No reason to celebrate: 11-year-old victim of brutal attack denied justice when police cite Thingyan as reason to delay investigation

May 6, 2019

HURFOM: A 30-year-old man from Ni Ton (Nidon) village, Kyaikmayaw Township, Mon State continues to evade arrest for the assault of an 11-year-old girl. It is alleged that the perpetrator, Nai B—, attempted to rape the young girl after finding her asleep near his home on April 15th 2019. At this time, it is unclear whether authorities are in pursuit Nai B—, and if the decision to delay processing this case allowed Nai B— to flee Ni Ton (Nidon) village undetected.

Nai B—’s house gets a good breeze because it’s near the [Attran] river, so children like to play underneath his house. On that day, my sister fell asleep while the other children were playing. None of them noticed she had fallen asleep, so they left her there when they went home. Nai B— arrived at his house around 4:00 pm, and when he saw my sister, he carried her to the back of the house while she was still asleep. She woke up and started to scream, so Nai B— put his hand over her mouth and started choking her. By the end, she was bleeding from her nose and her face was blue. He also bruised her arms and legs,” said Ma T—, the girl’s elder sister.

According to the victim, as Nai B— was choking her, she heard a man shout from the street, at which point Nai B— released her and ran inside.

If that man hadn’t appeared, my little sister would have died. Nai B— heard the man yell and let her go. She couldn’t move at first…she was crying and bleeding from her injuries. When the neighbor’s realized what had happened, they contacted me and I went to the village administrator’s office and to the police station to file a report,” continued the girl’s sister.

The village administrator told Ma T— that because the incident was a police matter, he did not have the authority to arrest Nai B— and suggested that she notify police.

When trying to file a police report, a police officer informed Ma T— that she would have to return the following day because it was Thingyan (Buddhist new year festival)and no staff were available to process the case.

We’ve heard nothing from the police. We don’t know if the perpetrator has been arrested or not. Because we think he’s still free, we’re worried about our safety. We’re afraid that he’ll come back to hurt us,” said the victim’s elder sister.

The young girl is reported to have recovered from her injuries after spending five nights in the hospital following the attack.

As stated in A Girl’s Life Was Destroyed, a report produced by HURFOM’s Women and Child Rights Project, village-level arbitration often fails to provide justice to victims, with village administrators instructing victims to either accept financial compensation in return for the crimes committed against them, or to marry their attackers. For this reason, the village administrator’s suggestion that Ma T— contact police should not be overlooked and may signal that attitudes regarding sexual and gender-based violence are beginning to change.

However, and as outlined in the same report, incompetence and a lack of transparency in the police system combine to leave victims and their families waiting weeks or months to hear what is happening with their case. The decision to not process this case when it was first reported coupled with the silence of authorities in the weeks since suggests that incompetence and a lack of transparency continue to prevent victims of sexual and gender-based violence from accessing justice.

Further, such a gross miscarriage of justice again highlights the urgency with which parliament must enact the Prevention & Protection of Violence Against Women Act if women and girls across Burma are to be provided the protection and security that is rightfully theirs.

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