A grandmother from a village in Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine state has filed a rape complaint against three Myanmar Army soldiers she accused of assaulting her last month, people assisting her with the charges said.
The 36-year-old mother of four children told police that she was repeatedly raped at gunpoint by the soldiers during an army sweep of U Gar village in Rathedaung township on June 30, the sources told RFA.
The soldiers had found her and several relatives hiding in a bomb shelter in their home as they searched for rebel Arakan Army (AA) troops in a campaign that displaced 20,000 people.
The woman, whose name RFA has withheld to protect her safety and privacy, filed charges at the police station in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe on Friday.
The police accepted the complaint and opened cases on charges of rape, abduction with the intent to rape, and abetting a rape offense, those assisting her said.
“I filed these charges because I want justice,” the woman said, speaking to reporters in Sittwe. “I have given my testimony of what happened at the police station.”
“I still have many concerns about my security and the security of my family because of what happened. It was very traumatic,” she added.
Mya Thuzar, an attorney from the Legal Clinic Myanmar’s Sittwe office who is assisting the woman with her case, said police registered her compliant and questioned her on July 10. The following day, they questioned her daughter, who was spared from assault by the same men because she had given birth six days earlier.
“The victim wants justice and proper punishments for the assault, so we are mainly providing legal aid in filing the charges, she said. “We will do our best to help her get justice.”
The woman told police that four Myanmar soldiers entered the housing compound and instructed her to come out of the bomb shelter alone so they could check her ID card.
The three of them who then assaulted her wore uniforms with insignias on their sleeves indicating that they were from Army Division No. 22, the woman told police.
The Myanmar military has rejected the accusation as a fabrication intended to tarnish its reputation.
Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told RFA in an earlier report that the army investigated the incident and found evidence that the accusation was false.
Support from women's rights groups
Nyo Aye, chairwoman of Rakhine Women’s Network, a civil society group, said all women’s rights activists in Sittwe support the woman in her quest for justice.
“Women’s rights organizations are all helping the victim to boost her confidence,” she said. “We are all devoted and working together to bring this case to the court and see justice delivered for the victim.”
Nyo Aye added that the woman and her relatives feel stigmatized that she has been labeled a rape victim and by the fact that they are going up against the military.
RFA could not reach officials at the Sittwe Township Police Station for comment.
A local police officer who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter said the case will be transferred to Rathedaung Township Police since the alleged crime occurred there.
Myanmar troop movements in Rathedaung township forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes in late June and early July following reports of clearance operations against soldiers of the AA, which is fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhines in the state.
The fighting in northern Rakhine and in Paletwa township of adjacent Chin state has killed 266 civilians and injured 576 others between December 2018 and June 29 of this year, according to figures compiled by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Rights groups say as many as 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.
Reported by RFA Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.