Myanmar junta soldiers have raped women in Taung Tha Township, Mandalay Region with impunity since last year’s coup, according to local residents.
Members of the pro-regime Pyu Saw Htee militia have also committed sexual assaults, said Ko Zaw Htwe, information officer for the Taung Tha Township National League for Democracy branch.
“As far as we know, junta soldiers have committed two sexual assaults and a Pyu Saw Htee leader one sexual assault since the coup. Victims still can’t file complaints. There might be more rape cases that went unreported. We heard that there have been eight sexual assaults committed by junta soldiers, police and Pyu Saw Htee,” he said.
In early April, a junta soldier guarding a school in Za Jan Village in Taung Tha raped a 21-year-old woman with mental health problems.
Her father, a cousin and at least two women witnessed the rape. But police refused to open a case when they filed a complaint at the local police station. Family members also filed complaints with the Myanmar military, who responded by hiding the perpetrator.
“Witnesses said that the rapist was a soldier, but [police] did not open the case because he was a soldier. We want justice for the victim whoever the perpetrator is. This case is worse because the victim has mental health problems. We ordinary people have had to bite the bullet under the military dictatorship,” said Ko Zaw Htwe.
In November last year, a woman from Nat Saunk Village in Taung Tha was gang-raped by regime soldiers. She was taking cattle out to pasture with her uncle when four junta soldiers appeared. They beat and threatened her uncle to leave before raping her.
The victim’s family dared not file a complaint out of fear of retaliation and the perpetrators are still at large, said Ko Zaw Htwe.
In February, a 30-year-old widow from San U Village was raped by the leader of the Pyu Saw Htee group in the village, and was unable to file a complaint.
“The widow first reported the rape to the village administrator, who is an ex-military officer, in order to file a complaint with the police station. The administrator told her not to file a complaint, and pressured her into settling the case in the village. Now the widow doesn’t dare to file a complaint out of fear that she might get killed,” Ko Zaw Htwe said.
Taung Tha consists of six urban wards and 77 village-tracts with 243 villages. The township has a population of more than 310,000 people, and over 250 of them have been detained since the coup, according to local activists.
Junta supporters largely outnumber resistance forces in Taung Tha. The regime has therefore formed and armed Pyu Saw Htee groups in the township.
A local resident remarked: “Locals want to help rape victims, but they dare not because they will have to bear the consequences themselves. They keep clear of the regime. They have seen many people detained by the regime who have died during interrogation or been shot dead in public. So they are gripped by fear, and stay clear of the regime as much as they can.”
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