Radio Free Asia
A rights group is demanding justice after soldiers loyal to Myanmar’s junta allegedly raped two young women while raiding a village in Chin state’s Tedim township, saying the incident highlights how the military has used “sexual violence as a weapon” since seizing power in a February coup.
On the evening of Nov. 11, government troops entered the village of Aklui located along the highway connecting Tedim with Kalay township in Sagaing region after clashing with anti-junta militia fighters on nearby Kennedy Mountain, residents told RFA’s Myanmar Service. Shortly after arriving, the soldiers began stealing money, jewelry and mobile phones from the village’s 20 homes, they said.
Amid the chaos, which caused around 40 people to flee for safety, three soldiers entered the home of a 27-year-old woman who had given birth less than one month earlier and raped her while holding her husband at gunpoint and forcing him to watch, residents and rights groups said
The same night, soldiers raped the woman’s 30-year-old sister-in-law, who is seven months pregnant with her fifth child, the sources said.
A resident of Aklui, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal, said on Monday that the rape victim who had recently given birth remains in shock and is under the care of a local nurse.
“The nurse is now preparing to give her injections to prevent her from getting pregnant or contracting venereal diseases,” the villager said. “After that, we plan to send her to the border [with India], which would be the safest place for her.”
The victim’s uncle said he had spoken with her the day after she was attacked and that “she was very depressed.”
“She said she was raped by three [soldiers],” he said. “There were a lot of troops around and we were all scared. I don’t know which battalion they are from, but I saw the number ‘22’ on their arms.”
On Tuesday, family members revealed that the woman’s pregnant sister-in-law had also been raped in her home the same night, telling RFA she had initially remained silent out of fear and shame.
“She felt very ashamed and did not want to talk to us, but we persuaded her to give us some details,” a relative said.
“Two soldiers entered the house that night and hit her husband with their weapons, causing him to bleed from his nose and mouth, she said. Later, the two soldiers raped her twice and she said she was also bitten on her genitals.”
When contacted by RFA about the reports of rape in Tedim township, junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said he was unaware of the incident and vowed to investigate.
“If it had happened, we would take action in accordance with the rules and regulations,” he said.
“I don’t know yet. I should say it is still under investigation. If it is true, we would take action under both military law and regional law.”
Seeking justice for ‘war crime’
Thin Yu Mon, the director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, called the incident “disgusting and extremely inhumane.”
“Such use of sexual violence as a weapon is a challenge to the oppressed masses and all women,” she said.
“This is, in fact, the resurgence of a long-standing evil system and it is a war crime. This is a very unacceptable and degrading act in our society, and all should work in a collective effort to bring full justice.”
Thin Yu Mon said her group is collecting evidence about the incidents and will report it to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews.
Following reports of the incident, the anti-junta People’s Administration of Mindat Township in southern Chin state announced that “abusing women to cause them shame during wartime is a violation of their rights and an insult to the Chin people, as well as to all the women of Myanmar.”
In a similar incident on Nov. 7, military troops raped a 62-year-old ethnic Kachin resident of Phakhat village in northern Shan state’s Kutkai township.
The military has acknowledged the incident and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with local laws.
Nine months after the Feb. 1 coup, the junta’s security forces have killed 1,269 civilians and arrested at least 7,322, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.