Deputy Police Chief Defends Handling of Toddler Sexual Assault Case

By The Irrawaddy 5 July 2019

YANGON—Myanmar’s deputy police chief said the suspect in a a toddler rape case at a private Naypyitaw nursery school was detained and is being prosecuted based on relevant evidence, including the victim’s account.

Police rearrested Aung Kyaw Myo, a.k.a. Aung Gyi, 29, on Wednesday and charged him for the rape case at a district court in Naypyitaw on Thursday. The move followed his release late last month by a court after a Criminal Investigation Department interrogation relating to the case failed to find strong evidence against him. A test showed that DNA evidence obtained during the evidence did not match Aung Gyi.

He was charged under Article 376 of the Penal Code. If found guilty, Aung Gyi faces a maximum life sentence.

“Police have made an investigation and opened a case. He was remanded in custody. We will start an investigation,” Dekkhinathiri District Court Information Officer U Nyo Htay told the media.

The girl, who was 2 years and 11 months old at the time, is alleged to have been sexually assaulted at the Wisdom Hill private school in Naypyitaw’s Zabuthiri Township on May 16. Her mother opened a complaint with police the following day.

At a press briefing on Friday, Deputy Police Chief Major-General Aung Naing Thu said that when the school’s CCTV footage of Aung Gyi was shown to her, the girl identified him as her abuser. He was employed as the driver of the school supervisor.

“According to the footage, he was the only male who entered the nursery school on the day of the crime,” the deputy police chief said.

He added that a test found semen on the underwear of Aung Gyi as well.

“Based on the evidence we have found, we have charged him,” the officer said.

The father of the victim told The Irrawaddy that while at the police station, he watched the CCTV footage from the nursery for the entire night. He said he saw a male entering the school building at 3.12 p.m. and leaving at 3.38 p.m. on May 18.

He said his daughter had pointed to someone on the CCTV footage and indicated the man as being the one who had touched her private parts.

“We have presented the video record [to the police]. But, I don’t think [police] will arrest him on that evidence alone. I think we need to find stronger evidence,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Within hours of Aung Gyi’s being charged on Thursday, masses of Facebook users reacted angrily, expressing serious doubt as to the police’s conclusion.

They questioned the reason for re-arresting the suspect after he had been released by a court, while others doubted the survival chances of a less than 3-year-old victim who had been sexually assaulted by a 29-year-old man. Some wondered if he was a scapegoat.

Daw Yi, the mother of the accused, told The Irrawaddy that her son was innocent.

“The judge read out [on June 24] that the DNA test didn’t match. He was not found guilty. That’s why he’s set free,” she said, citing the court’s decision.

“Now he is arrested again. He said he didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.

However, Maj-Gen Aung Naing Thu said on Friday that Aung Gyi’s release was simply due to the fact that not enough evidence had been collected at that time.

The public and the media became aware of the case when a Facebook post about the assault went online a few days after it occurred. By the end of May, masses of Facebook users had begun changing their profile pictures to a “Justice for Victoria” image and urging police to investigate. (Victoria is not the girl’s name; it is a female name being used to represent the campaign.) Major celebrities and public figures from across Myanmar have since joined in. The “Justice for Victoria” message has broadened into a wider call for an end to all sexual violence, especially against children.

U Zaw Htay, the President’s Office spokesperson, said at a Friday press briefing that both President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been following the case from the start.

“We have told the Police Force and the Ministry of Home Affairs to bring the offender to justice as soon as possible,” he said.

He added that Wisdom Hill, the nursery school where the sexual assault happened, will be shut down as it was found to be operating without official permission.

“Justice for Victoria” rallies have been organized for this weekend in Yangon and other parts of the country to raise public awareness on the issue and call for justice for the girl.

The Irrawaddy reporter Htet Naing Zaw contributed to this story from Naypyitaw.  

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