Victim’s family appeal against NMSP rape case decision

July 22, 2015

WCRP: In May 2015, a 24-year-old man from Joehaplu village, in the Thai-Burma border area of Three Pagodas Pass, allegedly beat and raped a 14-year-old girl. Her relatives have since expressed displeasure with the case’s handling by Township-level New Mon State Party (NMSP) authorities, who recently decided against a jail sentence for the accused rapist.

On the morning of May 5, 2015, the victim, Mi W–, and her two cousins went to their grandmother’s farm to pick vegetables. On their way home, at around 4 pm, the victim and her cousins saw Nai Tai Pakao beside the river. Allegedly, Nai Tie Pakao, who works on a farm neighbouring the girls’ grandmother’s land, covered his face so as not to be recognised by them. Then, he gripped Mi W– from behind and beat her with a bamboo stick. The victim’s cousins successfully fled the scene, though Nai Tai Pakao attempted to grab them as they escaped.

Mi W– described the attack, “He beat me with a bamboo stick and then doused me in water. After that I don’t remember anything. When I woke up, I did not see him and there were no clothes on my body. I put on my clothes and went back home”.

The perpetrator, Nai Tai Pakao, has been married twice, and currently has a wife and children in Joehaplu Village. According to Mi W–, Nai Tai Pakao had attempted to rape her before. Two years ago, Nai Tai Pakao threatened her with a knife and gun, forcing her to take off her clothes. While Mi W— told her grandmother about the prior assault immediately afterwards, her family were embarrassed about the case and did not report it.

On May 10, Mi W– told her grandmother and aunt about the latest attack. This time, Mi W–‘s relatives took her to the New Mon State Party (NMSP) office in nearby Ga Own Guu Village, to report the assault.
The next morning, officers from the NMSP arrested Nai Tai Pakao. When the NMSP officials from Ga Own Guu questioned Nai Tai Pakao about the attack, he admitted to beating Mi W– and raping her while she was unconscious. However, on 12 May, when the Ga Own Guu authorities transferred the case to the Township-level NMSP office in Palaing Japan Village, Nai Tai Pakao denied that he had attacked Mi W–.
Nai Tai Pakao was detained in Palaing Japan while NMSP officials deliberated the case. In the meantime, Mi W– was assisted by community-based organisation Border Health Initiative (BHI), who took her to a local hospital to be checked for sexually transmitted diseases.

Eventually, in the third week of July, the NMSP authorities ruled that Nai Tai Pakao would not receive a jail sentence, given that it could not be proven that he had raped Mi W—. Instead, they ruled that he would simply have to pay all costs related to the case.

Nai Chan Dein, from the NMSP Township Administration Office in Palaing Japan, explained, “The perpetrator did not admit to the attack. The girl lost consciousness after she was beaten, so we can’t be sure if she was raped or not. We can’t say if this is a rape case or not”.

He continued, “We investigated for around two to three months to find out about this case in detail. In [the NMSP’s] opinion, we can’t say that this is a rape case because there is no evidence showing that she was raped. When the victim’s relatives first came to report the case to us, they just said that she was beaten. They didn’t say that it was a rape case”.

Mi W–‘s relatives have since appealed against the Township-level authorities’ decision, saying that they do not want money from the perpetrator, but instead want to see Nai Tai Pakao receive a yearlong jail sentence. According to the Palaing Japan NMSP office, the victim’s family have registered an appeal against the decision to higher-level NMSP authorities.

However, the NMSP office in Palaing Japan maintains that, despite the family’s wishes, Nai Tai Pakao cannot be sentenced to a year in jail. According to Nai Chan Dein, “We can’t say that it is a rape case because we don’t have any evidence. By our laws, even if the perpetrator did commit rape then we can only punish him with six months in jail”.

As the dispute continues, the case’s prolonged deliberation continues to inflict an emotional toll on Mi W–‘s family. U Koe, uncle of Mi W– said, “I want this case to be solved as soon as possible to find out the truth. Even if we are not sure if [Nai Tai Pakao] raped my niece or not, he beat a girl so he should be punished. We don’t want any compensation, we just want him to be punished”.

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