” said the man who declined to be named.
By coincidence, a group calling for capital punishment for rapists had visited the Amarahtarni area of Mandalay earlier on Sunday, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
“People don’t like that kind of person [rapist] or case,” the man said. “That’s why they got angry. I don’t think it was political incitement.”
The girl’s parents said that they are waiting for a decision letter from a doctor and will soon hold a press conference.
“The child has been saying that she sees blood in her urine, and she is not well,” the neighbor said.
Mandalay activist Thein Aung Myint said he understands why locals are angry, but that they cannot take the law into their own hands.
“We don’t accept any child rape cases,” he said. “That’s why people got angry, and I understand their anger, but demanding that the rapist be turned over so he can be beaten to death is outside the law.”
Attacks increase in 2017
Sexual abuse and assaults are on the rise in Myanmar with just over 1,400 cases reported in 2017, including roughly 500 adult women victims and 900 children, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in February.
The total figure was 300 more than the number of cases recorded in 2016, including about 430 involving adult victims and 670 involving child victims.
The increase in the overall number of rape case in the country has sparked campaigns calling for the death penalty for rapists, especially following recent attacks on several children, including a two-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in Mandalay’s Madaya township and a 12-year-old girl who was raped and brutally murdered in Kachin state’s Mogaung township.
About 100 activists, lawyers, and members of political parties and civil society organizations staged a demonstration on Saturday in Taungoo township in south-central Myanmar’s Bago region, calling for capital punishment for child rapists, Eleven Myanmar news service reported on Monday.
A Protection and Prevention of Violence Against Women bill has been submitted to Myanmar’s parliament. If passed, it would become the country’s first law to combat violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, marital rape, and workplace and public harassment and assaults, and harassment by stalking.
The draft bill carries a life sentence for the rape of girls under the age of 18 and disabled women, and a two-to-five-year jail term for those found guilty of marital rape, according to The Irrawaddy.
Reported by Khaymani Win and Tin Aung Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.