Pathein—Police are searching for an abbot who allegedly raped three young girls in a village in the Irrawaddy Region capital of Pathein.
U Nanda Siri, the abbot of Seitta Thukha Monastery in the village of Ye Tho, has fled after the mother of the rape victims filed a complaint with police in late April.
The abbot, 56, who has been in the monkhood for seven years, allegedly raped the three daughters—the eldest one, 14 and the younger two, both 10—of a woman living near the monastery.
“We have opened a case under Section 376 of the Penal Code for alleged rape. We still can’t start the investigation as the monk has run away. We have also reported the case to the township Sangha Nayaka Committee as the suspect is a monk,” Police Lieutenant-Colonel Khin Maung Latt, spokesperson of the Irrawaddy regional police force, told The Irrawaddy.
According to the account of the mother, she and her three daughters have regularly helped the monk with daily chores at the monastery. On April 25, she was told by one of her daughters when she came back from collecting wood that the monk had sexually abused them.
The following day, she filed a complaint with the local police station, which has distributed photos of the monk to other police stations in the area.
The three girls were taken to a hospital for a medical examination, but the results are not yet known, according to the police.
“To protect their children from being sexually assaulted, parents should not allow them to go somewhere alone or stay alone with strangers, young or old. Similarly, they should not leave children alone at the house,” Police Lieutenant-Colonel Khin Maung Latt said.
Reported cases of rape have been rising in the Irrawaddy Region year by year, and there is a need for wider awareness campaign in the region, suggested Padonma, a Pathein-based civil society for child rights protection.
“There is a need to educate girls and young women about sexual issues to reduce the incidence of rape. And rapists commit offences recklessly because they don’t know about the punishments. That’s why the number of rape cases has increased. So, there is a need to conduct public education campaigns on a wider scale,” said U Myint Htay, the head of Padonma.
The number of child rape cases increased from 101 in 2016 to 156 last year in the Irrawaddy Region, with most of the cases being reported in rural areas, according to regional police statistics.