Burmese Government Fails to Protect its Women and Children from Sexual Violence
February 28, 2014
Sexual violence and abuse committed by the Burmese military against ethnic women is a constant and ongoing danger for the women of Burma. On January 27, 2014, a soldier from Artillery Battalion No 315, based in Wae Ka Lee, assaulted and beat a local woman. According to a local source, the victim was brought to Rangoon hospital on February 4 to further treat a serious head injury bore during the attack. Although the Burmese government has signed United Nations Conventions to ensure the protection of women and children, the government is failing provide, and in many cases obstructing, such protection.
Mi Cho, 43, from Pa-na village, was working in a rubber plantation located near Artillery Battalion No. 315’s base in Wae Ka Lee, Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State, when she was brutally attacked by Ye Min Tun. At 2:00Am, Mi Cho was collecting rubber liquid when she was attacked by the soldier. Ye Min Tun not only tried to rape the victim, but he beat the victim, bit her finger, and punched her eyes.
“The rest of her injuries, such as her eyes, finger, and shoulder are getting better, but her head is still in [a] dangerous condition, and she still [can] not move her head properly”, says the victim’s husband, Nai Lwin.
After the attack on January 27th, Mi Cho was initially brought to Thanbyuzayat hospital. Thanbyuzayat hospital was not able to provide the care she needed, so Mi Cho was transported to Mawlamyine hospital. On February 4th, needing further care, Mi Cho was sent to Rangoon hospital.
Mi Kyae Kyae Nyi, from Mon Democracy Party (MDP), explains, “Because the patient was not getting better, Mawlamyine hospital gave her permission to go to Rangoon hospital”. Mi Kyae Kyae Nyi accompanied Mi Cho to Rangoon hospital and says that, “[Mi Cho] got [admitted to a] nerve and brain surgery sector room because she suffered [from a] piece of blood frozen in her brain, according to the X-ray from Mawlamyine hospital”.
Nai Lwin met with various media groups and the MDP on February 3, 2014 to talk about the response from the military. According to Nai Lwin, a member from Artillery Battalion No. 315 visited the victim in the hospital and paid the family 200,000 kyat, but the hospital bills from Mawlamyine hospital alone amounted to more than 300,000 kyat.
According to Nai Sein Mya Mine, from MDP, MDP has charged Ye Min Tun with articles No. 376, 511, and 323 for attempted rape and grievous harm, but the trial is still under consideration by the court-martial because the perpetrator is a member of the military.
Thanbyuzayat Township is not a military zone, but Mi Kyae Kyae Nyi notes that “as long as this sexual violence continues in our area”, it causes the community great concern for the Mon women, and creates an impediment to any peace building. Mi Kyae Kyae Nyi cautions that the women should not keep silent about sexual assault in their community, as they did in Kaw Zar sub-township. Mi Kyae Kyae Nyi says that “we should reveal this issue, to raise public awareness by uniting together”.
Mi Kyae Kyae Nyi is referring to an incident of sexual assault that happened in Kaw Zar Sub-Township in December 2013, in which Mi Pa Roal Mon, 13, from Kyon Ka Nyar village, was sexually attacked by military soldiers from Infantry Battalion No. 31 (IB No. 31). However, IB No. 31 has worked to suppress the case, so the public does not know clearly whether or not the culprit was punished by the law. The incidents of sexual attacks and assaults against women and young girls by the Burmese military based in Mon communities have been increasing in 2013 and 2014.
Myanmar is no longer governed by military government, but by a public, democratic government. The political situation in Myanmar is being monitored by various organizations inside Burma, as well as internationally, but the attack on Mi Cho has reminded the Mon community of decades past, and the assault is reminiscent of government crimes from 2004.
