Burma

Justice for Toddler Rape Campaigner Bailed Out, Charged with Defamation

By The Irrawaddy 10 July 2019

YANGON—A government official who has been campaigning for justice in a toddler rape case at a private nursery school in Naypyidaw has been released on bail, after being detained and charged by police under the Electronic Transactions Law for defaming security forces on Facebook with his criticism of the investigation of the case.

Dr. Win Ko Ko Thein, a.k.a. Thetka Moe Nyo on social media—a deputy director of Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports—was interrogated by police at the Pyinmana Police Station in Pyinmana Township after being detained in Naypyidaw Tuesday morning.

The plaintiff—Major Aye Myint Naing, the township’s police chief—filed the case under Article 34(d) of the Electronic Transactions Law. The article prohibits anyone from creating, modifying or distributing information created by electronic technology that is “detrimental to the interest of” or that “lower[s] the dignity of any organization or any person.”

If found guilty, the accused can be sentenced up to three years in prison.

The deputy director was granted a bail of 10 million kyats (US$6,631.40).

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

The public and the media became aware of the case when a Facebook post about the assault spread online a few days after being posted. By the end of May, the “Justice for Victoria” campaign had been organized by civilians pushing authorities for justice, including Dr. Win Ko Ko, further raising public awareness of the case. (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 also broadened into a wider call for an end to all sexual violence, especially against children. Since last week, hundreds of people have marched in campaign rallies in Yangon, Mandalay, Naypyitaw and Pyay.

Apart from raising awareness on social media, the deputy director was also known to have worked closely with the victim’s family in seeking the truth, often posting updates about the ongoing case online.

Police arrested suspect Aung Kyaw Myo, a.k.a. Aung Gyi, 29, and charged him with rape at a district court in Naypyitaw last week.

Myanmar Police Force Deputy Chief Major-General Aung Naing Thu told the media that the arrest was made based on the school’s CCTV footage, the victim’s account of the incident and a chemical examination of the accused’s underwear.

However, within hours of Aung Gyi’s being charged on Thursday, masses of Facebook users reacted angrily, expressing serious doubt as to the police conclusions. Aung Gyi had previously been arrested and investigated, then released on a lack of evidence, including a DNA mismatch.

They questioned the reason for arresting the suspect after he had previously 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 had been made a scapegoat.

On Tuesday, after being released on bail, Dr. Win Ko Ko Thein told the media that he was detained and interrogated by police for defaming them with his Facebook posts regarding the rape case. He said the police had pointed to posts he’d made on July 4, 5 and 6 as evidence.

The posts cast doubt on police conclusions, calling them suspicious and saying that more concrete evidence was needed. They said police had arrested Aung Gyi just to tamp down public anger.

In a post, the deputy director called on people to send their suspicions about the handling of the case to the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission’s Facebook page for it to investigate (the commission is authorized to intervene when a case is deemed to have an impact on the public interest).

“I wrote [the Facebok posts] because I have evidence,” he told the media.

Asked if the lawsuit would deter him from campaigning for the truth in the toddler rape case, the deputy director said: “No, It won’t. I will keep doing it.”

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