SITTWE, Rakhine—Myanmar’s military will punish three soldiers after they confessed to raping a Rakhine woman in Rathedaung Township in late June, said military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun.
The 37-year-old woman from Uga Village in Rathedaung Township filed a complaint with Sittwe police on July 10, reporting she was raped by three soldiers at gunpoint. The police accepted the complaint and opened cases for rape, abduction with the intent to rape and aiding and abetting rape.
Uga villagers said troops arrived in their village at around 6pm on June 29 and stayed overnight. When the soldiers arrived, male villagers fled, fearing that they might be arrested on suspicion of having ties to the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group fighting the military in northern Rakhine.
The victim hid in her house together with five other women and three children. Three soldiers were staying the night at her neighbors’ house. They summoned her for interrogation and then raped her at gunpoint, she said.
A military statement on July 2 denied the accusations of rape, however, conducted an internal investigation into the allegation after the case came under the spotlight.
“First we conducted an internal investigation into those soldiers. They denied the allegations. But then we got other evidence that prompted further investigation. In the second investigation, one of the soldiers confessed. So we have formed a court-martial and are taking action,” Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.
The perpetrators will not be transferred for a civilian criminal trial but the court-martial will hand down the punishment under the 1959 Defence Services Act and laws for civilians, he said.
Rakhine Women’s Network chairwoman Daw Nyo Aye doubts the three perpetrators will receive a fitting punishment at the court-martial. The network is working together with Rakhine civil society organizations (CSOs) to demand truth and justice for the victim.
“According to our experience, the decisions made by courts-martial have never been acceptable to us. So we will demand that the case be transferred to a civilian court. As they are rapists and criminals, the military has to dismiss them. If they are dismissed, they have to be transferred to a civilian court,” she told The Irrawaddy.
Over 120 CSOs in Rakhine State issued a joint statement on July 27, denouncing rape and sexual violence against women during armed conflict and asking the authorities to prevent sexual violence.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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