Myanmar Resistance Fighters Accused of Rape, Murder Yet to Stand Trial Nine Months On

By NORA 10 May 2023

Three members of a local defense team under the civilian National Unity Government who are accused of committing rape and murder in Chaung-U Township, Sagaing Region have yet to face prosecution nearly nine months after their alleged crimes, according to local sources.

A village-level people’s defense group in Chaung-U Township arrested seven civilians including teenage girls and boys on suspicion of being junta informants on Aug. 29, 2022.

The township People’s Defense Force (PDF) instructed the group to keep the seven detainees captive pending further interrogation.

However, all the detainees were allegedly killed by the group on Aug. 30 without being investigated, according to the Chaung-U Township PDF.

The victims were a man, 21, and his wife, 22, three girls all aged 15, and two boys aged 16 and 17. The three teenage girls were reportedly raped by the leader of the defense group and two other group members before being killed, a spokesperson for the Chaung-U Township PDF told The Irrawaddy.

The body of one of the victims is exhumed for investigation. / Supplied

“There was not sufficient evidence to prove the detainees were junta informants. Only one of them had a family member with a military background but he had been living separately in his wife’s village since the coup,” he said.

Members of the township PDF who recovered the buried bodies of the victims and examined them on Aug. 31 said the victims had knife injuries to their necks, and the bodies of the three girls were found partially or almost fully naked.

Chaung-U Township PDF said it submitted a report including its findings, confessions by the alleged perpetrators and suggestions concerning the case to the district level administration of the NUG and requested further instructions on Sept. 6.

Four members of the defense group were detained in relation to the case but one was later released as he was found not to have been involved in the killings and rapes.

Ko Zarni Thein from Chaung-U Township PDF said their team had done everything it could to seek justice.

“It has been months since we sought legal action against the perpetrators. We transferred the perpetrators within three weeks [of the crime]. People want justice,” he said.

A spokesperson for the NUG told The Irrawaddy at a press conference last Wednesday that the case is now subject to judicial proceedings.

“The case has been transferred to the people’s administration. The people’s police force will file a lawsuit. It is now subject to judicial proceedings,” NUG spokesperson U Nay Phone Latt said.

Some witnesses said the perpetrators were seen at large after their transfer to the township police force in September 2022.

The Chaung-U Township PDF spokesperson said the suspects were only detained by the people’s police force in February after the NUG’s prime minister heard about the case in January.

The Irrawaddy on Monday asked the people’s police force of Chuang-U Township what progress had been made in the case.

The people’s police force denied an allegation that after being transferred by the township PDF in September, the suspects had been released and armed, and only rearrested in February.

The people’s police force of Chaung-U said the perpetrators had been in custody since September and that the people’s police would transfer the case to the district court next week. The Irrawaddy couldn’t independently verify the claims.

U Nay Phone Latt admitted that in some cases legal proceedings had been delayed, as the judicial system had not yet been established in every township under the control of the NUG.

“The NUG will combat impunity and take legal action against perpetrators. We are implementing the judicial system step by step and so I would like to ask for forbearance over the delay,” he said at the press conference.

The spokesperson for the Chaung-U Township PDF said that any further delay in the legal proceedings would weaken the public’s trust and cause tremendous damage to the image of the revolution.

“This problem won’t end even if legal action is taken against the perpetrators. Legal action must also be taken against those who are involved in cover-ups and obstructing the course of justice. If not, the same problem may arise again. It will not only ruin the image of the revolution but also weaken the people’s trust in our resistance forces,” he said.