Burma

Judge Promises Open, Independent Trial in Child Rape Case

By Moe Moe 9 July 2019

NAYPYITAW—Naypyitaw’s Dekkhinathiri District Court Deputy Judge U Nyo Htay assured the public they will be satisfied with the court ruling in the widely-watched rape case of a toddler at a private Naypyitaw nursery school.

The judge acknowledged that the case has grabbed the entire country’s attention before promising that he would judge the case in line with appropriate legal procedures and deliver an answer that is acceptable to the people.

“We are trying to run a court system that is dedicated to revealing truth and that people wish to see. I promise solemnly that you will be well satisfied with the court’s decision,” U Nyo Htay told reporters on Monday.

People will be satisfied with the court’s ruling if compelling evidence is presented, Lower House lawmaker Daw Aye Mya Mya Myo—who is also a women’s and children’s rights activist—said.

U Nyo Htay assured people that the court is under no outside pressure in its handling of the case and that it’s keen to reveal the truth in order to win the public’s trust in the country’s judicial system, he added.

He promised an open trial that any member of the public can freely attend, as soon as the first court hearing begins, on July 15 at the Dekkhinathiri District Court.

A girl who was 2 years and 11 months old at the time is alleged to have been sexually assaulted at the Wisdom Hill private nursery school in Naypyitaw’s Zabuthiri Township on May 16 (she has since turned 3). Her mother opened a complaint with police the following day.

The case entered the national spotlight within days, heightening the concerns of parents across the country.

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 but 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.

The Criminal Investigation Department said that 13 suspects had initially been identified. Last week, police rearrested one suspect—Aung Kyaw Myo, a.k.a. Aung Gyi, the 29-year-old driver of the school supervisor—and charged him with the rape. He had initially been arrested and released in June due to a lack of sufficient evidence to charge him. A test had showed that DNA evidence obtained during the investigation—semen had been found on the girl’s underwear—did not match Aung Gyi’s.

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. Some wondered if he was being made a scapegoat.

That was followed by a series of mass protests in Yangon, Mandalay and Pyay demanding that  the “real” perpetrator be held accountable. A similar protest is scheduled to be staged in Naypyitaw on Saturday.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Home Affairs Ministry suggest that children are increasingly targeted for sexual abuse in the country.

Of the 1,405 rape cases Myanmar saw in 2017, child victims were involved in 897, or 64.84 percent, of them. The overall number increased significantly last year to 1,583 and included 1,028 cases of child rape, or 64.93 percent.

From January through June, there were 619 rape cases and, shockingly, victims were children in as many as 419 cases, or 67.68 percent.

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