YANGON— Myanmar President U Win Myint has ordered that action be taken against officials who failed to do their duty under the law and properly investigate a high-profile toddler rape case in Naypyitaw.
President’s Office Spokesperson U Zaw Htay said at a press briefing in the capital on Friday that the victim’s father sent a letter to the President seeking his help in the case on Dec. 24. Since then, the President had ordered the Supreme Court of the Union, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Union Attorney-General’s Office to find the truth in the case, to ensure accountability and responsibility, to comply with the law and to disclose the findings of the investigation, which dragged on for more than nine months without leading to a conviction.
The rape of the girl, who has been dubbed “Victoria” on social media and was just 2 years and 11 months old at the time of the crime, at her nursery in the administrative capital Naypyitaw in May last year has left Myanmar society reeling, prompting thousands to take to the streets of big cities demanding justice.
Yet, following a months-long inquiry, the court case came to an end on Tuesday. The court earlier freed a man who was falsely accused in the case and had been detained since July, but failed to prosecute the actual perpetrator.
The police force’s handling of the case has drawn public anger, in particular for making false accusations, mishandling evidence and revealing the identities and personal information of the young victim and her parents, in violation of the Child Rights Law.
“The President instructed the relevant organizations on Thursday to take the necessary action against those who didn’t comply with the law and procedures, and failed to fulfill their duties in investigating the case,” U Zaw Htay said, when asked by The Irrawaddy what the President’s Office is doing about the case.
The police officers who revealed the identities of Victoria and her parents are among the responsible officials who will be punished, he said.
Many people were hoping for presidential intervention to ensure justice after the court process came to an end on Tuesday.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy after the press conference on Friday, Victoria’s father welcomed the move by the President’s Office to discipline officials who had failed to take action, but said the priority should be to secure a conviction in the case. “What we want is the truth,” he said. “Taking action against those who failed to find the truth is a step forward. But I hope the officials will try to get to the truth in the case.”
However, U Zaw Htay said that finding the real perpetrator was a matter for the victim’s family and prosecutors, and stopped short of saying whether the President had ordered a new investigation.
Legal expert U Khin Maung Myint said now is time to order a new investigation, as the first one was marred by many irregularities including the disappearance of CCTV footage taken on the day of the crime from a hard drive belonging to the nursery, and threats against the lawyers in the case.
The nursery school’s supervisor, whose husband is a police lieutenant and whose two sons are thought by many to be the real perpetrators, filed lawsuits against the victim’s relatives and lawyers for submitting evidence accusing her sons.
U Khin Maung Myint added that it would set a dangerous precedent in the country—which already suffers from a high number of child rapes—if the actual culprit cannot be identified in such a high-profile and well-publicized case.
“Then, the consequences would be dire for the rule of law, as well as for justice in other cases involving rapes of minors across the country,” he said.
Htet Naing Zaw contributed reporting from Naypyitaw.
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