MAUNGDAW TOWNSHIP, Arakan State — Three Rohingya Muslim women in the village of Kya Kaung Taung in Arakan State’s Maungdaw Township told journalists on Thursday that they were raped by Burma Army soldiers during security operations in northern Arakan State in January.
Escorted by local officials, two of the three women later filed cases at Nga Khu Ya village police station on the same day.
There are now 18 cases of alleged rape and murder by security forces in Maungdaw under investigation by authorities, police Brig-Gen Thura San Lwin of Maungdaw Border Guard Police Force said on Friday morning.
A total of 18 local and international journalists visited Maungdaw this week on a three-day trip organized by the Ministry of Information (MOI).
When the media group visited Kya Kaung Taung village, two sisters aged 16 and 20 informed the visitors that they had been raped by Burma Army soldiers two months ago.
“They beat, tortured, and raped us,” 16-year-old Fatma told The Irrawaddy and other media outlets through an interpreter.
The two women said there were no men in their village on the day in question and that they, along with a 30-year-old woman named Ujala, were taken by four or five soldiers to a vacant house and raped. They received medical treatment at a local clinic after, they said.
Moria, the 20-year-old sister, said soldiers raped her despite the fact that she was pregnant.
“They released us after they were satisfied,” said Fatma.
Ujala also later told reporters that she had been raped.
The women said they were initially too afraid to report the cases to police.
MOI official U Ye Naing initiated the case in a phone call to Maungdaw District administrator U Ye Htut.
U Ye Htut said that although the women were reluctant to make a complaint, the alleged incidents needed to be investigated.
“Border guard police then brought the victims and the village administrator to Nga Khu Ya police station and helped them file the complaint,” U Ye Naing told The Irrawaddy later on Thursday evening.
“We will punish the rapists in line with the law if [the victims’] allegations are true. But they have to take responsibility for their claims,” U Ye Htut told the media.
The number of actual cases of abuse is likely to be much higher than the figure of 18 quoted by Brig-Gen Thura San Lwin, however, according to indications in other reports.
A UN flash report last month based on testimonies from refugees from northern Arakan State in Bangladesh described “massive and systematic rape and sexual violence” in the area.