RANGOON — A 15-year-old girl whose former employer was detained two weeks ago for repeatedly raping her has now been taken into custody herself, after the wife of her alleged abuser accused her of theft.
The girl, whose name has been withheld to protect her privacy, was arrested on Sunday after Cho Mar, the wife of accused rapist Myint Aung, told police the day before that the girl stole a watch worth 300,000 kyat (US $345) and 20,000 kyat ($23) in cash.
“The girl is being charged under Section of 381 of the Penal Code and will be detained at the Women’s Rehabilitation Center until March 8,” said Lt. Nyi Nyi Lwin, chief of police for Rangoon’s North Okkalapa Township, where the girl is being held.
The action comes two weeks after North Okkalapa police took Myint Aung into custody on Feb. 11 for allegedly physically and sexually abusing the girl, who has been identified only by the pseudonym Htet Htet.
The alleged theft presumably occurred before September of last year, when the girl was moved out of the family’s home to another location after, according to the girl, Cho Mar learned of the rape.
Htet Htet told The Irrawaddy that she started working at the Cherry Restaurant in North Okkalapa in 2010, when she was 13. Her parents were paid 15,000 kyat ($17) a month for her labor, but suddenly lost contact with her about six months ago.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, before she was arrested, Htet Htet said she was raped by her former employer six times.
“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 said.
In September, Htet Htet was moved to the home of a relative of her employers for a month, before being taken to work at the Yaung Chi Thit teashop in North Okkalapa. She was then moved again to Rangoon’s Aung Mingala Highway Bus Station, where she cleaned toilets for about three months.
Htet Htet said her former employer often came to the bus station while she was working there and threatened her. Eventually, however, a bus passenger allowed her to use his phone to call her parents, and she was rescued in early January.
When the girl’s parents arrived in Rangoon, they pressed charges against Myint Aung at the North Okkalapa police station. At the same time, they were told that Cho Mar had said she would would file charges against the girl for theft.
Htet Htet denied stealing anything, saying that when her employers took her out of their home, her only possessions were 10 items of clothing.
The case has attracted the attention of local activists and lawyers, who have vowed to help her fight for justice. Even the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission issued an urgent appeal on behalf of the girl last week.
However, advocate Aung Thein of the Rangoon-based Lawyers Network said that because of the girl’s age, the police will be acting as the plaintiff in the case against Myint Aung. This means there’s little the group can do except watch the case closely, he said.
Lay Lay, a member of the National League for Democracy’s Child Care Center in North Okkalapa, told The Irrawaddy that the police and the judge have already acted in a prejudicial manner to protect the accused rapist, although he is currently detained.
According to police chief Nyi Nyi Lwin, the court has only accepted the charges of rape, and will not address the charges of attempted human trafficking that the girl’s family said should be laid against Myint Aung. The first hearing will be held on Feb. 27, said Nyi Nyi Lwin.