RANGOON — Two hearings took place at the end of last week in a case involving a 15-year-old girl referred to as “Htet Htet,” allegedly sexually assaulted by her former employer, Myint Aung, on six different occasions since starting work at the age of 13 at a family restaurant in northern Rangoon.
It has also previously been claimed that Myint Aung forced her to take a “white pill” after each assault and made death threats if she spoke about the incidents.
There are further allegations that the wife of the alleged offender, Cho Mar, had arranged to remove the child from the family’s Cherry restaurant in North Okkalapa and forced her to work cleaning toilets at a bus station for a number of months after discovering what had taken place.
It was apparently only when a sympathetic bus passenger allowed the young girl to use a mobile phone that she was able to contact her family and be recovered from the bus station.
Child trafficking charges relating to the events have not been filed by police.
In the aftermath of her husband being charged, the wife subsequently alleged that the child stole a watch and money from the family. This allegation led to the child’s detention for two weeks in a juvenile offenders center until bail could be arranged for her release.
According to a lawyer representing the child, she has become so anxious about being re-arrested that she is now residing with the lawyer at her family home.
The two intertwined cases are attracting close attention from the National League for Democracy, the Lawyers Network and human rights observers from the Asian Human Rights Commission, which has recently submitted a complaint to the President’s office in Naypyidaw regarding the case.
In the first hearing at the Eastern Region District Courthouse on Thursday, a judge heard preliminary evidence from the child in a closed hearing in relation to the sexual assault charges against Myint Aung.
Present outside the child rape hearing were the offender’s wife, Cho Mar, and a number of family members and friends.
Myint Aung was heavily shielded from the media by a large number of police and friends of the family, both as he was led to the courtroom, and again as he was led away after the more than two-hour-long hearing.
At the conclusion of proceedings inside the courtroom a plainclothes policeman could clearly be seen outside the first floor courtroom directing a prison van below to drive across the court entrance gates in an apparent attempt to obstruct the view of media waiting outside.
By contrast, over the course of the day, almost a dozen prisoners had been led in and out of the courtrooms in plain view and in the company of no more than one or two officers.
Cho Mar, who was approached by The Irrawaddy while waiting outside the closed hearing, has expressed anger at the media coverage of the case and said she would like to hold a press conference as she feels the media coverage is biased.
In a subsequent phone call with The Irrawaddy on the subject, Cho Mar was invited to give an interview, which she declined.
The sexual assault matter has been adjourned until further hearings are held on March 28 at the Eastern Region District Courthouse.
On Friday, at the North Okkalapa Local Court, the second case, which addresses the theft allegations made by Cho Mar, were postponed until March 25.
Cho Mar did not attend the North Okkalapa Courthouse hearing on the charges she has brought against the child.
With additional reporting by Nang Seng Nom.