In December 2004, there were one thousand soldiers from the Military Advanced Training School No. 4 (MATS No.4) based in Wae Ka Lee village, Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State. The military planned to grow rice for its soldiers, and used 15 acres of local residents’ farm land to do so. The Land Records Department and the Agriculture and Irrigation Department took another 15 acres of land nearby Wae Ka Lee village, as well, to grow rice. The military asked the Thanbyuzayat based Agriculture and Irrigation Department to pay for the fertilizer and fuel needed to grow the rice, as well as providing instruction on how to grow and cultivate the rice. The military had the Thanbyuzayat based department hire workers, Nai Kyi Win, 40 and his wife was Mi Hla Ye, 35, to monitor the military’s rice fields closely.
In the first week of January 2005, at 7:00 am, the sky looked dark with morning fog as Daw Hla Ye cooked alone in her hut while her husband went to the river to start the water pull machine. Two soldiers visited the field to check the rice. They entered the hut while Mi Hla Ye was cooking, and tried to rape her. The two soldiers wrestled with her, but Mi Hla Ye was able to grasp a nearby knife in time to protect herself, and ran to her husband. Although she was able to escape from the soldiers, Mi Hla Ye suffered injuries to her face and finger.
Mi Hla Ye informed the village administrator, Nai Khar, about the attack, and upon receiving the information, the two met with Second Lieutenant San Tun, of MATS No.4. The victim wanted to charge the culprits as by law; however, Second Lieutenant San Tun and other members from MATS No. 4 provided a shield of impunity for the soldiers, and did not allow the victim to press charges.
Mi Hla Kyi and her family were not able to afford hospital care for her injuries, so Nai Khar and local villagers asked the Thanbyuzayat based department to help with her hospitalization. Beyond the physical injury and hospitalization costs, MATS No.4 demanded that Mi Hla Kyi sign a document to settle the case and cancel the trial against the soldiers. If Mi Hla Kyi did not accept this, MATS No.4 warned that she and her family would be expelled from the village.
Mi Hla Ye and Nai Win Kyi were originally from Kyuak Gon Village, Ye Tar Shewl Township, Pegu region. Due to lack of employment opportunities in their village, the couple moved to Thanbyuzayat in search of work. Having moved from their close relations in Kyuak Gon Village, the couple did not have friends or relatives to rely on when Mi Hla Ye was attacked; they were afraid of the military and did not have any support, so they were forced to accept anything offered by the military. MATS No.4 forced Mi Hla Ye to sign a document indicating that the soldiers did not try to rape her, and that she did not suffer any bodily injury. After signing the agreement, Mi Hla Ye was forbidden to talk about her abuses, and from seeking justice for her attack.
During the civil war between the Burmese military and ethnic armed groups, many women in Mon State, as well as other ethnic areas, have suffered assault and molestations from Burmese soldiers. Although various ceasefire agreements have been reached, such sexual violence still afflicts ethnic women. In order to eliminate these abuses, women and men throughout Burma must raise their voices in protest against the sexual violence, assault, and impunity committed by the military; they must scream together to ensure the Burmese military and the international community are aware of such abuses being committed throughout the country. The Women and Child Rights Project (WCRP) must also continue to advocate for the women and children of Burma.
According to reports from the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM), in the past 10 years 127 cases of rape have been committed by (Light Infantry Battalion) LIB No. 323, No. 586, No. 591, No. 282, and No. 273, as well as (Infantry Battalion) IB No. 31 and No. 61; troops which are all under control of Military Operation Management Command (MOMC) No. 19.
Today, Burma has transitioned from a one-party military government to a multi-party democratic government. Under this democratic government, President U Thein Sein has vowed to the public that he will follow democratic policy, and his government claims they will follow what the public asks.
Both the previous and current government have signed, and agreed to, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and, according to the United Nations’ website, “By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms”. Notwithstanding, the Burmese government has failed to follow these conventions, and according to surveys on human rights abuse cases, human rights abuses continue in Myanmar. It is obvious that the government signed CEDAW and CRC not to practice such protections, but to paint a fictitious picture for the national and international community.