Advocates Say Govt Too Light on Officers Who Botched Toddler Rape Investigation

By San Yamin Aung 2 June 2020

YANGON—Lawyers and campaigners in Myanmar have slammed the government for its “light punishment” of senior police officers who mishandled the investigation of a high-profile toddler rape case, after a spokesperson announced that they would not be eligible for promotion.

President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay told the media during an online press conference on Saturday that the Home Affairs Ministry has suspended promotions for three senior officers responsible for mishandling the case in May last year, after the President vowed that those responsible for the failed investigation would be punished.

On Feb. 20, President U Win Myint ordered relevant organizations to take action against officials who failed to do their duty under the law to properly investigate the rape of a young girl, who has been dubbed “Victoria” on social media, at her nursery in Naypyitaw.

The court freed a man who was falsely accused for lack of evidence but failed to find and prosecute the actual preparator.

The police force’s handling of the case has drawn public anger in particular over false accusations, mishandling of evidence and a move that revealed the identities and personal information of the young victim and her parents, in violation of the Child Rights Law.

U Zaw Htay did not reveal which officials were being punished and what positions they currently hold.

The victim’s father told The Irrawaddy that the light punishment against the officials for their failures is not unacceptable.

“We even feel disappointed as far as pushing ahead [for the truth],” he said.

Ko Win Ko Ko Thein, known as Thetka Moe Nyo on social media, is a deputy director of Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports and a campaigner with the group Justice for Victoria. He criticized the lax treatment of the officials who are said to be mainly responsible for the mishandling of the case.

“Even compared to departmental punishments, it is too light,” he said.

The government’s regular departmental punishments range from verbal and written warnings to suspension, demotion and dismissal.

Writer U Htin Lin Oo, a campaigner who has been calling for the truth in the case, also said that the result was not what he expected.

“It is the same as telling them [the responsible officials] that you can stay in the [high] positions the they currently hold,” he said.

Lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw told The Irrawaddy that he assumed the officials being punished are the three who held the press conference following the court’s release of the falsely accused detainee, where they revealed the identities of Victoria and her family.

The lawyer added that the soft departmental punishment shouldn’t be the end as far as punishing the responsible officials, as legal actions should also be taken against them for failing to comply the with the law in carrying out the investigation.

Besides vowing to punish the responsible officials, President U Win Myint also instructed the Supreme Court of the Union, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Union Attorney-General’s Office to work to find the truth in the case. Yet, to date, justice still has not been served in the case and no information has been released on reopening the investigation.

Ko Win Ko Ko Thein, a campaigner who has been working closely with the victim’s family, said they are awaiting the full implementation of the president’s order.

“But if there is no follow-up [by the relevant organizations], we will continue to fight to uncover the truth,” he said.

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