PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — The Irrawaddy Division government is investigating alleged abuse of children at an orphanage run by Buddhist monks in the village of Apyin Yay Sine, Labutta Township, a regional minister told The Irrawaddy.
Three government departments were investigating Yellow Generation Wave (YGW) orphanage, according to social affairs minister U Hla Myat Thway, amid reports in local media of physical and sexual abuse by monks.
“The social welfare department reported that the [beating] allegations were true,” U Hla Myat Thwa told The Irrawaddy, adding that the religious affairs department and the district General Administration Department were still investigating and that the authorities would take action after all three reports had been submitted.
The orphanage is run by four Buddhist monks aged around 30 and provides food, shelter and education for around 150 orphans and needy children in the township.
On May 12, local weekly Kumudra Journal reported that children who wanted to go back to their homes were beaten and that a monk sexually abused a girl from nearby Kyauktan Village.
U Eindawvasa, one of the monks in charge of the orphanage, confessed to beating the children, but denied the sexual abuse in a phone conversation with the Irrawaddy on Friday.
“Yes, we did beat nine children who wanted to go back home on the night of May 11, but it was no more than a teacher punishing his students,” said the monk.
“It is not true that the girl from Kyauktan Village had her htamein [traditional Burmese skirt] stripped. It was a fabrication designed to attack us. There is no child at our orphanage who comes from Kyauktan,” he explained.
U Eindawvasa said monks had apologized in front of authorities to the parents of a child from Kyakan Village, who was shown with a large gash in his head in the news reports, and the case was now settled.
According to the rules of the orphanage, parents sign an agreement for their children to stay between one and three years at the orphanage.
Parents must inform the monastery a week in advance if they want their child to return and a child leaving without advance notice will be hit with a stick five times, according to the rules.
The orphanage is run by philanthropic Buddhist monk organization YGW, which operates orphanages and centers in 17 townships for 5,000 needy children including in Rangoon and Mandalay.
A 2011 report by UNICEF found that some 75 percent of the children living in residential care facilities in Burma have at least one living parent, but that children are often sent to orphanages for economic reasons because the parents are either unable or unwilling to afford the cost of basic care and education.