Hundreds rallied in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon on Monday to protest the release by police officials of the identity of a child-rape victim known to the public as Victoria, demanding that authorities take action against the officers exposing her identity.
The toddler nicknamed Victoria was two years and 11 months old when she was allegedly assaulted on May 16 at the private Wisdom Hill School in Zabuthiri township of Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.
On July 14, police arrested 29-year-old Aung Kyaw Myo, a driver at the school who goes by the name Aung Gyi, charging him with rape based on the school’s CCTV video footage, an identification by the victim, and the presence of semen on his underwear.
Speaking at a press conference on Dec. 19, senior police officers Police Major General Aung Naing Thu, Police Brigadier General Soe Naing, Police Brigadier General Min Han, and Police Colonel Thar Htoon for the first time named the child victim in the case, later posting further information about the young girl and her family on the police department’s official Facebook page.
Speaking to RFA’s Myanmar Service, protest participant Ei Ei Moe, a member of the Generation Wave activist group, slammed the officers’ actions and demanded that the government take action against them in spite of their senior rank.
“It is like this child Victoria has now been raped twice,” he said. “By disclosing her identity, these police officers have violated their own ethics. We are demanding that action be taken against them for breaking the law.”
Article 96 of Myanmar’s Child Rights Law forbids disclosure of the identity of a child victim or witness to a crime during police investigations, in court hearings, or in the media, and prohibits the taking of their photograph.
'They knew what they were doing'
Senior police officers would certainly have been aware of these restrictions under the law, attorney Kyee Myint said, also speaking to RFA.
“They knew what they were doing,” he said, adding, “I’ve concluded that there must have been someone influential behind them for them to have done this. Before, I only suspected this, but now I am sure of it.”
“This is something we should all be concerned about,” he said.
A protester named Aung Myint meanwhile said it may be impossible for the offending officers to be charged with breaking the law.
Myanmar’s 2008 constitution in practice guarantees immunity for departments under military control, such as the Ministry of Defense and offices responsible for border security and home affairs, Aung Myint said.
“So the police force under the Ministry of Home Affairs is often negligent and not responsible for its actions. But if an ordinary citizen is accused of a crime, they will be arrested immediately,” he said.
“I think that as long as the 2008 constitution is in force, we will never have justice,” he said.
Children accounted for nearly 65 percent of Myanmar’s total 1,583 sexual assaults in 2018, according to figures released by the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs. By June, they had been involved in nearly 68 percent of the 619 reported rape cases.
Reported by Aung Theinkha for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Richard Finney.