The girl, identified only by the pseudonym “Htet Htet” to protect her identity, was released on bail after appearing at Rangoon’s North Okkalapa Township Courthouse on March 8.
Cho Mar, the wife of accused rapist Myint Aung, claimed the girl had stolen a watch worth 300,000 kyat (US $345) and 20,000 kyat ($23) in cash.
Htet Htet appeared calm at the bail hearing, which was also attended by a number of the girl’s supporters. The case has attracted growing attention from human rights groups, child-trafficking NGOs, the National League for Democracy (NLD) and activist lawyer groups inside Burma.
The original allegations by the young girl’s family included charges of child trafficking. It was alleged in the girl’s statement that her employers, Myint Aung and Cho Mar, who own the Cherry Restaurant in North Okkalapa, had removed her from the restaurant and forced her to clean toilets at a bus station after the wife became aware that her husband was sexually abusing the girl.
When a sympathetic bus passenger allowed her the use of a phone she rang her family to make them aware of her situation.
The girl told a reporter from The Irrawaddy before her arrest, “Every time after he raped me, he gave me a white pill and told me he would kill me if I told anyone what he did.” She also said she had lost contact with her family for six months.
For reasons not yet apparent, the prosecutor did not proceed with the child-trafficking charges.
Daw Lay Lay of the NLD Child Care Center in North Okkalapa, who has been following the case closely and offering support and assistance to the family, said that the International Labor Organization has been approached about the young girl’s situation, but has so far failed to respond.
When the judge hearing the bail application asked for guarantors for the girl, two people stepped forward.
One was Min Min Aung, a coordinator with the Myanmar Youth Society Network, who said, “To us, ‘Htet Htet’ is like a younger sister, and we will support her throughout this process to achieve justice for her.”
The second guarantor, Phay Tin, vice president of the NLD in G quarter, encompassing North Okkalapa Township, said, “If we had not stepped forward on her behalf, Htet Htet would have been returned to detention, and we could not allow that to happen. To me she is already like a daughter who needs protection.”
The theft charges leveled by Cho Mar are scheduled to be heard on March 14 at the North Okkalapa Township Courthouse.
The sexual assault charges against Myint Aung will be heard on March 15 at the East Regional Courthouse.